The Mythical Salad

I love salads, always have. I think it stems back to my Nana, who always made a damn good salad. She would chop everything on the small side and pair it with her fantastic dressing. Even as a young child, I would eat that shit up. I know some people consider a simple salad to be a less than fabulous food, I beg to differ my friends. Simple is better. Keep it easy. Keep it fresh. Use homemade dressing and voila: you’ve got something colorful, healthy and relatively straight forward to prepare. I have three salads that I run back to every time I’m in need of some green. (see recipes at bottom of post) They’re like my old friends or like your pair of just basic underwear that make you feel really comfortable. Maybe not the best comparison. Anyways, this time of year, it’s really important to pay attention to your produce. What does it look like? Where is it coming from? Is it organic (which doesn’t always been better under some circumstances)? Around here, we are lucky enough to have some really wonderful local purveyors of fine salad ingredients. 008I pair most of my salads with Nana’s dressing. It never gets old. If I don’t use that dressing, it’s usually just good balsamic and olive oil. A little sea salt and pepper and I am feeling magical. Store bought dressings have so many nasty, unneccessary ingredients. Don’t bother with that stuff. If you are going to eat a fresh meal, do it right. Homemade salad dressing takes minimal time and I leave Nana’s dressing on the counter until it’s gone. I haven’t gotten food poisoning yet, so I’m naturally assuming that its fine to do that. 013I use radishes in lots of things. They are a remarkably versatile food that people often underestimate. My favorite use for them is obviously scattered in abundance on top of salads but other than that they are great sliced thin on top of fish tacos, pickled and slapped on top of chicken tacos or washed well and paired with some homemade butter as a little French treat. Plus, they are easy to grow and they will continue to grow easily up here in Maine till the ground is frozen.

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For me, more is better. I like a salad with some girth. Lots of ingredients, all from the ground when possible. P.S. You may think these recipes below are VERY basic but as I have learned, there are some readers here who are starting from scratch knowledge and that is totally okay. I didn’t know my ass from my elbow in the kitchen four years ago.

BASIC GARDEN SALAD PAIRED WITH NANA’S DRESSING

INGREDIENTS

2-3 lg. handfuls of Olivia’s lettuce (she sells all sorts of different kinds, available at Hannaford, Whole Foods, etc)
1 cucumber (pick on the smaller side, less seeds, better flavor)
2 plum tomatoes (they taste less like crap this time of year) {if you can find heirloom, buy those, available at Rosemont or Whole Foods}
4-6 radishes
3 stalks of celery
1 large carrot {also buy heirloom if you can, they are often multi-colored}
a few slices of red onion if you get down with that
1/2 of a red pepper, go ahead and add more if you like it

DIRECTIONS

Chop everything to your liking, I prefer bite sized, toss in a bowl and serve with Nana’s Dressing.

WATERCRESS & RADICCHIO SALAD

INGREDIENTS

1 organic, free range, happy chicken breast
1/2 head of radicchio
1 bunch of watercress
2 endives
1 pear
Handful of pecans
Handful of gorgonzola cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt
Pepper

DIRECTIONS

Salt and pepper your chicken, slap it on a hot grill and cook until done. Allow to rest 15 minutes.

Chop up the radicchio, endives and for the watercress, use your fingers to pull it apart to a size you like. I prefer the radicchio and endive sliced thin but slice to your preference. Slice the pear thin, skin left on. Toss the radicchio, endive, watercress, pear, pecans and cheese in a bowl. Dust with salt and pepper. Mix your oil and vinegar together with a fork, whisking in a quick fashion. Drizzle the desired amount over the salad and toss. Cut your chicken diagonal and place on top.

STRAIGHT FROM ITALY SALAD *this was served everywhere in Italy, simple & delightful.

I would save this salad for the summer when the tomatoes are fresh, otherwise, it’s not quite as good.

INGREDIENTS

4 heirloom tomatoes, cut into chunky slices
1 large handful of arugula
A block of really high quality parmesan cheese for shaving
High quality olive oil
Aged balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Pepper

DIRECTIONS

Place your handful of arugula on a plate and then scatter your tomatoes on top. Using a vegetable peeler, scrape large chunks of parmesan cheese off the block. Go big with this people. It makes the dish. Dust liberally with salt and pepper. Drizzle with your olive oil and vinegar.

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