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October Food Champion's Challenge : What makes a good salad?

With Summer just around the corner it’s time to think about salads and the produce used to assemble them .

Whether it be lettuce based , potato based or rice based etc . there are a plethora of combinations to make a good salad .

The Badge Challenge for this month is to let us know your favourite salad . How you prepare it and the dressings you favour .

Last month for the September Challenge we had some great posts regarding the herbs . We picked the following posters out to be awarded a Food Champions Badge . Thank you all for contributing .

@Lanny @mark_m @pamelanorth4 @payneheck @tim-bailey @Guitarfish @Sophie

@Clea @JB456 @Oldfield @acreed2002 @robynne.burchell

The Food Champions @Gaby @phb and @vax2000 thank you for your participation in the Challengers .

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Fresh herbs and simplicity makes a good salad. For example, this week I was running late for my turn to cook dinner. So on the way home I picked up a IGA pre-cooked chicken. I had a few left over pink eye potatoes in the fridge. Here is what I did:

  1. Potato salad. Chopped the cold pink eye potatoes and added 1/2 and 1/2 of a plain egg mayonnaise (supermarket variety) and Greek yoghurt and chopped some chives then gently stirred through. 2. Green Salad. Rocket salad, chopped cucumber, red capsicum, red onion, mint and coriander with a light dressing.

Quick, simple and delicious and helped me use up what I had left of my herbs in the crisper. :slight_smile:

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Our secret ingredient is fresh home-grown Rocket, the green shovel-shaped leaf variety. It’s the main ingredient, so plenty of it.

IF you have the red-veined variety of Rocket as an extra, it does add colour and tastes a little different.

Both are gently peppery and makes salads made with just lettuce, taste - just a tad boring.

Add cherry tomatoes - yellow and red, and diced chives (from the garden) . Plus dressing of white-wine vinegar, and EV olive oil, a teeny bit of hot English mustard, a dash of ground black pepper. Plus, a little ground sea-salt, or not!

Baby Spinach is a good addition. Not too much though.

Potato Salad? I always cook the potatoes to slightly firmer than restaurants do, the red-skinned varieties - just-cooked, and not soft - look great, so you shouldn’t peel them.
Sliced and diced red onions add colour, too, but not too much of it,

Making your own mayo is a journey, but recommended, because you will learn, and keep on learning.

IMO - cooking to a consistent standard in all cases, is a bad idea. Make mistakes, and you’ll learn.

:slight_smile: and :wink: !

Tim Bailey

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@Lanny and @tim-bailey I’m hearing you . Roll on summer .

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How lovely to be reminded of summer!

My fav non-cook salad for a hot summer day is chickpeas and tuna in a vinaigrette dressing.

Or if having guests:
Avocado cut in half, pulp scooped out and mixed with the mashed chickpeas and tuna salad and spooned back into the avocado.

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I say roll on Winter up here :grin:

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I’ll second that.

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My favourite salad is one that has as much fresh ingredients (preferably from the garden) as well as some extra things to add taste and ensure one salad is different to the next. A salad I enjoy has lettuce (either cos, minuet or celtuce - iceberg only if there aren’t others), rocket, endive, chopped coriander, capsicum, finely chopped parsley, roasted beetroot, onion/garlic chives, finely sliced carrot, pickles jalapeno chillies, Australian feta or cheddar, grated Australian parmesan (currently using Ashgrove), legumes (tinned butter or cannellini beans or chickpeas), very ripe and full favoured tomatoes, whole olives (kalamata or green), capers, kohl rabi shavings (using a peeler), garlic and herb croutons (easy to make in a frying pan) and anything else I fell like putting in. Meat is optional, but works well with tuna, salmon, diced roast chicken, salami, bone ham or even some left over snags.

Dressing is simple and either just mayo or a simple lemon juice based dressing.

It is also made just before eating…as I don’t like soggy salads.

Edit: When living in Brisbane, we had more salad greens growing through the winter as most things bolted to seed as soon as the weather turned warm. As a result, we ate salads all year round (summer ones has increased bought content). Moving to Tassie, the salad greens tend to do better in the summer (in the winter months they get burnt in frosts or lay dominant) so we can enjoy our own salad greens when the weather warms. Generally don’t feel like a salad through the cold months, except on a sandwich/roll/wrap.

