I once heard it proclaimed that you don’t win friends with salad. However I strongly disagree with this assertion. I believe a butt-kicking salad has the potential to win you lots and lots of friends.
I think the reason salad has received such a bad rap has little to do with the poor vegetables themselves, rather it is the lack of creativity within the salad maker. Here are some keys to nailing a rad salad.
Texture is everything. I’m talking the size and shape of each morsel, as well as the variation of different feels of your ingredients. To me, an interesting salad has a range of textures to keep things interesting; particularly if it’s going to take the centre stage of the meal or picnic. Fair enough; a plain green leafy salad can be a simple refreshment aside a heartier meal, but anything other than a little side dish begs for more imagination. You can take some seriously basic ingredients and turn them into something really interesting simply by presenting it in the different way. For example, you could;
Peel veggies into strips with a cheap speed peeler (cucumber or carrot)
Finely slice. This looks amazing with beets or radishes. You can also finely slice the stems of veg you would normally chuck out such as Swiss chard or broccoli. Apples and pears are another nice one.
Julienne (matchstick thin chop) harder fruits and veg like apples, snow peas, beetroot etc.
Grate. Kohlrabi, carrots, zucchini.
Segment citrus fruits such as grapefruit, blood orange, tangelos or oranges for a pop of zingy sweetness.
Crumble soft cheeses like fetta or goat’s cheese to add a hit of dairy creaminess, or crumple broken up pappadams or interesting crackers or hard toasted sourdough.
Scatter roasted nuts or seeds, and a mix of fresh herbs over the top to make it look and feel interesting. You would be surprised at how much a bit of crunch can really lift even a few basic leaves.
Roast veggies in some duck fat and add them to a raw salad and you’ve got a great variation of flavours and textures
These are just a few ideas, and Jamie Oliver’s Clip; Principles for Superb Salads, has been a real eye opener on how to lift the salad game.
This salad was created by Meredith. It’s absolutely delicious and ticks a heap of boxes in terms of creativity. Strawberries are a great pop of colour and fruitiness, hazelnuts add crunch and earthiness, and the innovative use of Swiss chard stems makes it a waste-not meal. The dressing is also a hit with its unique cardamom and honey flavours. Definitely one to spruce up your lunch time at work, and can have some protein added to make a full meal. I promise, you will win friends with this salad.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
juice and zest of one lime
4 cardamon pods
1 small clove garlic
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tbs raw honey
salt and pepper to taste
4-5 stalks swiss chard, 3 rainbow coloured stems and the rest leaves trimmed.
half a head broccoli
half a small red onion
1/4 roasted, peeled and finely chopped hazelnuts
shavings of parmesan cheese (optional)
Use a mortar and pestle to grind the seeds of the cardamon pods, i also ground down the garlic, cumin, salt and pepper together.
Whisk or shake in a jar the rest of the dressing ingredients to fully incorporate the honey.
Thinly slice the red onion, add to a large bowl with all of the dressing.
Rinse in warm water to soften, then thinly slice the swiss chard stems (as thin as possible), place all of the chard leave on top of each other and thin slice, then roughly chop a couple of times across as well, then add to the bowl.
Chop the broccoli into smaller pieces and process until fine and grainy, using a food processor.