Dress Appropriately for Hot Summer Salads
It’s hot now and time for salads. Salads can be a meal in themselves and if you insist on a bit of protein consider adding some smoked fish, a nice easy addition, requiring no cooking. A mixed grain salad is a substantial meal as are roasted root vegetable salads or potato salads. A great way to jazz up a potato salad is to add greens such as double peeled broad beans, sugar snap peas or asparagus along with a flaked smoked trout fillet and there is your dinner. Kipfler potatoes are a good nutty and waxy variety for salads and can be eaten warm, room temperature or chilled in a potato salad. Slicing the still warm potato directly into the salad dressing in the serving bowl will absorb the tasty dressing, so make double the amount, which brings me to the important issue of salad dressing. I have a less is more philosophy. All that is needed for a dressing is a good quality fresh oil (walnut, hazelnut, macadamia, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil or grape seed oil) and a squeeze of lemon or vinegar at a 3 to 1 ratio. If you don’t like the sour taste of lemon or vinegar, try a gentle apple cider vinegar but if you like a bit of bite whisking in a 1/4 of a teaspoon of Dijon mustard will result in a very creamy French dressing. To make your salad preparations easier forget the messy jar for mixing the dressing ingredients and instead put the dressing directly in your salad bowl, using the salad spoon as the measure and whisk it with the fork of the salad servers until emulsified (creamy consistency) and then place the salad ingredients on top and toss them only when ready to serve. Simple! What oil and acid component you choose is dependent on your taste and the salad you are making. A simple green salad warrants a good EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and lemon or wine vinegar, while olive oil is a bit heavy for potato salad and a nut oil is best. EVOO and balsamic go with tomatoes or a rocket salad (the dark balsamic is not noticeable on the dark green leaves and their peppery taste can handle the sweetness of the balsamic) and a Spanish sherry vinegar is the best way to dress sautéed Pardon peppers or a grain salad. A sprinkle of Murray Valley pink salt is an excellent seasoning to use. Don’t be reluctant to buy the best quality oils and vinegar; remember you don’t use that much and you are aiming for a lovely flavour not just a bit of lubrication. It is a good idea to keep nut oils in the fridge and check use by dates as these can go rancid quickly. If you are a fan of Meredith marinated goats cheese remember to keep the jar of olive oil when the cheese is finished as it is a very tasty salad oil. Quality oils and vinegars, particularly aged balsamic vinegar make wonderful and much appreciated Christmas presents for people who have everything and enjoy a well dressed salad. If you are scratching your head about gift ideas try Enoteca Sileno in Carlton North, they have a great range of Italian extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegar, two ingredients that dress juicy ripe tomatoes perfectly. Farmers markets will also have stalls featuring local products, including flavorsome pumpkin seed oil from The Australian Pumpkin Seed Company in Victoria’s high country. For a quintessential Australian product you cant go past a delicate macadamia nut oil. Keep cool this summer and dress your salads appropriately.