Monday, August 07, 2006

Sunday Night Salad

The Sunday Night Salad was inspired by three things. Firstly, a summer in Montpellier 10 years ago when I discovered a whole new way of eating - the salad as a meal in itself. My friends and I would dine alfresco each night in the local square’s café. We would have huge plates of salade nicoise or salade composee, accompanied by the café’s favourite beverage, beer with strawberry syrup! Secondly, Nadine Abensur, an amazing chef who for a long time ran London’s Cranks vegetarian cafes (refuges from the generally stale, unhealthy and uninspiring food to be found in central London) and now writes wonderful cook books. And thirdly, the need for a meal of fresh, healthy food on Sunday nights that might be an antidote to a weekend of overindulging in rich foods and wine... perhaps a modern, PC version of high tea!

The Sunday Night Salad is a bit of a throw together piece, using whatever it is you have left in the fridge and cupboard and putting it together in layers, on individual plates, one for each diner. It's quite fun putting together all those different textures and colours; you can be quite creative with it. Like a stir fry there’s a bit of chopping and preparation to be done before everything is put together. However, unlike a stir fry, it's a pretty low stress meal with little actual cooking and can be done in your own time.

Not all layers have to be put on it. It really is up to what you have available. Here, however, is what I suggest:

Layer One
A covering of green leaves, eg baby spinach and/or various kinds of lettuce


Layer Two
Vegetables that have been cooked and chopped into bite-size chunks
eg steamed green beans, broccoli, asparagus or roasted pumpkin, sweet potato, potato


Layer Three
Salad vegetables eg slices of red capsicum, radishes, vine-ripened tomatoes, grated carrot, sliced avocado, tinned sweetcorn or beetroot, even a few slices of pear or apple


Layer Four
A form of protein - tinned tuna or salmon, smoked fish, chicken or ham; salami or chorizo, a boiled egg or any number of cheeses


Layer Five
Lightly toasted nuts or seeds (particularly good for vegetarians) and chopped fresh herbs
eg pine nuts, cashews, slivered almonds, sunflower, pumpkin or sesame seeds
topped with parsley, basil or mint (use these two sparsely)


Layer Six
Some strong flavours - capers, olives, sundried tomatoes

Lastly, of course, a simple dressing to give it all a bit of extra flavour. A squeeze of lemon juice, some balsamic vinegar, seasoning and a good splash of extra virgin olive oil.

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