Ahh, Summer! I don’t know about you, but I love changing into salad mode, and staying there for as long as possible. When I was a youngster – like mid last century – there was only one type of lettuce – Iceberg; one type of tomato, and definitely no cherry varieties; capsicum was unheard of; cucumbers were the size of torpedoes; nobody, but nobody, ate avocado; beetroot and pineapple came in tins; and cheese came in a blue box marked “Kraft’ Cheddar.
Times have changed, and aren’t we thankful. Thanks to a climate that allows anything to be grown, and an influx of people from every corner of the globe we have the most exciting cuisine in the world. No longer is a salad just some julienned lettuce on a plate with three slices of tomato, a couple of slices of cucumber, some cold meat, diced cheddar cheese and a selection of pickled onions, gherkins and bread-and-butter cucumbers. Today we add a mix of leaves and herbs; choose from ordinary, Lebanese or Telegraph cucumbers; choose from a range of tomatoes including cherry, grape, roma, vine-ripened (a particular favourite of mine), oxblood; then add a mix of avocados, fresh asparagus, and freshly cooked baby beets; fruits such as oranges, peaches, nectarines, mangoes, strawberries, pear; nuts, sprouts and seeds; and cheeses of many persuasions. Want to dress it? Don’t reach for a bottle! Throw in some sea salt and cracked black pepper, then drizzle over some olive oil, and the juice from a lemon or lime. Or, give your tongue a thrill and make your own mayonnaise. Okay, it’s time consuming and you get a sore arm from all the whisking, but the taste and consistency is worth the effort. In our home, we eat salads about 4 nights a week during summer, so they are not allowed to get boring
In this column, we are venturing into the exciting world of lettuce and its relatives. We still have our every faithful Iceberg, but added to the list now are mignonette, butter, red or green coral, rocket, radicchio, lamb’s tongue, curly endive, watercress, cos and baby cos, red or green oak, romaine, chicory, witlof, and exciting mixes like Mesclun. We can also throw baby beetroot and baby spinach leaves into the mix. How we use them is open to wide interpretation, and below are just a few ideas. It’s summer, so we are using a few ‘cheats’ items to the dishes.
Vegetarian Pizza with Tomato, Rocket, Radicchio & Shavings of Parmesan
Store-bought pizza base
Store-bought pizza sauce
2-3 teaspoons oregano
1 tablespoon EV olive oil
sea salt and cracked black pepper
100g rocket, washed & chopped (or 1 pkt Baby Rocket from supermarket)
100g radicchio leaves, washed & chopped
30g parmesan, shaved (use a vegetable peeler)
Preheat oven to 230°C
Smear pizza base generously with tomato paste, then sprinkle over oregano, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
Place on oven tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until a bit crispy. Remove from oven and sprinkle over rocket, radicchio, and finish with parmesan shavings. Serve immediately with crispy bread and a side-salad.
Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as an entree
Tim’s Caesar Salad
1 half-size bread stick
1/3 cup Olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1 baby cos, or half a regular cos lettuce
8 slices mild or spicy pancetta, depending on taste
½ barbequed chicken
Shaved parmesan – to taste (you can purchase packets of ready-shaved parmesan from cheese section of supermarket)
¾ cup ‘Paul Newmans’ Classic Caesar Dressing
1 or 2 hard boiled eggs, shelled and quartered
2-4 anchovy fillets – optional. Personally, I hate them used other than as a seasoning
To make your own dressing – blend or process 1 egg, 1 clove garlic, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 6 drained anchovy fillets. With the motor running, add ¾ cup olive oil in a slow, steady stream until dressing thickens.
Crush the garlic into the 1/3 cup olive oil. Slice the bread stick into 1cm thick slices. Brush with the garlic and oil, then place in a 200°C oven for 8-10 minutes until brown and crispy. Fry the pancetta in a dry fry pan until crispy, then drain and crumble. Wash and spin the cos and tear into largish pieces. Remove the chicken from the bones, and shred finely. Slice the avocado into medium slices.
Place lettuce, chicken, pancetta, avocado and croutons into a salad bowl and toss. Add dressing and combine. Top with parmesan and decorate with hard-boiled eggs. Add anchovies if using.
Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
150g baby cos lettuce
150g small butter lettuce
1 tablespoon finely chopped French shallots
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped basil
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
3 teaspoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
25ml lemon oil (if you can’t find it, soak some lemon rind in olive oil for 1-2 days, or omit)
75ml olive oil
Trim, wash and spin lettuce leaves. Pinch or trim stalks from watercress and rocket. Wash and spin.
To make dressing, whisk the shallots, mustard, sugar, basil, lemon zest, lemon juice and vinegar in a bowl until well blended. Slowly add the combined oils in a thin stream, whisking constantly until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper.
Combine lettuces, watercress and rocket in a bowl, drizzle over dressing and toss.
Pear & Walnut Salad with Lime Vinaigrette
1 small baguette, cut into 16 thin slices
oil, for brushing
1 garlic clove, cut in half
1 cup walnuts
200g ricotta cheese
400g mixed salad leaves
2 pears, cut into 2cm cubes, mixed with 2 tablespoons lime juice
¼ cup lime juice
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar, or white wine vinegar
Preheat oven to 180°C. Brush baguette slices with a little oil, then rub with cut garlic, place on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes until crisp and golden. Place the walnuts on a baking tray and roast for 5-8 minutes, until lightly browned. Shake the tray occasionally to roast evenly, then remove and cool.
To make a lime vinaigrette, whisk together ¼ cup lime juice with 2 tablespoons raspberry vinegar (use white wine if unable to get raspberry), 3 tablespoons oil and season with salt and pepper.
Spread some of the ricotta cheese on each crouton, then cook under a hot grill for 2-3 minutes, or until hot.
Place the mixed salad greens, pears and walnuts in a bowl, add the vinaigrette and toss. Serve with ricotta cheese croutons.
Tim Alderman 2015