Epicurious: Pass the salad

Epicurious: Pass the salad

Start your weekend wisely with a salad lunch!
17 Oct, 2015

Now that you've indulged in a three-day carnivorous celebration, you may wish to spare a thought for your own intestines, liver and heart. Fresh cooked kaleji, grilled botis and roasted raans are difficult to resist, but adding a bit of variety to the feast by including some equally scrumptious-looking salads will provide much needed relief to the digestive system. There are a number of options from around the world to choose from.

Hail Caesar

Named for its creator Italian-American chef Caesar Cardini, the Caesar salad is said to have been first made in Tijuana, Mexico over a busy Fourth of July weekend in 1924. Caesar’s kitchen was running short on supplies so he concocted a salad from whatever ingredients were at hand.

The original recipe had whole leaves (not chopped) of romaine lettuce roughly tossed with olive oil, grated parmesan cheese, garlic-infused olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and coddled eggs. And croutons of course, lots of oven-toasted crunchy croutons.

Mrs Wallis Simpson, who adored the salad, is credited with making it popular all over Europe by demanding it at every restaurant she visited with her husband, Prince Edward VIII of Wales.

Made in Moscow

Smoked duck and caviar shared space with capers and crayfish tails in the first Olivier salad made in the pre-Revolution era by celebrated chef Lucien Olivier at Moscow’s Hermitage restaurant.

Today it is better known as Russian salad and is much more humble in terms of its ingredients: diced boiled potatoes, carrots, peas, eggs, as well as apples, celery, onion and pickled cucumbers all dressed with mustard and mayonnaise.

A must-have dish at New Year Eve dinners all over Russia, the ‘ruska salata’ has also proved to be a favourite in Eastern Europe, Turkey, Iran, as well as Pakistan.

“There was an Old Person of Fife, Who was greatly disgusted with life; They sang him a ballad, and fed him on salad, Which cured that Old Person of Fife.” — Edward Lear

As Romans do

The ancient Greeks and Romans were known to be enthusiastic eaters of garden salads.

Alongside their meals they enjoyed eating raw vegetables with a dressing of oil, vinegar or salt. In fact, it is the Latin sal (salt) which yielded the word salata (salted things) which in turn has given us the English word ‘salad’. The salted things being the raw vegetables of course: cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, radishes and lots of leafy greens of any variety.

This ancient favourite has become a popular food for those counting calories — if it grows in a garden, it can go in a garden salad is a useful guideline to follow. Just watch out for those criminal creamy dressings such as Blue Cheese, Thousand Islands and Ranch.

Levant with love

Lebanese-Palestinian cooks had to do something with their leftover pita bread, so they toasted it, broke it up into small pieces and put it in a bowl along with chopped romaine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, radishes, mint and parsley. To this they added some lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, sumac, salt and pepper. And poof! The world had fattoush.

Derived from the Arabic word for flatbread (fatta), fattoush is a rustic salad that is much easier to make than tabbouleh, yet it is equally flavourful and healthy. Boiled chickpeas are optional if one wishes to make the salad more filling, but the toasted pita is really a must.

You say Po-ta-to

Almost as American as apple pie packed with just as many calories, this starch-based salad is the perfect addition to any barbecue. Eaten either chilled or at room temperature, it is best served sprinkled with some paprika and finely chopped chives (the green stalks of spring onions will do too).

The American version of this originally German side dish allows for sour cream to be substituted for mayonnaise, and chopped celery, dill and boiled eggs to be added for additional flavour and richness. Also expert chefs advise to allow the cooked chopped potatoes to cool for 30 minutes before adding anything. Trust them; they know these spuds.

Cut the Slaw

Is there anything more soothing than roughly chopping a whole cabbage into many, many small pieces? Coleslaw fans enjoy the creamy tartness of this salad which goes so well with barbecued or fried meats. It is rich in fibre, although excessive eating can lead to intestinal gas and bloating.

The original German recipe calls for an oil and vinegar dressing, but it is now common to see mayonnaise used instead. Coarsely chopped apples, onions and walnuts may also be added. Asian coleslaw is a delicious and much healthier variation that uses ginger, carrots, and both red and green cabbage.

Published in Dawn, Sunday Magazine, September 25th, 2015

On a mobile phone? Get the Dawn Mobile App: Apple Store | Google Play