Saturday, March 3, 2012
What's your concept of a perfect salad?
Most of my work lunches are my own packed salads which I make the night before. I prepare and pack the dressing separate. While I make salads at least 4 - 5 times a week, I don't actually blog about them that much.
If you eat salads that regularly, you start to try and find ways to make them more interesting and creative.
I have been improving my salad making skills over the years of being vegan and while I now have just gotten into the habit of it, I realise that I have intuitively adopted a kind of concept for making my salads more appetising and satisfying as a meal in itself. This is something I need to share, I thought!
So, here's my take on salad creation.
First, I pick a base, i.e. the bland part:
This is usually a bed of green leaves - spinach, rocket, watercress, lettuce or a mixture of these..., or I sometimes go for brown rice, couscous, quinoa...
Then, something sour:
Green olives, capers, pickles, citrus fruits like sour oranges, grapefruit, even sour grapes (if you've bought some grapes that are too sour to eat, toss them in a salad!)
After that, something sweet:
Beetroot, sweet cherry tomatoes, sweet potatoes (boiled or roasted), sweet fruits (strawberries, pineapple, apples...), dried fruits
Last, something oomphy (my favourite part)! Something that takes the taste to another level:
For this one I mostly like to use something spicy like spicy peppers, chillies, jalapenos or I go for things like seaweed, exotic flavours like fresh coconut pieces, lemongrass, ginger, fresh herbs like mint, basil, parsley, coriander, preserves or pickles like sundried tomatoes, pickled mushrooms...
I sometimes add in some sprouted pulses like mung sprouts or alfafa if I happen to have them and for natural fat (as I don't like adding oil in my salads) I toss in some avocadoes. I don't add seeds because I'm allergic to them but they are a great addition and, by all means, I really recommend them in salads.
Now for the dressing, I usually identify the most overpowering component of my salad and counteract it with the dressing. So, if my salad is on the spicy side with chillies etc, I will make a somewhat sweet and sour dressing. If my salad is mostly on the sour or bland side, I will add a bit of spiciness or sweetness in the dressing. You get the point...
Texture: you may want to play with the textures in the salad; most ingredients will probably be crunchy but I like to add in a few mushy textures as well like roasted sweet potatoes, aubergines, boiled beans...
So, for this particular salad, I happened to have some green mangoes that I picked up at the Asian market. I really love green mangoes eaten as lightly pickled in a bit of vinegar, sugar and salt. As a kid, I would eat green mangoes, wink with every bite, until I could no longer handle the sourness!
Beetroot, Green Mango and Arame Salad
Base: spinach leaves, and a mix of a few other leaves
Sour: green mangoes
Sweet: beetroot (raw grated)
Oomph: arame sea vegetable (rehydrated in hot water. Soak for 10 minutes.)
Dressing: shoyu soy sauce, cranberry sauce, balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, salt (to taste if required), cracked chillies (optional)
In this case, the green mango is the most overpowering taste in the salad but it is already balanced with sweetness of the beetroot. So, I made a sweet and sour dressing just to blend into the salad.
The next day when I had this at work, I added some dried goji berries for a bit more flavour.
I hope you enjoyed this and please tell me what's your favourite salads and dressings because ... I think salad creations are endless!
While writing about this, I remembered something interesting that I found a while back on the Ayurvedic Concept of the Six Tastes in which all the important nutrients that we need for life, such as fats, proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, vitamins, etc. are contained in a meal that consist of all six tastes - sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent.
I do not actually follow the ayurvedic concept but it seems I have been applying this concept quite instinctively in meal preparation and cooking...
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