The traditional old lettuce salad was my contribution to the family dinner. Helping my mum after school by making the salad for dinner didn't vary too much. It started with iceberg lettuce chopped into as thin as possible ribbons, then sliced tomato, grated carrot placed on top and some homemade mayonnaise to spoon over the top. To add a bit of interest there would sometimes be a bit of grated cheese, sliced cucumber or chopped boiled eggs added but it pretty much remained the same.
Have you noticed that during the hotter months of summer, lettuce can be quite expensive to buy as it is just too hot for the growers to maintain good crop yields? It is possible to grow in your home garden if you have some cooler parts in your garden. A couple of weeks ago my garden required a cleanout as there were quite a few lettuce specimens that had bolted or turned bitter in the heat of summer. This process inspired me to look at salads that can be made without the lettuce element, and predominantly with fresh produce straight from your garden or the farmers market.
Here are some salads I have been making lately. They are all fast and easy to prepare. Adding any herbs you have in your garden and any of your favourite dressings will give them your signature. Each salad can be served as a side dish for 2-4 people or as a main for 2 people.
Red beetroot, purple carrots, red onion, walnuts
(This is my favourite at the moment and it's nice to know that any red veges are particularly good for a healthy boost)
1. Peel and grate a beetroot
2. Peel a purple carrot and chop matchstick style
3. Finely chop 1/2 a red onion & a spring onion
4. Add a handful of walnut halves & pumpkin seeds
5. Mix well and add your choice of dressing. A good squeeze of lemon and some seasoning works well.
Sweet Corn, carrot, spring onion, herbs
(This is a yummy, simple salad using fresh sweet corn cobs from the garden)
1. Cook 2 corn cobs and allow to cool
2. Grate 1 or 2 carrots
3. Chop 2 spring onions
4. Slice the corn kernels from the cobs
5. Add a few chopped herbs such as parsley, chives, sage or thyme
6. Mix all of the above and add your choice of dressing. A splash of flavoured oil is nice.
Chunky Cucumber, tomato, peppers, lemon basil
(Quick and easy when you have an abundance of cucumbers and tomatoes in your garden. I love the tang of the lemon basil but you could use any basil)
1. Cut the cucumber (3 small or 1/2 a long one) into cubes (peel first if you prefer)
2. Cut the tomatoes into cubes or wedges or use cherry tomatoes
3. Cut 1/2 a pepper (any colour) into square pieces after deseeding
4. Chop lemon basil roughly
5. Mix all ingredients well, season and add a dressing. Pesto dressing is nice or any drizzle.
Watermelon, cucumber, mint, feta
(A very refreshing salad. Leave the feta out if that is your preference. Can also be made using any melon. I don't add any dressing as the melon juices are enough)
1. Chop the watermelon into small cubes
2. Peel and chop cucumber into half or quarter slices
3. Chop a handful of mint leaves (aiming for 1-2 tablespoons of chopped mint)
4. Mix the above ingredients
5. Sprinkle with crumbled feta.
Zucchini spirals, beans, chilli, lemon, coriander, olive herb
(This version I have been making has a Mediterranean flavour but it is easy to alter to Asian flavours by leaving out the olive herb and swapping the beans for mung beans)
1. Spiralize 2-3 zucchini (can also peel into ribbons)
2. Slice 6-10 green beans (I like mine raw but can be cooked in boiling water for a couple of minutes & then drained)
3. Add a handful of cooked drained beans such as cannellino, borlotto, soybean (canned beans work just as well)
4. Finely chop up a chilli or use a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
5. Zest 1/2 a lemon
6. Chop a couple of sprigs of olive herb and a generous handful of coriander
7. Thoroughly toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl
8. Season and dress with a vinegar and lemon vinaigrette (2Tbsp lemon juice, 4Tbsp oil, 1/2tsp mustard shaken in a container)
If like me you have planted your winter greens, why not try some of these while waiting for your leafy winter greens to get big enough to pick? Hope you have been inspired to try one of these this week.