Since I began working my way through Mark Bittman’s “101 Simple Salads for the Season”, I’ve not quite been able to keep up with the goal I set to make at least five salads in a seven day week. Most of the time, it’s simply that I was missing a key ingredient, or I hadn’t planned on making a trip to the market for the third time in three days. I’ve planned ahead, but even that has caused some problems because we all know that fresh produce won’t wait forever to be used. On weekends, I’ve been able to make a salad for my lunch, and then another for dinner, so I’ve made up a bit of time, but the goal isn’t necessarily to make all the salads by a particular date; instead, it is simply to make all the salads.
A few of you have mentioned that you’d like to get this book. It’s not a book — it’s a list that was printed last month in The New York Times. Each “salad” is really only a suggested list of ingredients and quantities mentioned only occasionally with phrases such as, “not a lot,” “a few,” “a bit,” and “loads.” I think that’s what I enjoy best about this experience. Cooking, or in this case, making salad isn’t necessarily about exact amounts of anything when you want something light and healthy without a lot of fuss. It’s more about learning what will taste well together and which textures contrast appealingly. It’s also about being able to relax a bit on dealing with a specific recipe, experimenting, and tasting as you go to decide how much of a particular flavor you enjoy.
As I’ve made each salad, I’ve only kept notes about what I’ve included in each salad, ingredients I’ve added, if any, and only occasionally, the quantities of dressing ingredients. We don’t use bottled or packaged salad dressing , so experimenting with flavors is always something we enjoy. If a dressing works especially well, then I will keep a quantity list, but even then, the amounts will be estimates. There are no measuring cups or spoons — only squirts, glugs, and dollops of this and that along the way.
I’ve featured salads Nos. 29, 13, and 14 in respective posts, but in keeping with the spirit of simplicity, I’ve decided to group more of them together in a single post. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime, make a salad! Fourteen down, seemingly a million to go.
Let’s call this particular series fabulously delicious, shall we?
No. 59: Seared Tuna with Olives, Capers, and Tomatoes
Lunch for One: Sear yellowfin in a very hot pan with some olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Slice a cup of grape tomatoes (cherry toms are too sweet and not tart enough for me…), and toss with a handful of pitted large green olives, a tablespoon of capers with their juice, and some sliced basil. Squeeze a bit of fresh lemon juice over, taste and season. Drizzle over some good extra virgin olive oil and finish with cracked pepper. So delicious.
No. 11: Baby Bok Choy, Grape Tomatoes, and Capers
A Dinner Salad for Three: Par boil three baby bok choy and dunk in an ice bath. Coarsely chop. Toss with halved grape tomatoes, a tablespoon of capers with juice, drizzle over extra virgin olive oil and squeeze a half lemon over the mixture as well. Taste, season, and sprinkle on some crumbled feta. Truly crisp, and refreshing. I had no idea you could eat bok choy this way, but I’m hooked.
No. 20: Napa Cabbage and Radishes with a Peanut Chili Lime Vinaigrette
A Dinner Salad for Three: My husband made this salad while I was writing this and came up with his own version of the dressing. It’s shredded napa cabbage with sliced long red radishes whose name I can’t recall (hot and spicy…) and English cukes were added. Goodness this was so good, I have to make it for myself again. His vinaigrette recipe follows:
Peanut Chili Lime Vinaigrette
3/4 c. peanuts
juice of 1 lime
1 cherry pepper, roasted and sliced
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp. pepper, freshly ground
2 T cilantro, chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
Toast peanuts well until oils are being released. Add all ingredients to food processor and blend. Add more oil to get desired consistency.