Summer marks a change in how we eat. Gone are the comforting stews and warming soups, replaced by fruit and vegetables with high water content to refresh your body and soul.
Of course the embodiment of this are salads, sweet or savoury. Salads are mostly raw thereby retaining essential vitamins and minerals, pop with natural colour and make the perfect side or main meal.
I fell in love with salads when I ate at Eleven Madison, NY, run by Swiss born Daniel Humm, many moons ago. I had a cress salad but it was more than just cress. It had 5 or 6 different types, an array of colours, different taste notes and a dressing that brought it all together. I can still remember the taste perfectly .
Salads are incredibly versatile and can be interesting enough to make an impact.
Creating them is an art form. It takes skill and bravery to marry watermelon with salt and pepper or use a kohlrabi for the first time when perhaps the more uncertain cook might grab a bag of prepared leaves and dress in shop-bought yoghurt dressing.
Here are some high-end salad offerings around the world:
Copenhagen’s Studio serves raw shrimps with grilled cucumber, green rhubarb and dill.
Cape Town’s Test Kitchen offers guests a twist on the classic salad Niçoise.
London’s Gaulthier Soho vegan menu offers mini fondant Alexander Buds (an edible weed), crunchy raw salad of white asparagus, confit tomatoes and herb velouté.
New York’s Gramercy Tavern serves an heirloom carrot, tamarind and coriander salad.
LA’s Water Grill offers roasted beets, tandoori spiced yoghurt and wild rocket.
Zurich’s Kindli boldly serves a pure green salad, Kopfsalat “Coeur de Laitue”.
Dressings play an important part in elevating salads from humdrum to exciting. Don’t be shy about using walnut oil instead of olive or freshly squeezed orange instead of lemon, a pinch of flavoured salt rather than sea.
Try adding a pickle or fermented element such as Umeboshi. I add the puree to my dressings or paint some on top of grilled meats like quail. Not only do pickles and ferments add that much sought after umami but add health benefits. Umeboshi is more than 1000 years old and has been used to aid digestion and eliminate toxins. It has a neutralising effect on the body.
Experimenting is good!
Here is a selection of my favourite summer salads. They will not only impress but I assure you, they are simple to create. They all serve 2.
Pulpo with tomato and cucumber salad, umeboshi dressing
- 250g cooked pulpo thinly sliced
- 1 tomato skin removed, deseeded and chopped into small squares
- ½ cucumber, skin removed, deseeded and chopped into small squares
- ½ spring onion, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon Umeboshi purée
- Juice of ½ lemon
- 2-4 tablespoons olive oil to bring the dressing together
Mix the dressing ingredients together, taste and season if needed. It will be punchy but should be! Mix the tomatoes, cucumber, spring onion together and dress with a little olive oil. Arrange the pulpo on your plate as you wish. I created a circle and gently placed the salad in the middle. Drizzle with the dressing and voila.
Watermelon, Manouri or Feta, mint salsa, salt and pepper, lime (photo above)
- 350g seedless watermelon, peeled and sliced
- 125g Manouri (a slightly sweeter Greek cheese) or Feta, sliced
- ¼ red Thai red chilli finely sliced
- Handful of fresh mint leaves
- Olive oil
- Juice of ½ lime
- Salt and pepper
Blend the mint leaves with a couple of tablespoons olive oil and squeeze of lime. Taste it and season appropriately. Loosen the salsa with more oil if needed. Plate the watermelon and cheese at angles to each other to form a mini mountain. Sprinkle the chilli on top, drizzle with salsa and season with sea salt and a grind of pepper.
Kohlrabi, fennel, and apple salad with Mizuna and apple cider vinegar dressing
- 1/2 kohlrabi, peeled, squared off and diced
- 1/4 granny smith apple or Braeburn for sweetness, peeled, squared off and diced
- ½ small fennel, thinly sliced
- 1 handful leaves, I used a mix including rocket and Mizuna
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts
- Sea salt, to taste
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Apple cider vinegar
Mix the kohlrabi, apple and fennel together. First layer the leaves on the plate, then the other vegetables, finished with the pine nuts. Then simply drizzle generously with olive oil and a cap full of apple cider vinegar and good pinch of sea salt.
Bejewelled Couscous Salad
- 1 small pomegranate (1 small box of ready prepared pomegranates)
- 100g couscous
- 1/2 red pepper deseeded and cubed
- 4 cherry tomatoes, cubed or sliced
- Handful leaves, spinach or a mix
- 1/2 green chilli sliced finely
- 125ml boiling chicken stock
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 4 tbsp chopped fresh mint and parsley
Cut the pomegranates in half and scoop out the seeds using a teaspoon and remove the white membrane around the seeds.
Place the couscous in a bowl. Pour the boiling stock or water onto the couscous and cover for 5 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Then uncover and fluff the grains with a fork. Allow the couscous to cool completely. Then stir in the remaining ingredients, taste and season.
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