With the days warming, the early offerings of peak season harvests juuuuust beginning to appear at the farmer's markets, and the golden hours beckoning us all away from our screens (and our ovens), this is the time for salad.
Coming from Shakespeare (thanks again for everything, Willie), the concept of "Salad Days" doesn't *necessarily* refer to the season when leafy greens, sun-warmed vegetables, and a bounty of juicy fruits burst forth in radical abundance, practically begging to be mixed up with any salty/sweet/acidic/creamy accoutrements you can lay your hands on... but just as Ruby revels in the "Dog Days" that aren't *technically* about her, perhaps it should.
These are the Salad Days, indeed, friends. The days to make the simple most out of the bounty that catches your eye at market (or in your CSA basket ;).
Some of us are Salad People, who crave dark greens with a lunar intensity, who can whip up a perfect vinaigrette in an old Grey Poupon jar faster than you can peel a clove of garlic, or who soak and roast batches of chickpeas on a Sunday to deploy over the week's green finery like some sort of meal planning pixie dust. These are definitely great days for them. If you are not a Salad Person, never fear, these are great days for you too.
Resident Salad Person, Grant, recently made a beautiful quick salad for a weeknight dinner (and because he's Grant, he put it on a pretty plate and took a bunch of gorgeous pictures of it to make us jealous show us how much he was loving his Pallares Kitchen Knife) and we asked him about his methodology. Here's what he had to say:
Here's my salad mania!
Summer Spectacular Salad
2-3 beautiful medium to large heirloom tomatoes
2 large cucumbers
Handful of greens/microgreens
Handful of feta cheese
Handful of pistachio nuts (unshelled)
Drizzles of high quality olive oil
Flaky salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Prep your ice bath. Fill a small mixing bowl with cold water and a tray's worth of ice cubes. Have that ready to go for the next step...
Start by washing your cucumbers and cutting off the ends. Using a peeler, cut strips of cucumber (skin on is a-okay, and even better for aesthetic purposes) that run the length of the vegetable. Place them in the ice bath to keep them cool, crisp, and green. Peel both cucumbers into strips and let those babies soak.
Next, rinse off your tomatoes and, using a sharp kitchen knife
, cut them into wedges. If your tomato has ridges, we recommend cutting along the natural ridges in the tomato body so they keep their pretty shape. Put the wedges into a mixing bowl and drizzle olive oil
over them generously. Add flaky salt
and fresh ground black pepper
to taste (and then a little bit more, just for good measure.) Mix the tomatoes, oil, salt, and pepper until they are coated and glistening.
On a serving plate
(or on individual bowls
, if serving that way) arrange your cucumber slices into organic curlicues, filling the plate evenly and providing little spots for tomatoes to nestle in. This should be whimsical and not too fussy. Don't worry too much about it looking perfect; it should be organic and easy.
Add your tomatoes to the mix, balancing the green with the red and filling the negative space. Again, nothing too particular, just go with the flow. Add a handful of microgreens, fresh arugula, or similar over the whole mix; it's fun when they heap on top.
Throw on some crumbly feta cheese (again, more is better than less) and some pistachios (roasted or not, whatever you prefer.) Drizzle some more oil over the whole shebang. Sprinkle some more flaky salt. Add some other goodies from the fridge or the produce basket
The point of this is that you can replace anything with anything. No tomatoes this week? Cut up some watermelon radishes and throw those on. Not a fan of feta? First of all, reconsider that; second of all, grab that last bit of parmesan and shave that on top. Dollop some hummus into the mix. Fry an egg and put it on top. Have a butt of bread that's a little stale? That's just croutons who haven't realized their potential yet. Be free and frivolous with it; salads don't need to be serious business.