Spotlight on the Salad

Salad is to summer what soup is to winter. When the mercury rises and the appetite takes a beating,a salad meal is just the thing to keep one going.

Written by Jagmeeta Thind Joy | Published: March 30, 2012 3:18 am

Salad is to summer what soup is to winter. When the mercury rises and the appetite takes a beating,a salad meal is just the thing to keep one going. And while chefs the world over have been playing around with salad in their menus,it’s actually during summers that this ubiquitous but unassuming course takes centre stage. As Chef Shamsul Wahid of the Smoke House Deli,Sector 7,Chandigarh,says,“Salads act like a pick-me-up during summers. The high moisture content of leaves and the lightness of ingredients make for a simple and nutritious meal.”

The days of the plain garden salad are long over. Or at least the garden has way more than cucumbers and tomatoes now. Today,salads fuse together wild and seemingly disparate elements. Chef Anubhav of Made@Home says,“Salads are about a fusion of flavours that make them wholesome. I use a lot of combinations like spinach and watermelon,and mango with chickpeas and greens,basically pair fruits with greens for new tastes. One can add cheeses or nuts for texture.” Keeping it all fresh and seasonal is also important,adds Anubhav,who will be conducting a workshop on April 6 on the continental options at Purple Rice,Sector 35.

Salads are basically of two types: simple salads that have a single vegetable as a base and a couple of ingredients for garnishing; and compound salads that comprise multiple ingredients with dressings,and are usually protein or fruit-based. For summers,chefs caution against heavy cream-based dressings and recommend light vinaigrettes instead. “You can use flavoured vinegars — wine or fruit-based — or else make your own dressing with olive oil and vinegar,” says Wahid.

Light flavours and unusual pairings are what diners are looking for. “Given how diet conscious everyone is these days,salads are no longer considered side dishes but form the main course and the result is that restaurants are beefing up their salad sections,” says Chandigarh-based restaurateur Neha Singh. At her Girl in the Café in Sector 17,the Baby Spinach and Pumpkin salad is a bestseller. “It’s got a marmalade dressing along with feta cheese and pine nuts,making it healthy and wholesome. We were surprised how,despite its unusual combination,it has been appreciated,” says Singh.

According to Tarun Kapoor,Chef at Zing,the Metropolitan Hotel,“Salads traditionally comprise four parts: base,body,dressing and garnish. When you’re tossing a salad at home,the golden rule is to keep it simple. Simply retain the body and the dressing for a quick and easy salad.”

Watermelon,point out the chefs,is the “it” fruit in summer and can be incorporated into salads in many ways. “For example,in a watermelon and feta salad,the sweet juiciness of the watermelon is offset by the salty feta. It’s wonderfully fresh,” says Alice Helme,chef at the organic Greenhouse on the Ridge. Dressings and ingredients also depend on what course you want your salad as. Wahid adds,“As a starter,a salad should be tangy with an element of sweetness so that it stimulates the appetite. For example,we’re doing a black carrot and raisin salad in a pineapple reduction.”

As a main course,leaf lovers have a host of ingredients to choose from — both from the plant and animal kingdoms. For those who like a little meat with their greens,chicken remains the most popular choice,though prawns and calamari are increasingly finding favour. Veggie purists can choose from a wide array — roots,shoots,fungi or fruits and dairy products. “I often match fruits with cheese. Poached apricots go well with creamy goat cheese in a fresh green mixed salad. Pomegranates are a delight in salads,as they lend colour and fresh burst. You could toss the salad in a light summery dressing ? white vinegar,honey and lemon,” says Helme.

The garden,it seems,will become a playground for foodies this summer.

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