Ok – so a little while back I wrote an article joking about how “You don’t win friends with salad, you don’t win friends with salad”, with the point being how to nutritionally upgrade your favourite hot dishes. But perhaps you can win friends with salad after all – especially as we head towards summer at an alarming rate. Goodness knows, it’s certainly steaming up here in the Far North (read: occasional rivulets of sweat are becoming raging torrents) and all of you southerners won’t be far behind!
So if you were thinking that it was perhaps time to add a new salad or two to your repertoire – take a squizz at just a few of my family favourites – most which take only 10 minutes to do (Fellas – good salads (and fancy french words) impresses the ladies!). Some of the following can be stand-alone meals or great side dishes to a roast chicken, some fish, antipasto or fire up the Weber and combine a few of them to create an epic BBQ spread – as always, wash everything well prior to use and adjust quantities as required. Please let me know which are your winners from the below and send me some recipes of your favourites as I always love keeping it new and fresh as well!
As always – as a key commitment from Life Nutrition is to be 100% independent so in the interests of full transparency and in the spirit of openness, I wish to clearly disclose that some of the ingredients shown are ones with which I have familial business associations with. However, they are not included here for the deliberate purposes of advertisement – merely as because that is what I stock in my pantry. But yes, they do of course taste marvelous in case you were wondering!
1. Rocket with pear, walnut, prosciutto, Spanish onion and parmesan
In a large bowl, place 150-200g rocket leaves (usually the amount in one of those pre-packaged supermarket bags), one thinly sliced, ripe pear and a quarter of a Spanish (purple) onion that has been very finely sliced. Fry up 6 thin slices of prosciutto, cool then chop roughly. Add this prosciutto, one small handful of shaved parmesan and two small handfuls of chopped walnuts to the rocket/pear/onion mix. Toss through with extravirgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar and crack some black pepper over the top (due to the prosciutto, you’ll find that salt should not be required!)
2. Caprese Salad
This is reliably a huge hit and is extra delish when served with some toasted olive or garlicky bread! Note that mini- or grape tomatoes with baby-bocconini can be skewered easily with some basil (and black olives!) to create healthy canapes.
Warning: Don’t use mushy tomatoes. Never use mushy tomatoes. Nobody likes mushy tomatoes.
So take around 6 large tomatoes, two large, fresh mozzarella balls and a bunch of super-fresh basil. Slice/chop in pretty much any way you like and dress with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar (glaze is also good to add a few drops/drizzles at the end), salt and pepper. Now, being the well-behaved nutritionist that I am (most of the time….ok…some of the time) – aside from dishes which call for stock, I don’t intentionally add salt to many dishes. Caprese salad is definitely one of those exceptions for me as it really brings out the flavours in the fresh tomato – so give it a few cracks!
Hot tip: if you are going to get arty with a platter or by skewering this (rather than just tossing it into a bowl) – match the size of the boccocini/mozzarella to your tomatoes.
3. Beetroot, goats cheese and toasted pine nuts
This little dish takes a bit longer if you take into account the cooking time for the beetroot – but aside from that, it’s one of the laziest dishes ever – bonus!
Take 2-3 large beetroots, wash and chop the top/bottom off (no need to peel). Seal each beetroot in foil and bake on a tray at 180 for around 40 minutes or until easily skewered. Allow these to cool in the foil and then you should find that the skin peels away easily just with your (now bright pink) fingers. Chop beetroot into bite sized pieces, add 50-80g crumbled goats cheese (depends how much you like and deliberately reserving a bit to sprinkle on the top!) and a handful of toasted or dry-fried pine nuts. No dressing required as there is enough taste in the goats cheese and moisture in the beetroot.
4. Chicken, roasted pepper and creamed pesto
This salad tastes seriously decadent – but you can always lighten the dressing up by using a quality low-fat greek yoghurt instead of crème fraiche. Chop up two cooked medium chicken breasts and toss into 1 Cos lettuce (yucky outer leaves removed). Add 2 chopped celery sticks and a sliced, roasted red pepper (or if you’re running short or time, motivation or know-how – about half a jar of roasted red peppers or sun dried tomatoes also works well). In a small bowl mix about 2.5 tablespoons of chunky pesto dip and juice from half a lemon to 100ml of crème fraiche and mix through the salad. Crack some black pepper over the top and serve with remaining lemon wedges.
5. Boiled asparagus and crushed egg
This one is from my dad. God knows where he got it from. Place 4-5 eggs in a saucepan, and bring to a boil for at least a few minutes – you want to ensure all the yolk is cooked through. When done – drain and allow eggs to cool. In the meantime, take two bunches of asparagus and snap (rather than cut) the woody/old bottoms off – snapping will naturally pick the point along the stem that is old vs fresh. If you want to trim the lengths for aesthetic reasons, then do that after snapping. Place them into boiling water for 2-3 minutes or until just cooked through then drain and add them to a bowl of icy water – this makes them go a great green colour and keeps them from going soggy. Asparagus can also be steamed if you prefer – just don’t make them soggy!
Remove the shell from the egg and crush the white/yolks into a bowl with some added extra virgin olive oil, red vinegar and cracked pepper (start with small amounts and add it to your taste/preferred consistency). Top cooled asparagus with egg mixture
6. Breakfast salad
As it heats up – I challenge all of you to just once replace your stodgy, greasy plate of bacon, eggs and toast with this breakfast salad (serves two). I bet for at least half of you – it becomes a new favourite – and there’s extra points to you for including a serve of salad first thing in the day! Or alternatively – take your favourite breakfast into a lunch/dinner format
Cover 3 eggs in a saucepan with cold water and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 3 minutes (more time needed if you don’t want your eggs soft boiled). If you’re a bit of a culinary unco like me – put 4-5 eggs in and take out at 2.5 minutes and split open straight away to know whether they’re all ready or if more time is needed! In a bowl, put one chopped cos heart, 75g of cooked, chopped rindless bacon (around 3 pieces), 10 halved cherry tomatoes and the cooled, peeled, halved eggs. In a small container shake up a large batch of dressing (great to have leftovers on hand!) – ratios are ½ extra virgin olive oil, ¼ red wine vinegar, ¼ Dijon mustard. Drizzle the salad with this dressing and top with croutons – homemade and garlicky in an ideal world (storebought, whatever flavour if your reality this week just didn’t pan out that way!).
7. Orange, fennel and red onion
This salad appears on our table at least once a week – perhaps it’s because it takes 5 minutes to make – or perhaps its just because it’s my idea of ideal summer food! Slice 3-4 peeled oranges into 1cm rounds and add to a bowl with thinly-sliced, fennel (approx. half a bulb) and finely sliced Spanish onion (approx. 1/4 onion). Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, red vinegar and a few good cracks of black pepper. Decorate with a few of the green leafy bits from the fennel
8. Salad cups
Some of you may recognized these salad cups from my article “How to meal prep like a boss”. They’re a great quick dinner at home and present really well for a BBQ as well. Wash 1-2 heads of cos lettuce and strip off the best medium-sized leaves. Fill with your choice of veggies, avocado, nuts and protein – eg shredded chicken/pork/beef, smoked salmon, tuna, tofu, legumes (or you can keep the cups veggie-only and serve as an accompaniment to your protein). Season with pepper, citrus juice and drizzle with dressing or mayo.
If you’ve enjoyed this article – please share it on and stay tuned for ‘Super Summer Salads, Series 2’! Also please share your favourite recipes below or on our Facebook page!