Wednesday, April 2, 2008

five-letter word for delicious

I thought that today I would confess my absolute and utter love of salads.

Salads are dead easy, at least in my book. If a salad takes more fuss to make than it does to eat (open mouth, insert forkful of food), it's not a salad. I don't know what that would make it: a confection, maybe? A showpiece? Anyway. Salads — the easy-to-assemble topic at hand.

I usually start off with a crockery bowl, which is the one pictured here. I take a look in the fridge to see what needs eating up, and in this case it was left-over stir-fry from when my friend Jess D. visited. She had brought some fresh veggies with her, some snow peas, broccoli, red, orange and green peppers, and some green beans, and we had made a formidable stir fry by adding tofu, tamari and grated ginger. The next day, after she left, I remained in possession of a jarful of uneaten food, so I tossed the cold, cooked veggies into my crockery bowl. (As for veggies, you can add pretty much anything to a salad. Often I'll use chopped apple, or grated carrot, but there are as many awesome additives as there are vegetables and fruits. Use your imagination!)

Then I added some pre-cooked quinoa. Quinoa is a grain that is about the same size as couscous, a bit quicker to cook than rice, and above all, quite tasty. It's pronounced "keen-wah", and is indigenous to South America, though specifically where in that continent I'm not exactly sure. Quinoa adds the grain element to this salad, but other times I'll add rice, and you can go with whatever pleases you, be it couscous, cracked wheat, kasha, or whatever. This salad doesn't have beans, but often I'll also toss in a portion of pre-cooked beans of one variety or another. (Beans would make an excellent blog topic to themselves, and most likely will soon.) If you're an omnivore, and eat eggs or meat, which I do from time to time, you can also add some hardboiled egg, some crumbled hamburger, some diced cold cuts, or some chicken. Again, the idea is that really anything can go.)

Then there's the green element, and here's where my pure, angelic salad develops a bit of a sinful side. Yes, the greens you see here and that I eat most days are trucked here from California, so that's not a seasonal nor an environmental pick. I know. We're working on building a small greenhouse of sorts, and we know that it's bad to buy greens from a supermarket, in winter. However, and this is not a rationalization, but more something else to consider, compared to all the local vegetables we DO preserve from the autumn harvest and eat throughout the winter, the greens aren't much. They could go, however, and if you're not a fan of greens out-of-season, then forsake them. But then, in late spring and early summer, when local farmers and maybe even your own garden start producing baby lettuces, go for them with gusto!

Then I crumble some feta with my fingers, which is one of my favorite parts, and sprinkle some roasted sunflower seeds on top, and then I douse the whole mishmash with a vinaigrette and toss it around so everything is coated. I'm a fan of a nearly-drenched salad, but I know that not everyone is, so my advice is that if you're serving salad to a crowd (or just more than one person), serve the dressing separately and let people do their own. My vinaigrette, which I've learned mostly from my brother and from Mollie Katzen's cookbooks, and about which (again) I could probably write a whole blog post, is a mix of olive oil, vinegar (either balsamic or red wine, usually), lemon juice, Dijon mustard, garlic, and tahini. Sometimes I'll take pesto (made by a local farmer, kept in our freezer) and mix it with my vinaigrette and pour that on top for a thick, rich, basil-y flavor.

So after I've thrown everything into the crockery bowl, and stirred and tossed it around inside, and it looks just amazing and delicious and like it's going to do my insides wonders, the only thing left to do is eat it. Oh, and do the crossword puzzle. A good puzzle really completes the salad experience!

So I hope I've conveyed my utter love for salads, and shown you how a salad can easily be a complete meal, with protein, fresh veggies, and lots of flavour. Go forth and eat salad!

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