I've always been a huge salad lover. When I was a kid I would love preparing salads for my parents, and we would sit down to a table spread with lots of different help-yourself salads.
There was a green salad, usually with lots of watercress. Some type of tomato salad. Beetroot salad, baby ones from a jar. A vegetable salad - say blanched cauliflower, or courgette, and grated carrot. If I did egg mayonnaise, which my father claimed not to like, more than half of it ended up on his plate. Just, whatever we had in and invariably served with some tiny new potatoes in their skins.
Now a word on lettuce. I really loathe iceberg lettuce. It is totally bland and tasteless and invariably seems to be packaged in clingfilm and lies on shelves for ages. Oddly enough, it is the lettuce of choice where I live in Andalucia. So when my neighbour prepares a salad for me, that's what she uses. I've wondered if it is because it is water retentive, or that Andalucians have strange tastebuds, maybe because lots of them used to/still do smoke. Romaine lettuce isn't much better. When I was a kid it was called cos. I don't know why it was renamed but in the identity change I think it lost some of its taste.
Back in the UK, I used to grow lettuce, mizuna and rocket. In Spain, I can grow rocket, and whatever other lettuce condescends to germinate. Not much at the moment sadly although the rocket is going/growing strong. My neighbours think I am slightly odd for growing rocket as it grows wild around where we live and they clearly think it is too bitter.
The lettuce, when it grows in Spain is, four seasons, escarole, and something to do with May. I also grow baby spinach/spinach beet. So with a few leaves of all that lot, I usually have enough to put in a salad.
But when fresh greens aren't around, the basis for the salad is one of those plastic bags of greens from the supermarket. It means you can get variety, and to be honest, I think the choice of green mixtures is pretty good.
Other standbys for salad tend to be tinned sweetcorn (make - Bonduelle, maiz dulce, no sugar added), capers, olives, and occasionally, some bought cooked beetroot. I love raw grated beetroot but it takes ages to use up a whole bunch. One of the home-made salad ingredients I tend to keep in all the time is pickled onion. Not the nice tiny round ones pickled in malt vinegar that take ages before they are ready to eat, but finely sliced onion kept in wine vinegar for a few hours, preferably overnight. If you are a pickle addict, it's worth adding cucumber too.
For most salads, I try and add a 'main' feature to ring the changes. If you were a meat eater, I guess you would add chicken, or cold meats, or fish, or seafood or whatever. In our case, I use:
- fresh asparagus, preferably from as local a source as possible, I stick to Spanish asparagus
- fresh artichoke hearts (I've tried the tinned ones and I'm not too keen on those)
- fresh broad beans
- beans or chick peas, ie legumes
- and occasionally mozzarella, if it is suitable for vegetarians, in Spain, Galbani from Supersol claims to tick the box
Everything is usually cloaked in the mustard dressing that I've posted for the artichoke salad earlier.
So the photos show two different salads.
The chickpea one also has artichokes!! Must have gone over the top there. Fresh peppers, beetroot, a bag of salad and grated carrot. Grated carrot is a good one I think, one small carrot will serve for two people but adds so much extra taste. The pickled onion rings I mentioned above and some baby spinach on the top came out of the garden.
Chick peas, haricot beans, butter beans are all great in salads. Cook extra in the pressure cooker when you want to do a casserole, store the rest in the fridge and you have a main salad dish to hand. Easy.
The mozzarella salad was a classic mozzarella, tomato, capers, olive oil and salt serving. The rest of the salad was what I had in the fridge/store cupboard, because the pesky supermarket didn't have a bag of salad and I only had a tiny amount of leaves in the garden. To which I added sweetcorn, onion, beetroot and carrot. I guess it lacked basil, but it was good enough.
Overall cost of meals? Pretty cheap. The Galbani mozzarella is around €2 a bag, and I don't use it all for one meal. The sweetcorn is €2 for three small tins (sometimes it is on offer) and I use less than a tin for one meal. Cooked beetroot is around 80 cents I think and again, not all used at once. A bag of salad is roughly a euro, and I will use it for two separate meals. Carrot, tomato, capers, chick peas, olives, onion - negligible.
The same salad out? Min €5, more like €7.50. One reason why we don't eat out.
Chick pea and artichoke salad - and - a glass of water??