I will say this right from the start. There will be NO recipes in this blog post. There will be no calorie counts either. Why? Because this post is merely a vehicle for me to dump out a bunch of photos from my files to tempt your brain into liking salads. If you know ANYTHING about me (or have even read a blog post of mine), you should know by now, I am NOT a vegetarian, or a vegan. I have no problems unabashedly pronouncing my undying love for meat. I am a MAN damn it! (Admittedly a gay one, but that aside….). I LOVE all things meat and BBQ, and duck fat and butter and deep fried, oh, and did I mention MEAT??
Ok, OK. I’m hoping you get the point!!! I was never a fan of salads. Lettuce, while cool and sometimes crunchy (romaine!!! Ok, now that’s a salad I can get behind….. I’ve always LOVED a good Caesar salad!), never did it for me. I would often look at people around me eating salad, snicker and make comments about “rabbit food.” I never saw the draw to eat salad. It was the ubiquitous “diet food” and well we all know I don’t diet, I just count calories….when I reach 1000 I start again… lol. (Soooooo not true, at this writing I have reduced from 2010 calories a day to 1680, because I want to hasten the progress and shed some more pounds. Although after having my stomach eat my liver for most of the afternoon today I am not sure this was the best decision I have made recently…. But I digress). Thankfully, my ardent dislike of salads
was broken years ago by a very savvy trickster…. One Todd Aubin. Yeah. I know I go on and on about him like he’s the cat’s meow or something. Truth is, he kinda is to me, so I don’t see that behaviour stopping any time soon…..
Todd was the guy who turned me on to the many possibilities that salad can offer. Just the other day, as I was going through our photo library to find pictures for our coffee post, I kept seeing all these bright interesting plates scroll across my screen. Things that I find delicious. Things that are a little more complex than just iceberg lettuce and grated carrot that would have been the salads of my childhood. Things I had made for dinner parties, salads Todd had made to tempt me into eating something new and some other pictures that were just “it’s Friday night what can we do with these carrots I have in the pantry?” That was when I decided I would make a compilation post of salad “ideas.” No recipes, no calorie counts, no stress. Just a few words to describe the salad and a picture. I hope you don’t mind that I am deviating from them “everything measured, everything calorie counted” philosophy, but honestly, I couldn’t estimate the calorie counts of most of these salads if I tried, since some of them were created long ago!!!
Let’s start simple…… Spinach, Yellow tomatoes and parmesan cheese. Easy peasy. Yummy. Wash spinach. Cut small yellow tomatoes in quarters. Shave some parmesan cheese with your carrot peeler (yes that’s a thing…. gives you long thin flakes of cheese……) Some salt and pepper of course (Push it…… Push it REAL good!!! LOLOL. The 80’s and 90’s were my TIME…. couldn’t help it!!! ), and just a light touch of vinegar (in this case it was a very tasty pear flavoured vinegar….) Here’s a low maintenance salad I would not have given a second look a decade ago….. But beautiful in it’s simplicity to me now…..
NEXT!!! Wanna see something more “structured,” more “engineered” if you will? This is one of my FAVOURITE salads to ever come out of our kitchen. Why my favourite? Does it have some exotic ingredient no one has ever seen before? A flavour that has never been seen on a salad plate? Could there be some meat hidden in it somewhere? No. I love this salad because it was MY IDEA!!!! LOLOL. Yeah I can be such a child sometimes. But honestly. Everyone always thinks that Todd is the kitchen master (because 99% pf the time he IS….), but once in a while I have a moment. This was one of them….
This salad starts with a mandolin. (A hand held one will do… No need to break out the big guns here). Take a nice english cucumber and slide it over the mandolin in the long direction. After a couple of passes you will start to get LOOOOONG thin ribbons of cucumber. This is the base of this salad. Make a ring or loop out of the cucumber and place it on the plate. Place three evenly sized endive leaves in the centre pointing to the sky. Into that receptacle put a small amount of shredded radicchio, Stand a small cluster of fresh green pea shoots in side of the cucumber loop like a stand of tall trees. Then make a nest of very fine sprouts in front of the cucumber on the plate (you can use alfalfa, broccoli, or even onion sprouts. On the bed of sprouts you can then place a couple of small colourful cherry tomatoes, even throw one into the centre of the vertical components if you wish. Your goal is to find a combination of height, colour and texture to fill your plate, and entertain your eye, all while staying wonderfully tasty!! A little salt, pepper, balsamic and spritz of oil finish the salad.
Strawberry Blue Cheese and Spinach Salad. This one is a favourite, because a) it has a nice pungent blue cheese and b) it looks AMAZING on the plate!! This one could also not be any simpler to create…. Wash spinach and place on plate. Cut strawberries, add to spinach. Crumble as much blue cheese as you can handle over the spinach and strawberries. Then take the best, thickest syrupy balsamic vinegar you can find and drizzle just a small amount over the salad. Perfection. Full Stop. Nothing more to do other than let your taste buds revel in the excitement!!! Of course this is at its ABSOLUTE BEST when strawberries are local and in season, as they will be the sweetest you can get. I personally find that it’s often beneficial (if you’re at a u-pick) to harvest the smallest brightest berries you can find. Tiny whole sweet berries would make this salad look and taste sublime!
Sometimes though, a salad looks nothing like you expect a salad to look. Try this one on for size. It looks more like an mini”buffet.” A simple white plate sets the stage for some sliced avocado, a small pile of raspberries and a couple of blackberries. A date or two will round out the sweetness, then add a few sprouts to bring some green “salady” goodness. Of course cheese is always a welcome addition so a nice medallion of buffalo mozzarella in the centre can’t go wrong. Add a little drizzle of your favourite balsamic vinegar and a sprinkle of fleur de sel and it’s just perfection on a plate. The salt might be something you think of skipping in this salad, because “who puts salt on sweet fruit?” but let reassure you. The salt is crucial. The way it can bring forward the sweetness is quite remarkable. (until you’ve salted your strawberries or your watermelon you just can’t understand what I mean…try it this summer….). I have to make a small confession here. This plate is what got me started on salads. Todd, being a very smart man, identified my love for all things sweet early on. When He was ready to “trick” me into eating salad it began with greens tossed in homemade raspberry vinaigrette and lots of berries, pomegranate kernels, seeds and fruit. Once he spoke to my sweet tooth salad became something that I actually looked forward to instead dreaded.
Alright then. Just one more for now (there are still many other salad photos vying for my attention right now, but honestly….. I soon have to call it a night, so maybe there will have to be a “Salads 2” post later…..)
This one I call “Crazy Tomato Salad.” Why? Because the key is to find the most unusual tomatoes you can. Heirloom tomatoes in bright colours. Small Zebra tomatoes with their stripy fun reds and greens. Kumato (chocolate) tomatoes with their dark skins. Yellow “pear” tomatoes. Basically grab EVERYTHING interesting you see at the market. Combine with some fresh basil, some salad greens and of course some small bocconcini cheese pearls. Season and dress with your favourite dressing. Easy light fresh summer salad. One that absolutely can’t go wrong.
The truth is there is a salad for everyone out there somewhere. Sometimes you just need to have someone push you in the right direction. Thankfully Todd knew when to push, because now salads is no longer a dirty word!