I’m going off the leaf as the basis of a salad – I think poor old lettuce is really tired and deserves a rest. This summer I’m enjoying salads that are great combinations of flavours and textures, and that are leafless. (Herbs, excepted, of course – everything I eat seems to have mountains of mint in it.) For want of a better name I’m calling them chopped salads, but I reserve the right to change this name when a better one arrives.
The obvious chopped salads, and two that crop up in our home frequently, are tuna salad and mozz tom. The latter always with lashings of basil and balsamico. The former with whatever we’ve got, but instead of mayo I make a dressing of low fat white yogurt and mustard. Right now, I’m loving a tomato mustard I bought in Paris, but we also have a vicious green tarragon Dijon (which must be the French version of wasabi) and standard Dijon. I’m also making a Greek salad with no limp lettuce, just chunky pieces of cucumber, tomato and feta, with black olives.
Thanks to my reference library of cookbooks, I’ve been taking the chopped salad to new heights. I’ve been making tabboulehs, preferably from my Moro book, with vulgar wheat (sorry, make that bulgar), chopped tomatoes, spring onions, cucumber, loads of parsley and mint. This has a gorgeous garlic, cinnamon and lemon juice dressing. Crunchy, green, healthful, it is a salad from heaven.
My two favourite writerly chefs, the Nigels Slater and La Lawson, have got some stunning chopped salads. In La Lawson’s Forever Summer, I’ve just discovered her Peanut and Carrot Salad. Totally yummy! As she says, you want to spoon it from the bowl directly into your mouth without bothering with a plate. It’s just four carrots cut into short batons, mixed with 75g of salted peanuts, and dressed with some red wine vinegar. She recommends a drop of peanut and groundnut oil, neither of which are readily available in downtown Ladenburg, so I just used olive. I’ve also experimented with leaving out the vinegar, adding loads of ground-up dried red chilli, which Thomas adores. He thought adding fresh chillies to this would be good, as well as some coriander.
Slater has a great radish, feta and mint salad in The Kitchen Diaries, which is a lovely book to browse in and vaguely follow. The salad includes spring onions and chunks of cucumber, with olive oil and red vinegar tossed over it. It’s slightly tangy, and pretty to look at.
At the moment, I find anything I throw mint at tastes nice. Last night I made a salad with some couscous left over from the children’s lunch – pine-nuts, radishes, red pepper, carrot (all chopped small) and then a lemon, mint, garlic and olive oil dressing. It was delicious and I’ll be eating the rest of it for my lunch.