With her Normandy garden offering up fresh ingredients, Julia McLean shares the secrets of delicious salads and dressing.
My garden and plants are busting out all over. As I survey the jungle of herbs my appetite grows and my mouth starts to water as the thought of a fresh green, crunchy salad. It is a lovely accompaniment to a summer light lunch, a steak from the “barbie”, lobster or fish.
At one time, salade was always the third or fourth course on a French menu, and did a great job helping you digest all the rich things just eaten, and it eased the way for those soft creamy cheeses and rich desserts.
It was just a mix of green leaves – salade verte. It could be made up of laitue (lettuce), roquette (rocket/arugula), Batavia (red-tipped leaf crunchy lettuce), mache (corn salad/lamb’s lettuce), watercress, mustard leaves, scarole ( endive), chicoree frisee (curly endive), l’endive (chicory), little red hearts of Treviso (radicchio), or fresh young spinach or dandelion leaves. Globalisation has brought us the tasteless “iceberg” but it is useful for crunch.
I usually put in a mix of greens plus a selection of garden herbs – fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley, fine chopped chives (and chive flowers!), a few sorrel leaves, chopped basil or mint, French marigold petals — and for a real “Wow” I add nasturtium flowers. My friends call this Salade du Jardin du Cure as I suppose the country parson used to have a herb garden in front of his presbytery. You can add raw, fine chopped red cabbage, broccoli, apple pieces, garlic, onion slices or fennel slices to give the salad extra texture. Pumpkin seeds, caraway seeds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds can also be added for crunch.
The salade is always dressed with vinaigrette and that is a whole adventure in itself.
The following is a list of oils and vinegars you can mix and match (three parts oil to one part vinegar), and salt and pepper to taste. If you have an unusual oil, highlight it by using an ordinary vinegar and vice versa. Simple and tasty dressings can be made from three parts olive oil and one part lemon juice, or three parts walnut oil and one part red wine vinegar (sprinkle just before serving with chopped walnuts); or three parts hazelnut oil and one part cider vinegar (sprinkle just before serving with chopped hazel nuts).
Grape seed oil
Argan (an oil from Morocco)
Pumpkin seed oil
Hemp oil (sometimes sold as Good Oil as it is very healthy)
White wine with tarragon
Cider with honey
Do not use malt vinegar – this is only for chips!
If you want to eat healthily, don’t buy prepared salad dressings – try reading the label on the back to see that they contain thickening agents, colourings and preservatives, and all sorts of E numbers.
Giselle Caumon’s Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon of French mustard dissolved in the vinegar
1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed added to this mixture
3 big tablespoons of Walnut flavoured oil or pure Walnut oil.
Salt and pepper to taste
Beat together with a fork and pour over prepared salad.
Becky Holbrook’s Vinaigrette (Editor for San Francisco cookbook)
1 big serving spoon of fresh squeezed orange juice
Dash of soy
3 serving spoons of toasted sesame seed oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix well and pour over salad
A Restaurant Favourite
Small pack of bacon bits (lardons) fried in oil and butter until brown.
Remove pan from heat and pour in red wine vinegar scraping bits off pan and mixing well. While still warm, pour over a crispy salad. Toss and serve.
1 large spoonful of balsamic vinegar
1 half of an avocado crushed into the vinegar
2 crushed cloves of garlic
3 large spoonfuls of olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Mix well and pour over salad.
Photo courtesy of Tiny Happy
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