Mixed Salad

  • Time: 20 Minutes
  • Serves: 4
  • Level: easy
Everyday greenery

What you need

What ever you got, what ever you want

My salad has:

Little gem lettuce

Chicory

Celery

Broccoli

Frozen peas

Dressing of choice



Dad's Recipe Tales

I never had any problems eating my greens…

I like my greens so much that eating a meal without something green is difficult to imagine. I don’t know why, is it iron deficiency? Popeye fantasies? Or just sensible eating? So this post is less a recipe and more a lifestyle statement.

What’s in a photo…

In true WDC style, I decided to photograph this after making the salad but before sitting down at the table – the way I used to photograph all my food. The little plate approach is a creative idea I been playing with. Small plates are difficult to source, but I found a good range at Made in Japan

Small plates force the sylist and camera to to focus on the food itself; it’s colour, texture and shape. I also want to but more emphasis on the idea of a recipe ideas and taste combinations.  This salad is a snapshot of the kind of day-to-day greenery I construct to go with every meal.

It’s Leon that inspired the peas…

I occasionally ate lunch at the original Leon in in Argyle Street, London. I admired the idea of fast ‘good’ food, I also enjoyed the folksy, family scrapbook-photo shtick, combined with a retro American commercial art vibe, set against a hard industrial interior decor. But it was not to be my little secret for long. Whenever there is any mileage in a restaurant idea, it will be quickly sold to people with money and then churned in the business growth-grinder that stipulates success is only possible if the idea can be launched in every high street in the world. This process is normally quite quick and I so I stopped eating at Leon. That was at least, before I took Mrs WDC to one, after all it would be the first time for her and the ideas might have had the exact same impact on her as they did on me. However, Mrs WDC is not so easily impressed, and found the options unsuited to her palate and appetite. So she opted for a salad… and in the salad were peas!

Broccoli – you can eat it cold…

In fact, you can eat almost all vegetables either cold, warm or hot. So put them in cold salads, or warm salads – or even a hot salad, the way Marcella Hazan describes her cooked spinach tops recipe.

Mix it up…

The important thing is to use what you want. Don’t just follow the standard trio of tomato, cucumber and lettuce. Americans have always been inventive with their salads – this is where I remember the idea that just about anything can be put into a salad: avocado, cold broccoli, eggs, potatoes, celery, fennel, carrot, raisins, olives, nuts, seeds, croutons, cheese, meat, fish, seafood to name a few. Of course, other cuisines have their salads with their own varieties – but here we are essentially talking about a green salad, based on a background of lettuce. So start with lettuce and then let your imagination go…

Dress it up…

My mixed green salad would go well with a lemon and oil dressing or good vinaigrette. When served with a meal a light dressing is probably best. Indeed, Mrs WDC likes to eat these kinds of salad without any dressing at all.

Or if you prefer a more substantial salad try any of the creamy dressings such as blue cheese, Thousand Island or Caesar. Bottles of these are perfectly good from a supermarket shelf, but otherwise it’s easy to make your own – see below.

Kitchen housekeeping…

A challenge with all salads is what to do with leftovers. My kitchen runs on a sustainability model, whereby it is okay to have leftovers and often leftovers are overtly planned. Broccoli is a case in point. The head is at its best for only about 4 days in the fridge, after that it starts to go soft and yellow – fine for soup – but if you like your broccoli fresh and green, it can help to cook it before it turns and keep it in the fridge cold. On the first and second day it is great in a salad, the days after it can be incorporated into hot veg medleys or stir-fries.

A few more tips on salad:

If you dress a salad, leftovers cannot be kept – tip it in the recycle bin.

Cut tomatoes cannot be kept for salads, but do retrieve them and put in a bowl – they can go into the next tomato sauce or a quick rancheros sauce for the next morning’s breakfast. Otherwise, use cherry tomatoes but don’t cut them, they can be retrieved washed and stored again for later use.

Save undressed lettuce in a zip bag in the fridge. Cut lettuces will oxidise on the cut edge and look unappetising, so why not use whole lettuce leaves in the salad so they can be used again.

The one obstinate ingredient for salads is cucumber, however it is cut it will go mushy and cannot be kept. Further, it must be separated from any other ingredients that are being kept or they get covered in the mush. I’ve not yet found a useful and easy way to make use of leftover cucumber – perhaps soup, raita, gazpacho?

How Dad Cooked It

To make cooked cold broccoli, the secret is quick cooking, cut into small florets with short stems. Peel and chop the stems quite small. Put into a large pan of boiling salted water for just a few minutes. I think it is best if they have a bit of crunch, but cook to your liking. The important thing is to get it out of the cooking pot and into a bowl of iced water asap. This obviously, stops the cooking but it also helps keep a bright green colour.

Use frozen peas and cook in hot water, remove before the water comes to the boil and plunge in iced water. What you are looking for is a texture somewhere between raw and cooked…

Combine the salad ingredients, make a dressing of choice and serve.

Dressings

Follow the 3:1 ratio of oil to lemon or vinegar for a normal dressing or vinaigrette.

To make an instant creamy dressing, first make a normal dressing using less oil, and then add a few spoonfuls of crème fraiche and whisk. Make it richer with mayonnaise or cream, or thin it down with buttermilk or milk, flavour it with blue cheese (especially Roquefort), or chopped chives, chopped parsley, garlic, Parmesan, or flavour with tomato ketchup, chives and chopped capers and dill pickle. Season them all well.  Americans like to add a few drops or Worcester sauce in their creamy dressings. Alternatively make a yoghurt dressing made with yoghurt, lemon, mint, salt and pepper and some light oil.

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