Generally, I find salad recipes to be non-recipes. Rather they are instructions to throw a bunch of obvious vegetables together with some garlic, olive oil and something acidic. These recipes annoy me. I often find Martha Rose Shulman's recipes to fall into that category. However, even boring recipes can make a person think, and she has some good points as well in the following article on summer salads. She certainly had some ideas I wouldn't have thought of myself.
Anyone can cook these things. They are not cooking so much as assembly. And of course I love the fact that she promotes my long-touted idea of cooking a big batch of starter ingredients (quinoa, brown rice, wheat berries, beans, sauteed veggies, roasted peppers if you're feeling adventuresome) on Sunday and either refrigerating or freezing them (don't freeze the veggies). Then defrosting and assembly is a snap.
I think some key points to keep in mind.
- In the summer, for the refreshing aspect, add a lot of crunchy veggies. She dictates the ones to use but any crunchy veggies that hold up well in a vinaigrette. Any root vegetable is crunchy. I don't have radishes in my repertoire but maybe I should.
- Fresh herbs help brighten any salad.
- Never underestimate the power of lime juice!
- A little juicy sweet corn goes a long way. I know it's starchy but it's not like eating a Big Mac!
- Experiment with low-fat creamy dressing ingredients such as Greek yogurt and buttermilk.
- A salad dressing is basically 2 parts oil and 1 part acid, with a little water thrown in.
- Rice vinegar is NOT just for Asian foods. It has a mild tangy flavor that goes really well with a light oil like grapeseed.
- Have fun buying lots of oils and vinegars.
- I often skip the called for goat cheese or feta. I only add it if I think it's really necessary to the taste.
- It's ok to estimate on the calories on these big amalgamations. This used to make me crazy. You can either let it go, or try and make the salad 50% grain, 50% veggies and then take 1 cup of salad or so. Or you can measure the ingredients for the whole dish and divide by number of servings. I'm too lazy for that.
- I usually up the veggie content and reduce the grain content to change the ratio.
- Sometimes making a big batch of the salad with the dressing can get a little soggy, or just too repetitive. So mix a smaller batch but keep the dressing and other components separate but ready to go.
- Almost any ingredient can be substituted for a like ingredient.
- Always have frozen bags of edamame, peas, chopped spinach and corn in the house. Of course at this time of year there are great fresh veggies, but having a stocked freezer helps enormously with dinner emergencies.
- These kinds of salads are always a hit at potlucks - and inexpensive to make.
- Have fun experimenting!