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Yay ‘salad days’ :blush:
I think the best salads can stand alone - therefore a combination of good fats, protein and carbs with lots of great veg and fruit (such as tomato).
Currently loving: brown rice, bbq salmon, pine nuts, sliced red capsicum, baby spinach leaves, sliced cucumber, corn kernels, and diced papaya. Dressing: Greek yogurt with squeeze lemon and chopped coriander. All quantities to taste and size of appetite.
Can replace salmon with bbq teriyaki marinated tofurkey.
And to be post modernistic can eat this salad deconstructed :roll_eyes:

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I love salads, but don’t have the patience to do up anything fancy 99% of the time. My favourite all-in-one salady meal is a mex-ish combo of tinned beans, corn, diced red capsicum and green chilli, plus finely sliced spring onion. Garnish with chopped coriander and a dressing of lime juice (+ optional zest), smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt and a neutral oil.

Black beans are toothy and more instagram worthy, but cannelini beans also work with a softer texture. Charring the corn on the cob before cutting off the kernels is nice. These are ingredients on hand at Chez Sophie nearly always.

Other favourite - bitter leaves with orange juice-based vinaigrette and chopped hazelnuts

Other other favourite is a Serbian-style potato salad that has no mayo. Rough up cooked chunks or slices of a floury potato and salted (rinsed) onion slices, then pour over a dressing of vinegar, olive oil, finely chopped red capsicum or mild chilli, parsley and dill.

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Keeping it simple, texture and balanced flavours. A salad can be a complete meal?

Start with Turkish bread, ciabatta or a chewy sour dough. Slice to your desired thickness and lightly toast one side or two to preference. 1.5cm is my greedy choice. Rub the upper surface with freshly cut garlic. A drizzle of your favourite oil and or seasoning or butter if one must. I usually just look to EVO depending on the bread.

One slice for a snack, two for a meal.

Layer the fresh warm toasted slices with a variety of lettuce leaves, spinach if you have some. A little spiciness or bitterness based on your choices. I add finely cut cubes of cucumber and halves of cherry tomatoes.

The favourite topping is a couple of slices of smoked salmon with finely sliced rings of red onion, spoonfuls of capers and a good drizzle of olive oil. Ground black pepper to taste. I sometimes use halved and pitted black olives in place of capers.

There are other ways to dress the base salad, choice of toppings and herbs. EG thick sliced rings of a fully flavoured tomato with any of a wide variety of cheeses. Sliced avo is also great with a drizzle of … your choice.

I sometimes add a little balsamic and dress before topping.

I’m not a great fan of vinaigrette style dressing.
Perhaps there is an art to getting the balance and quality of the ingredients right. Perhaps my taste buds were tortured by the more robust preferences of a generation long gone. EG black tea that would cause a pucker that turned your face inside out unless balanced with 3-4 heaped Aussie teaspoons of sugar.

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Salads are NOT just a summer thing. Argh!!!

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I agree that No they aren’t. I do like some warm salads which go very well in cooler weather.

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This is one of my go-to ‘warm salad’:
cauliflower florets pan-tossed with a few fillets of anchovies, minced garlic, and
chopped parsley.
Dressed with a drizzle of oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Served hot.

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Many people think I am weird for having a preference for iceberg lettuce, but there it is. Fresh and crisp and mixed with a variety of additions which include cheese, avocado, tomato, apple, peanuts, sultanas, onion, capsicum, celery… basically… anything. I love a mix of tastes in a standard salad.

Then theres Mum’s version of a Waldorf. NOT made with Mayo, but with sour cream, walnuts, granny smith apples, sultanas and celery.

And Greek salad which must have feta, olives, zucchini, onion, tomato and some mixed lettuce (in this case, NOT iceberg).

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To me, lettuce is the iceberg variety. Maybe cos is an acceptable alternative.
Everything else is just inedible weeds.

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Oh, :open_mouth:
In Cosmopolitan Melbourne, 2021!

(:laughing::joy:)

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You mean the lock down capital of the world? Very cosmopolitan.

There are some trends here about one likes and the other does not but that applies to all food.

A simpler view of what makes a good salad, without dipping into personal taste, is freshness, quality, variety and balance.

Freshness is an obvious positive but until you have picked your own and seen the cases where a few hours or days make a difference you may not know what real freshness is in many cases.
Quality is about ingredients that are good cultivars that were harvested at their best and well handled afterwards.
Variety is required for all foods - after you bin havin’ steak for a long time beans taste fine.
Balance is picking good combinations of colour, flavour and texture that work together and combining them in suitable proportions; this applies to produce, dressings and extras.

Cookbooks will help with the last two items but choose what you like not what is fashionable. If the first two qualities cannot be satisfied then it doesn’t matter which recipe you use as the result will be ordinary.

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