Friday, June 24, 2011

The best salad you've ever had


1 clove garlic
3 cups arugula
5 mushrooms, sliced
3 vine tomatoes, sliced
½ avocado, sliced
fresh basil
oil & vinegar

Have you ever stared blankly at the screen of your computer, trying to keep control over your eye lids, stemming all your willpower against the heavy weights that drag them down? If so, you know that all the willpower in the world is not enough and that there is only one way of emerging victorious: the cheap and dirty sugar intake.

So this afternoon, lunch was followed by one chocolate chip cookie after the other, unfortunately of the overly sweet and week-old adamant kind that are sold in cafeterias all around the country and can’t even justify the excess of sugar and fat with their taste. Again, if you have ever been there, you already know the stone that seems to sit in my stomach by the time I get home in the evening. As coming from a different planet, my partner, simmering with excitement, greets me as usual with “what’s for dinner tonight?”.

Well, a salad is just what I need right now, catering to my need for something fresh and juicy, but also hearty enough to make my partner’s heart beat faster. So as you can imagine, I am not talking about the kind of salad that rightfully gained its reputation as a substitute dinner for those on a diet or party poppers, consisting of sad iceberg lettuce and watery tomatoes, that tastes of nothing and some greasy dressing that tastes of old mayonnaise. No, let’s talk about some salad magic.

In a perfect world, where everyone always had the time to stroll around farmers’ markets all day long and the freshest ingredients were always readily at hand, probably just throwing together some salad leaves and slicing up some tomatoes bursting with ripeness would do the trick and sufficiently tickle our taste buds so we’d all love salad. But, making the best out of what life gives you has proven a wise philosophy, and so we’ll make the best of what’s on those supermarket shelves. Believe me, there is a lot of hope there.

As you might have noticed, the majority of readily available salads don’t have a lot of flavor on their own. There are remedies. Some of the packages you can buy contain herbs, others more flavorful species like arugula (which I love using as the main salad green), and anything along those lines that can be added like fresh basil, cilantro, dill and the likes gets you a long way. When choosing tomatoes, those still on the vine usually taste best but as a rule of thump, round ones with thinner flesh and more juice are preferable.

Another trick is to tease out the last bit of flavor from what you’ve got. For this, my first step in preparing a salad is to peel a large clove of garlic, smash it once with the grip of my knife, put it in a glass and spritz some vinegar on it (I use around 2 tablespoons for a regular salad but it all depends on individual taste).

While the garlic infuses the vinegar, leaving behind just the most fleeting hint of the full garlic aroma, I prepare the rest of the salad: throwing arugula in a huge bamboo bowl, slicing up tomatoes, mushrooms and avocado, and generously adding good olive oil (here it’s important to make sure that all the vegetables are covered in a thin oil coating), maybe toasting some bread. A little bit of salt and pepper, maybe some garnishing with fresh herbs, basil being my favorite, and the salad is completed with the vinegar.

The whole procedure takes about 10 minutes and no bite ceases to intrigue me with its alluring mix of sweet and fresh, juicy and soft, creamy and crisp.
Life is good!

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