As glorious sunshine and warm days are still with us, when it comes to lunchtime I usually crave a big plate of crunchy salad with a light sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. This delicious concoction helps to keep my appetite (and weight) under control so I find myself making it most days. I may be a creature of habit, but I still like to keep my lunchtime salad exciting by varying the dressing. It could be by adding a pinch of Dijon mustard or dusting of cinnamon, or perhaps mixing in a splash of orange juice or even red wine vinegar to the balsamic vinegar.
These are all fat-free and virtually calorie-free dressings – I like to save my calories so I can have a clear conscious when I go for a piece of cake and coffee later on!
I do love salad, but that’s not why I’m a salad evangelist. I tell everyone to eat more salad because commonplace ingredients such as lettuce, tomato, cucumber and avocado can bring a surge of excitement to the table. Even in the company of simple dishes, salad can make a plate look great – they just need a touch of care to let them shine and look as amazingly appetizing as they can be.
Here are my top tips on how to make your salads be all that they can be:
- Wash whole lettuces thoroughly, because biting on grit spoils the pleasure of food. Once washed, make sure you dry the lettuce well – wet leaves dilute taste and make salads lifeless. Either dry lettuce leaves with paper towels or invest in a salad spinner to make your salad a winner.
- To de-seed a cucumber, halve the cucumber lengthwise. Carefully remove the seeds with a spoon and then cut into the required size. The seeds of a cucumber are very watery, so de-seeding cucumbers increases the intensity of their flavour.
- To ripen avocadoes more quickly, place them in a paper bag with a banana. Bananas give off ethanol, a gas that stimulates the ripening process, so keeping any fruit with a banana in a contained space will make them ripen faster.
- Add the dressing just before serving and do not worry about garnishing. The chemistry between colours and textures is enough to reward all the senses.
- Use a roomy bowl to toss the salad well and ensure all ingredients are covered with dressing.
- To make a green salad more enticing, warm your salad dressing. Heat olive oil gently before adding mustard, vinegar and seasoning to bring out the flavours.
- For a tomato salad, use a flat plate to avoid overlapping the tomato slices, which can cause sogginess.
- For maximum taste, serve your salad at room temperature.
I hope my series of salad posts has whet your appetite.
For ideas on how to make amazing salads, see “How To Entertain Beautifully” pages 156-166