Thursday, 19 April 2012

Beautiful Salads

Salads are great fun! I wanted to share this picture with you today - it's of one of the salads that we enjoyed on Little Bear's birthday a few days ago. Don't you think it looks beautiful? I love having fun making our salads and other side dishes look really pretty. You can be especially creative with salads - there's no need to be confined to the typical ingredients of leaves, cucumber, tomato and perhaps a bit of celery. There are so many other lovely fresh ingredients you can use. This one has rocket, pea shoots, tomato, romaine, red onion, cucumber, spinach, watercress and lollo rosso in it. But we could just as easily have added shredded carrot, strips of pepper, mushrooms, avocado, radish, sweetcorn, sundried tomatoes and perhaps even some strawberries, cubed apple, mandarin orange segments, walnut halves or flaked almonds - tomorrow when I prepare our evening meal, I shall probably add some extra embellishments like these, to go with the tuna loaf we will be eating. The sky's the limit when it comes to salad! In fact I wasn't the creator of this particular salad pictured above. It was put together by - wait for it - not Little Bear, or even Papa Bear ... but Cubby Bear, our son! He's the best salad "designer" in our family, and we always appreciate his inventive and attractive creations! Thank you for your special effort, Cubby Bear! We really enjoyed this salad on Little Bear's birthday - and it looked wonderful on the table in its blue glass bowl. So wonderful in fact, that I just had to take a photograph of it with our laptop! Cubby Bear didn't know what all the fuss was about, but I think he's got a real flair for design - don't you?

With our fresh green salads, we usually enjoy a home made dressing. Our basic salad dressing consists of two tablespoons of vinegar (usually apple cider or red wine - balsamic vinegar is nice too - it has a rich and fruity taste which goes well with walnut oil, but it is quite expensive so we don't have it regularly), with a teaspoon each of honey, mild mustard and garlic paste (this is much milder than fresh garlic), plus the juice of one lemon, a tablespoon of low fat mayonnaise, and some freshly ground salt and pepper. This makes a lovely tangy dressing which we all enjoy. I find with this home made dressing there is no need to add oil, as the mayonnaise emulsifies it without adding lots of extra calories (it is only 11 calories per tablespoon, far less than regular mayonnaise). Sometimes I'll simplify this - for example, when we have tuna nicoise, and use only the lemon juice, garlic and then perhaps a drop of walnut oil (which tastes wonderfuly nutty, without being overpowering). Occasionally I'll replace the lemon juice with lime juice (limes are much more expensive, where we live, than lemons). Although I always serve homemade dressings cold, they taste just as good on warm salads such as tuna nicoise, and we think it really is worthwhile having a home made dressing - the mixture of flavours is so much more delicious than in store bought ones.

Salads are so good for you, and so quick and easy. They don't need to be side dishes - a coleslaw or potato salad can be served as a main dish with other side dishes to complement it, and we find they are a great way to ensure we get our "five a day"! There are some brilliant recipes online if you are looking for some inspiration - in fact, I think I'm going to go and check some out now - so watch for some new salad recipes to follow in the next few weeks!