Sunday, July 15

C H E F S A L A D

This is one of my favourite warm weather meals. It's a substantial salad; a colourful, crunchy, cornucopia in a bowl. It travels well for picnics, if a bit fiddly with the ingredients needing to be assembled just before serving. 



Ideally, make this on a summer day, or on an evening you can enjoy dining al fresco. It's just the meal for casual dining with guests, as you can have all the ingredients laid out on a buffet table for everyone to combine their own salad. If you're joined by vegetarian or two, include a bowl of lightly toasted walnuts (wonderful with the stilton) I've yet to make this for anybody who didn't love it. Recipe makes four salads.

What You Need for the Dressing

Gherkins (pickles) - 4 medium size
Mayonnaise - 250ml/1 cup
Ketchup - 250ml/1 cup
Coarse Pepper - 15ml/1 tbs

What You Do

In medium size bowl, coarsely grate gherkins. Combine with mayonnaise, ketchup and pepper. Blend well. Set aside, or store in container. 

What You Need for the Salad

Boiled Eggs - 4 large
Homemade croutons, or toasted garlic bread cut into bite size chunks 200g/7 oz
Lettuce - 1 medium head red leaf
Pea Shoots and Baby leaf -120g/4oz
Tomato - 4 medium, sliced
Cucumber - small, peeled and thinly sliced
Salad Onions - 1 bunch, thinly chopped
Dry Cured Ham - about 300g or 2/3lb
Cheese -  Cheddar coarsely grated, or Stilton crumbled about 300g or 2/3lb
Serve with 1,000 Island dressing and coarse black pepper

What You Do

Boil and peel eggs. Slice into quarters. Set aside.

If you've never made croutons before, it's easy. Lightly toast six - eight slices of your favourite bread (whites and rye are better for crouton than wheat, as wheat crumbles) in the oven. Remove bread, cut into bite sized squares. Toss in a large bowl with a good slug of olive oil, mixing with your hands. If you have some fresh herbs around, chop and toss them in with a dash of coarse salt and pepper (a couple of turns of the grinder will do) return to hot oven and toast for another three - five minutes. Set aside.

Wash lettuce, pea shoots, baby greens, cucumber and salad onions. Pat dry with clean towel. Chop lettuce, mix with pea shoots and baby greens. Place in large bowl. Slice tomatoes and set aside. Peel and thinly slice cucumber, add to salad. Cut salad onions (I use scissors for this job) into small rings and add to the bowl. Mix well.

Slice ham in julienne strips, set aside.

Grate or crumble cheese, set aside.

When ready to serve, you can either mix the greens with the dressing and plate up into roomy individual bowls, to be topped with the rest of the ingredients by the chef (that's you) or place the greens into large, individual serving bowls and allow everyone to add their own dressing, tomato slices, cheese, egg, and croutons.  I prefer to mix the salads in the kitchen for four or less and bring them to the table ready to be enjoyed. For four or more, buffet style is best.

If you don't have enough bowls large enough for everyone to mix their own salad, use large, platter style plates.

Ideas and Suggestions

You can replace ham with chunks of roasted tuna steak, or strips of roasted chicken breast. Buttermilk chicken strips (see index for recipe) are also excellent.

Finely slivered beetroot, chives, flat leaf parsley, cilantro, watercress, cress, baby spinach, and iceberg lettuce in whatever combination appeals to you, works equally well in Chef Salads.

If you're not a crouton person, serve with crusty garlic bread on the side.

Watermelon Ice is the ideal summer beverage.  A bit of rum and a mint leaf, or two, for garnish, along with a straw in a tall glass, makes this pretty drink double as an appetizer and a beverage. 

To make the Ice, simply combine fresh watermelon (rind and seeds removed, please) in a sturdy blender with a handful of ice cubes. Whiz until the ice breaks down into the watermelon. Taste. Continue blending until the ice and watermelon become one. Add a bit of rum if you like. Pour into tall glasses. Serve.

While there is nothing the least bit Hawaiian about this salad, it goes beautifully with Hawaiian music. I am at loss to explain why. It just does. If you haven't treated yourself to the sounds of the islands, I encourage you to explore this beautiful, uplifting music. Sample anything recorded by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole, also known as IZ, or Keali Reichel's Kawaipunahele. 

Leis, ukelele and grass skirts are always a good idea.