When it comes to picking the ingredients to make a great summer salad, in my opinion, less is more; summer salads are a fantastic vehicle to deliver amazing bright flavours and the finest freshest seasonal produce. In it’s simplest form, there are three components to a fabulous hearty summer salad – the greens, the dressing and the toppings. Today, we’re going to take a look at easy ways to elevate each of these components as well as a collection of our favourite recipes, and – of course! – a few insider tips to magical wine matches.
Make Wow-Factor Dressings
The classic dressing for any salad is comprised many of two ingredients – oil and acid – and is enhanced with flavouring agents like herbs (fresh or dried), spices, citrus peel, fish sauce or even hot peppers. Typically, the recommended ratio of oil to acid is about 3:1, but of course, this can be adjusted to based on your personal tastes. When it comes to choosing an oil, olive oil is a classic, but walnut, avocado, hazelnut, pumpkin seed, coconut and sesame oils are also amazing additions worth considering. The choices at your disposal in terms of acids are even more diverse – anything from vinegards (sherry and balsamic are a couple of my favourites…) to citrus or fresh fruit juices, pickle juice, mustard or even tomato water. Any balanced combination of these key components will go a long way to elevating your next salad over the results you’d achieve with store bought dressing.
Pick the Perfect Greens
The most important component of any salad, which is often somewhat overlooked, is both the most visible and predominant – the greens. Today we have more variety to choose from than ever before, both in terms of lettuce cultivars and blends of mixed greens – but also delicious non-lettuces like purslane, tatsoi, kale and fresh herbs like cilantro, mint, basil, anise or tarragon. The key in assembling a great “house mix” of greens is to achieve variety and balance of colours, textures, and of course, flavours. You can add intrigue to your salad by carefully choosing greens with an explosive array of flavours, from spicy, bitter and peppery, to sweet and succulent.
Be Creative w/ Toppings & Additions
When it comes to toppings and additions to a great summer salad, my mind tends to gravitate towards proteins like meat, fish, seafood, nuts, seeds and cheese – but other non-leafy vegetables and fruit are great picks too. Great salad additions needn’t just be chucked over top in their raw form; give some thought and time to the treatment of these additions. For example, toasting nuts or seeds, grilling beautiful fresh sweet peppers, pickling radish or cucumber, or jump-frying shrimp with a bit of chili and garlic. In my view, this category of ingredients is a place where prudence is rewarded. Rather than loading your salad with a dozen different additions, stick to one or two – or three a maximum. Rather than adding all of your favourites to one salad, allow a couple of really great picks take centre stage.
[ Recipes ]
Grapefruit, Goat Cheese & Bitter Greens: RECIPE
Wine Match: Sauvignon Blanc from California or Bordeaux
Pickled Strawberry, Beet, Ricotta & Arugula Salad: RECIPE
Blackened Scallops, Grilled Romaine & Fresh Citrus: RECIPE
Tuna, Roasted Peppers & Onion Confit Salad: RECIPE
Wine Match: Grenache Rose from Languedoc or Rhone
Skirt Steak, Gorgonzola & Heirloom Tomato Salad: RECIPE
Wine Match: Well-Aged Chianti or Super-Tuscan