Kiss -Or How to Build a Great Salad

'Keep it simple, silly' should be everyone's motto in the kitchen. Especially at this time of the year, when the weather just beckons us to stay outside as long as possible, soaking in the warmth... Who wants to slave away in the kitchen, when all you want is to throw lunch or dinner together and sit out in the sun? Not I. Despite enjoying all the time I get to spend in my own kitchen, from end of April until early October, I would rather wile away my time in the garden or out hunting for wild foods.

So keep things simple. There is a wealth of goodness available right now (or very shortly), and they deserve to shine in their full glory! After all the heavy comfort foods we tucked into in order to survive this past winter, some of us probably feel like lighter fares are in order. Salads often get a bad rap for being boring, or for being rather bad for you (those gloopy dressings on the supermarket shelves are really to blame.) Baby salads do not require complicated dressings with fancy flavours: a quick vinaigrette can be made in a jiffy, and if you make a large batch, it will keep in the fridge for a good, long while. And remember, the leaves should be tossed and dressed, not drizzled upon.

I cannot express my love for asparagus often enough, and try to eat them whenever I can. However, I must stress the importance of buying fresh, local asparagus: they neither keep nor travel very well. Despite looking fine enough after having travelled halfway across the world, the flavour of imported asparagus have nothing on freshly picked spears. If you are a fan like myself, in order to get the best flavour out of your local asparagus, get them home as quickly as you can, and cook them straight away, even if you do not intend to eat them then and there. The cooked spears will keep for a few days in the refrigerator, and will be at the ready for your next salad. They will also have better flavour than asparagus that languished in the ice box before being cooked.

If a quick salad feels like too light a meal to keep you going until dinner, you can bulk it out with some fresh mozzarella. Just tear a ball or three over the tossed salad, and tuck in. If mozzarella isn't your thing, or you're fresh out, use whatever you happen to have on hand: shavings of a mature Cheddar or Parmesan will add zip and character; diced Swiss cheese will give you something to sink your teeth into, whereas dollops of ricotta, quark or even cottage cheese will keep things mild and creamy.

If cheese isn't in the cards, eggs are a great way to add substance to a salad, whether soft or hard boiled, poached or even fried. For extra crunch, and something to chew on, throw in some croutons. Real ones, that you made yourself, not those stale cubes from a cellophane bag. They are not difficult to make. Really. You can up the ante by toasting perfectly cubed bread with olive and garlic (in a pan or the oven), but I usually just chop up slices of warm toast and call it a day. If I feel particularly lush, I may butter the toast before chopping it...

It really can be that simple. Now go out and play!

Bon app'!


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