YOU’s food editor Eleanor Maidment gives our favourite summer staple a glamorous makeover.
Avocado, radish and walnut salad with carrot-miso dressing
The dressing is a real winner. You’ll be amazed at how raw carrot blends into something so creamy. This makes far more dressing than you’ll need, so store the rest in a sealed jar in the fridge for grilled veg, fish or chicken.
Salmon, citrus kale and black rice salad
You can adapt the vegetables in this salad according to what you have in the fridge: cucumber, spring onion and steamed broccoli all work well.
Broccoli and bacon slaw
Try this instead of your usual summer slaw. The broccoli is eaten raw, and as long as it’s broken into really small pieces it makes a lovely crunchy base for this salad.
Beetroot, goat’s cheese and nectarine salad with spiced vinaigrette
Beetroot and goat’s cheese is a combination that just works. This takes it a step further by contrasting the textures of raw and cooked beetroot and adding a gently spiced vinaigrette and sweet nectarine.
Tuna salad with bitter leaves and anchovy dressing
This salad sees a sharp anchovy and garlic dressing spooned over crunchy fresh vegetables, with flaked tuna and jammy eggs. The combination works brilliantly well.
Tomato, wasabi and nori salad
Tomatoes, soy sauce and nori are umami-rich flavours that truly complement each other, while the wasabi adds a nice undercurrent of heat.
My essential ingredients
For the perfect salad, you need the right balance. Here’s how…
Salads are beautifully versatile. They can comprise countless ingredients – raw or cooked, hot or cold – and can be happily served for lunch or dinner. But while you should always let your creative juices flow, it’s worth considering some key factors:
Go big on texture
A good salad needs a range of textures. You definitely want crunch whether it be crisp cos lettuce, garlicky sourdough croutons or toasted nuts and seeds (roast big batches of cashews and pumpkin seeds to have at the ready). Proteins (such as chicken or prawns) and grains (such as wild rice or quinoa) make salads feel more substantial, while soft-boiled eggs, mozzarella or avocado are creamy and mellow.
Balance salt, sweet and acid
Just as you want a variety of textures, so too should flavours be balanced. A little saltiness – think olives, prosciutto or blue cheese – is always appreciated. Sweetcorn, finely sliced green apple or nectarine can add a subtle sweetness, while just a small amount of dried fruit such as cranberries will do wonders to a slaw. Sharpness is important, too, as it lifts other flavours. This could be as simple as a squeeze of lemon juice or the vinegar in a dressing, though quick-pickled onions or cucumber (or indeed any veg or fruit) add a lovely sweet-and-sour hit.
Dress it well
The dressing is arguably the most important part, so consider it carefully. It must suit your salad – a leafy green salad needs something delicate and should be dressed last minute, while a chunky chicken, veg and noodle number can hold its own with something a little more heavy and might do well to soak up the dressing for a while before serving. If you’re going to the trouble of making a great dressing, then double the quantity and store leftovers in a jar in the fridge.
Get the kit
No matter how good your knife skills, a razor-sharp mandoline is worth investing in for finely slicing raw roots (beetroot and carrot) and shredding cabbage. A good one (such as Benriner Japanese Mandoline, £34.99, souschef.co.uk) will come with attachments for julienning vegetables, which is great for slaws. A compact high-speed blender (such as a Nutribullet 600, £57.99, amazon.co.uk) is ideal for whizzing up super-smooth dressings.
Now buy the book
Our recipes are from California: Living & Eating by Eleanor Maidment, published by Hardie Grant, price £22. To order a copy for £18.70 until 22 August, go to mailshop.co.uk/books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £20.