As times are changing, people are embracing a healthier eating style, and the “Salad” is making a huge comeback. When made with the right ingredients, a good salad is a great way to consume a load of nutrient-dense items which are good for you!
So, let’s set out a few rules for making a great salad. Drop anything fat-free such as cheese or dressing and drop any pre-made dressings – let’s go au-natural. Fats such as those found in olive oil and avocados are good for you. So, let’s kick the diet food mindset into touch.
Now we need to define what we see belonging in a salad – expand your vision! Experiment, mix grains with greens, use brown rice, couscous, quinoa and many others. Add in a few boiled potatoes, with herbs and fresh vinaigrette. This bulks up the salad and adds flavour.
Select the green stuff carefully especially if it has to travel in a cooler or fridge. Iceberg lettuce wilts in the blink of an eye, Cos lettuce is slightly more robust and will travel well as will baby spinach. Kale and Cabbage are best, but I am not a big Kale fan.
Then you will need to raid the kitchen cupboard to spice things up. Look at Chilli flakes and mustard or pumpkin seeds which you can roast in a frying pan as you assemble the salad. Roasting them adds crunchiness and nuttiness to the seeds and adds a flavour that your palate will appreciate.
I use Himalayan salt or herb salt and organic black pepper as a seasoning and only add it as the salad is plated. I also like to add some chopped figs or orange segments – this adds to the flavour as well as the overall appearance of the dish. I always add olives and opt for a much smoother Danish style Feta cheese. Invest in decent olive oil and vinegar. I use either apple-cider, balsamic or red or white wine vinegar. In a ratio of no less than two parts oil to one part vinegar.
When pre-packing the salad, I always use a mason jar of the type locally manufactured by Consol Glass. We all tend to have a few of them around. The jar allows you to layer the salad. Glass is clean and if you are hiking you can always pack an ice pack next to the salad.
So I assemble my salad in a particular order. The grains always go in first – you can opt to put the dressing in with them, but I tend to add dressing and seasoning as I plate the salad. The grains also absorb moisture from veggies and tomatoes. I opt for cherry tomatoes which I don’t have to cut as this reduces moisture. Next, I add anything that may leak liquid, such as cucumber and on top of that, I add any veggies that are “heavier” than the spinach or lettuce such as roasted butternut, brussels sprouts or sweet potato as well as the roasted seeds. To top this layer you can also add dried fruit pieces, almonds or walnuts and the blocks of cheese. Your lettuce or spinach will go on top. You can add a piece of damp roller towel to prevent wilting if the salad is going to travel for some time. I even use this method if making a salad from scratch at a campsite as it plates nicely as the ingredients cascade out. Avocados and olives are added just before serving – the olives as a garnish and the avocados as they do not travel well and change colour.
The dressing is added before flipping the jar and plating the ingredients – then add the seasoning and watch the action as steaks are forsaken for something good and healthy. I camp with melamine plates as they are robust but I am not fond of serving a salad on what is essentially a synthetic plate so I generally invert the lid of a glass pyrex bowl which I use to keep leftover meat in. So, experiment and think out the box, as you can see you can put just about anything into the salad. Oh, did I forget the boiled eggs? Well they would go in last with the avocado.