I love The Simpsons.
I am one of those people who shares the belief that there are lines from Simpsons episodes that can be applied to virtually every event in life.
One of my very favourite Simpsons episodes happens to be “Lisa the Vegetarian” from the series’ seventh season. And for me, the best part of the episode is the little song and dance that Bart and Homer perform where they repeatedly sing, “You can’t win friends with salad!” to a very distraught Lisa.
Homer … Bart … you are so wrong!
I mean that’s just what sisters do!
But when I found out that the theme was salad, I knew I’d be winning over a lot of friends! I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not eat salad. Without exception, salad appears on our table almost every day of the year.
We end every meal with salad. To be sure we’re not talking about overly involved salads. It’s usually lettuce drizzled with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar with a bit of salt sprinkled on. Occasionally we’ll splurge with a good quality balsamic. In the summer, our salad options expand exponentially. Cucumber and tomato salads will make an appearance. We may have salads with several different types of lettuce, mostly from our garden. But without fail, they are always saved for last.
I’ve heard many different ideas about why it is that Italians eat salad last. The most common one being that salad is a palate cleanser that prepares the way for what comes next, whether that be a cheese course or dessert. In our family what came next was almost always fruit, and my father explained to me a few times that the salad cleaned your mouth for the fruit.
Whatever the reason, I’ve always thought that ending a meal with salad is a nice, light way to put an exlamation mark on the act of eating. Having said that, I don’t put a lot of effort into salad. To me, the best salad is one with excellent lettuce, bathed in good olive oil and vinegar. That’s pretty much it.
But for my sister Lis and her partner in this event, Kelly of Sass and Veracity, I will most definitely go that extra mile. So I made not one, not two, but three extravant salads for their Salad Stravaganza!
We begin with a lovely salad of roast potatoes, green beans and cherry tomatoes. The recipe for this salad comes from an Bon AppÃ©tit magazine from earlier this year. The salad is lovely especially with a meal that includes some sort of roast meat or fish. The warm potatoes soak up the dressing and the beans and tomatoes add crunch and colour.
For the next two salads, I turned to Tracy Stern’s lovely Tea Party, which of course has been my Flavour of the Month for May and June. There’s a lovely salad in Stern’s book that consists of Bibb lettuce, green apple and avocado.
The salad is bathed in a Sesame-Green Tea Vinaigrette. While I chose the same elements for the make up of my salad, I used a dressing of my own creation, that I use often at home when I want a dressing that’s a bit more special than the good ol’ standby of olive oil and vinegar.
I love to make a dressing of champagne vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, shallot, sea salt, black pepper and the zest and juice of half a lemon. Here’s the recipe:
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
juice and zest of half a lemon
3 tbsp. Champagne vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Whisk together the shallot, mustard, zest and lemon juice and vinegar in a bowl. Let sit for five minutes.
Whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season to taste and use immediately.
For the final salad, I decided to try another recipe from Stern’s book after I came across a pasta salad with chickpeas and roasted red pepper. I added red onion and artichoke hearts to the salad and I’m happy to say that it was a winner!
Best of all I got to take the leftovers to work as a healthy lunch.
250 g. fusilli pasta
handful of basil, minced
a few sprigs of mint, minced
1/2 a red onion, finely chopped
2 red peppers, roasted, cleaned and roughly chopped
1 cup canned chickpeas, rinsed
1 cup artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
sea salt and black pepper to taste
Cook the fusilli according to the directions on the package. Once cooked, let the pasta cool for about 10 minutes before putting the salad together.
Add the basil, mint, red onion, red peppers, chickpeas, artichoke hearts and lemon zest. Mix well.
In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and the garlic. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking all the time. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Pour the dressing on the pasta salad and mix well and serve.
The pasta salad will keep in the refrigerator for several days.