Salad is a summer food. Where have you been?

21.05.19

Salads. Lettuce, tomato. cucumber, right?

Wrong!  The limp offering that was once served as a side-dish or an unimaginative vegetarian option, is history.

Today’s Millennials, the flexitarian generation, the growing number of vegetarians, and those of us who simply want a healthier diet and lifestyle, have adopted the salad as the answer to, well, everything. And that means we’ve also reinvented it to be as attractive as just about every other option on the menu.

It seems if it grows in the ground, or on a tree, it should be in a salad. If we then choose to add meat or fish, that’s fine too. And then, of course, there’s the key ingredient that can add so many different flavours and textures to even the simplest of salad creations…cheese.

That king of salads (or should that be ‘emperor’) the Caesar Salad, wouldn’t be worth its title without delicious shavings of fresh Parmesan. You can swap the chicken for shrimp, or oysters, or whatever else takes your fancy, but you part with the Parmesan at your peril!

And that, as they say, is the tip of the iceberg (pun very much intended). A host of other salads depend just as much on cheese for their place in our growing list of healthier favourites.

So, how to get creative?

Well, first there’s the ‘national’ spin. A Greek salad oozes Mediterranean charm thanks to olives, red onion, tomatoes and peppers. But a Greek salad without Feta is Greek in name only.

Then there’s a Mexican salad, fired up with jalapenos, guacamole and a spicy chilli cheese.

In fact, this is a great game to play, because there’s nothing stopping any of us choosing a favourite cheese, and then building a ‘national’ salad dish around it.

Gruyere will take you down the Alpine road of a salad befitting its Swiss heritage. A strong blue cheese, like Roquefort, should have you reaching for the French dressing. And Monterey Jack would be perfect starring in a Californian creation featuring some of those fabulous west coast grapes.

In truth, as salad ingredients go, cheese is probably the most versatile of them all. And it’s not simply a matter of taste. Apart from adding some gloriously contrasting colours to the usual reds and greens, the format of cheese plays a role too.

We’ve already touched on the importance of Parmesan shavings. But grated cheese, crumbles and ribbons, sprinkled over the top of a salad, always add visual as well as appetite appeal. And diced cheese adds a real sense of ‘substance’, when more ‘meaty’ ingredients are not included.

In short, if you start planning a salad by thinking ‘lettuce’, think again. Start with cheese instead and be amazed at how inventive you can be.

Salad pots anyone?

For more information and ideas from Ornua Ingredients, email richard.thorpe@ornua.com

 

Article appeared in Food to Go and Sandwich News, May 2019