The Only Summer Salads You Need to Know How to Make
Truly fresh, just-picked lettuce is full of flavour, so much so that I get excited about eating it. Alas, I cannot grow lettuce (or anything else in my urban garden) because the neighbourhood raccoons are even bigger fans than I am. My parents bring me leaves from their garden, which is how I sometimes get my fix, but the good news is that right now you and I have other options. This is the time that great lettuce, spinach, arugula and even young kale are shooting out of the ground everywhere -- everywhere a safe distance from my part of town anyway. Here are my suggestions for how to max out the options.
Creamy kale salad, similar to a Caesar salad, is something I've been making and tweaking for weeks now. If you mince or smash a clove of garlic and let it sit in some extra-virgin olive oil while you prepare everything else, it will infuse just the right amount of flavour. Strain the garlic out before pureeing the oil with some soft goat cheese, lemon juice, salt and pepper for the creamiest, pale dressing to toss the kale leaves in. Top with any roasted nuts and some black olives.
Years ago, I made a vegetarian spin of a famous Jamie Oliver salad -- his used prosciutto; mine uses Niçoise olives. Toss a mess of young arugula with a honey, lemon and black pepper dressing, add large basil leaves, quartered figs and torn, fresh mozzarella or bocconcini. It's an entertaining-worthy salad that will have you licking the bowl, a conundrum I'll let you sort out.
That great, green, leafy lettuce that I was gushing about hardly needs any primping if you're a fan like me. At most, I make a dressing that's 3-to-1 extra-virgin olive oil to vinegar, seasoned well. I've read that salt that sits in vinegar for a few minutes dissolves better into dressings, so that's what I do. A dab of mustard will help emulsify the vinaigrette, but the rule is that you must whisk the oil into the vinegar in a slow stream, not just shake a jar of your dressing really hard. (Do as I say, not as I do!)
TIPS: Some advice on storing these leafy greens: They are delicate and have a limited life once picked, that's just how it is. When I get mine home I rinse them well, and then soak them in a lot of cold water. I lift them – trying not to disturb any dirt that sunk to the bottom – then I spin the leaves or lay them out on clean dish towels to dry completely.
Getting them dry is key: dressing clings to dry leaves and if you're storing them for a day or two, dry leaves wrapped in some paper towels before being sealed in large plastic bags or Tupperware will be just as beautiful as the day you bought them.
Yasmin Seneviratne blogs at Le Sauce, sharing original recipes, beautiful ideas and entertaining stories about food.