Mum gets ever increasingly frustrated when she serves a side salad at dinner time – I hate them! I find your average garden salad, mixed leaf salad or side salad incredibly dull, tasteless and needing lots of dressing to jazz up – they also add little flavour to the main accompaniment. My only exception is rocket with balsamic vinegar which I could eat by the bowlful – peppery and crispy rocket with sweet balsamic drizzle is beautiful and perfect with parmesan.
One of mine and Elix’s favourite side salads is from the Polpo book – quite simply it’s rocket, torn basil (tearing the basil rather than chopping it is said to retain more flavour aswell as colour) and thin strips of courgette (a mandolin or peeler is good here). Occasionally Elix and I will add asparagus, green beans or cherry tomatoes. The salad is lightly dressed (Elix isn’t a huge fan of salad dressing) with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper and finely grated parmesan. I haven’t included quantities because it really is up to taste and also depends on what the salad is being served with. We usually refrain from too much cheese and keep the salt and lemon subtle. This is a favourite salad with pasta, pizza, risotto or steak. Anything Italian will taste lovely with this salad.
As we needed to branch out, I have recently started making Thomasina Meirs’ Winter Mexican Salad. This brings together fresh leaves and red onion, peppery radish, sharp orange segments, spicy chilli along with a light dressing of warming lime juice and olive oil. The proper recipe scatters with feta, tortilla chips, pomegranate seeds and coriander. I have adapted this to be more nicely eaten alongside a main course so often will omit the cheese and tortilla chips. I love this salad because it’s colourful, tasty, crunchy and very healthy – great with grilled swordfish or grilled chicken and a fantastic element of a Mexican meal alongside fajitas and quesadillas.
A “main course” salad which is very quick and easy and lovely in the Summer is Rick Stein’s Sautéed Squid and Chorizo Salad with Garlic, Rocket and Chickpeas and as its getting warm enough for al fresco dining I’ve
included the recipe below for you all to try.
300g squid prepared and cut into bite size pieces
8 cherry tomatoes halved
1.5tbsp lemon juice
6 tbsp olive oil
1 chilli thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves finely diced
Small handful of fresh parsley chopped
50g chorizo sliced
20g rocket leaves (we also threw in some spinach)
Salt and Pepper
Start by boiling the chickpeas in water (if dry will need overnight soaking and then 40mins on the hob, if tinned will only need 5 minutes) when cooked, drain and leave to cool. Meanwhile lightly fry the squid pieces in oil until no longer translucent and remove from the pan. In the same pan fry the garlic and chorizo, as they start to colour, add the squid back in ensuring it gets covered in the chorizo oil. Once all nicely caramelised remove from the pan.
Playing up literally involves chucking everything onto the plate, sprinkling with the chilli, parsley and oil and devouring in the angelic knowledge that this salad was tastier, healthier, prettier and more exciting than a pizza!