The perfect salad

Salad for dinner? 

Salads are the perfect dish for a summer meal. What is required to make a salad satisfying and delicious is a range of ingredients that are tasty and colourful and include proteins, carbohydrates and fats.

The process

There is absolutely no need to follow a recipe (although some links to delicious looking recipes follow) because following a salad making process is enough to ensure the perfect outcome.

 The base

We start with the base, this will be the bulk of your salad. It might be leafy greens (we always use a mixture and include leaf of different colours and textures but still love the classics – cos and iceberg), it might be root vegetables (fennel is a fantastic base, as is roasted kumara or carrot), a swathe of brassicas (these could be blanched, raw or roasted)  a grain (we love kasha, puy lentils and barley) or a pasta (risoni makes a fabulous salad base).  

 The next stage

The salad base then dictates what goes into the next stage although some ingredients (such as cucumbers or peppers) seem to go with everything. If our base is vegetable-heavy we might add proteins such as chickpeas, chicken, beans or nuts along with some carbohydrates such as broken pita crisps for crunch, or a smattering of grain and then some fat like avocado or cheese. If we started with a grain base, we would add lots of chopped vegetables and some protein like salmon or cheese and fat through an oil-based dressing. We ensure at this stage that we have a range of textures. A salad that is entirely soft isn’t appetising and a salad that is all crunch can be hard work. Pairing ripe avocado with some roasted chickpeas and a base of greens is wonderful because of the contrast. We are looking for yin and yang – harmonious but not samey.

Added extras

Consider the salad and see whether it could do with a final flourish like a little chopped crispy bacon on a bitter leaf salad or some basil on a ripe tomato mixture. A little added extra might be the difference between “meh” and “magnificent”.

Dressing 

We then dress the salad. The type of salad you have made will dictate the type of dressing you should use. We would pair a salad of cos or iceberg lettuce with a creamy (but healthy) Greek yoghurt-based ranch dressing and a puy lentil salad with a lemony, oil dressing. If you have used lots of fats then a spike of lemon will cut through the richness whereas a bitter leaf might benefit from something a little fatty.

Seasoning

Seasoning is all important. We think people often forget to season salads and it makes for a bland eating experience. As Samin Nosrat says in her book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat “Salt. It's fundamental to all good cooking. It enhances flavour and even makes food taste more like itself. In short, salt brings food to life. Learn to use it well and your food will taste great."

Recipes you may enjoy

Recipes we love the look of the following recipes; Roasted Cauliflower Salad with Chickpeas, Feta, and Herbs, Vegetarian Chopped Salad, Japanese Salad with Carrot and Ginger Dressing and Healthy Chicken Caesar  

Happy chopping!