The secret to a delicious, quick summer salad is in the small ingredients you use. The best salad should not be difficult to make and can even use a healthy dose of leftovers. That’s right, another great use of leftovers. (If you follow this column you know how much I love roasted veggies leftovers.)
There is something about day-old caramelized veggies, such as roasted cauliflower, zucchini or carrots that provide a deep, sweet taste that’s just so filling. Next, good lettuce. Yeah that sounds obvious, though seriously crisp greens are a must. Arugula, baby spinach, spring mix or just whatever you can get that has some bounce to the leaf. To enhance the salad (and make them more fun) I also like to add a dash of bright flavors, such as dried cherries or cranberries. Dried pineapple is also interesting. This flavor adds a nice contrast to each bite.
The next most important element to a yummy salad has to be the dressing. I like to emulsify extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar with a dash of pepper. To do this easily, in a small bowl, add 1/4 cup EVOO, 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and a few turns of a pepper mill. With a small whisk, whip the ingredients in a circle until the olive oil incorporates and takes on a velvety texture.
Another critical ingredient are fresh herbs from your garden or farmer’s market. Nothing beats freshly cut parsley, cilantro or thyme tossed into your salad.
Now throw in a few cherry tomatoes, sliced or not, and then almost last of all, you’ve got to add a pinch of some kind of buttery flavor. Yes, this is essential. I like to get this taste from slivers of Parmesan cheese. However, soft farmer’s cheese, really good Gorgonzola or blue cheese and certainly goat cheeses can have this flavor too.
Then, the finishing touch is salt. Good salt. Fancy salt. Preferably flaky sea salt, if you can get your hands on some. Regular sea salt isn’t too shabby either. Just don’t use too much, as it is strong. Roll a little of the flaky salt in your hands to break it up a bit and then sprinkle it over the salad.