For the longest time, salads have been looked at as health food or just a starter/ appetiser. If you want to have it as an entire meal, people at the dining table may raise their eyebrows and wonder if you are on a dieting spree. But there’s more to salad than meets the eye, and now is the best time to relish them. Light, healthy, full of nutritional values and if prepared with the right ingredients, they can be extremely delicious and flavourful.
In fact this year, amidst all the food trends, salads have gained a great place. From Kimchi, to a fusion of Mediterranean and Asian salads, smoked ingredients, Burrata, charred lettuce, reinventing the classic salad by adding rocket leaves, kale, radicchio, herbed mayo, prawns, asparagus, pickled salad — the varieties are endless and, goes without saying, very appetising.
Mark Philipose, executive sous chef, Sheraton Grand Pune, says that this is the best time to give up on regular meals and switch to lighter foods like salads and smoothies. He uses ingredients which look fresh and colourful so that they appeal to his guests. “A salad can be easily consumed as a snack or as a whole meal in itself.
With a few minor changes, a salad can be turned from a snack into a meal. If you are consuming a salad as a snack, you can use ingredients such as seasonal fruits like mangoes, watermelons, cantaloupes, honey dew, veggies, nuts and seeds (chia seed, flax seeds, etc ). And you can turn this into a meal by adding some pasta (whole wheat if you are counting calories), tofu, paneer or even grilled chicken and cold cuts,” advises Philipose. Vegetarians, he suggests, can add boiled black eyed peas, chickpeas or kidney beans to make the salads healthy and filling.
Cobb Salad (a main dish American Garden Salad is typically made with chopped salad greens, tomato, crisp bacon, boiled, grilled or roasted chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, avocado, chives, Roquefort cheese, and red-wine vinaigrette), Greek Salad (made with pieces of tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, onion, feta cheese, and olives, typically seasoned with salt and oregano, and dressed with olive oil), Italian Pasta Salad (made with pasta, green and red bell pepper, onion, salad dressing, olives and mozzarella cheese, often has salami for those who prefer), Waldorf Salad (a fruit and nut salad generally made of fresh apples, celery, grapes and walnuts, dressed in mayonnaise, and served on a bed of lettuce as an appetiser or a light meal) etc are some of the most popular salads that you can enjoy. They are filling and heavenly in taste.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from giving salads a desi twist. Sahil Sabhlok, executive chef, The Westin Pune, Koregaon Park, says that when we think of salads, we immediately think of exotic ingredients. However, there are many Indian salads and ingredients which are perfect for this season. “Kachumber Salad is easy to make and goes well with the Indian palate. There are many Indian dressings like mint chutney, yoghurt chutney and tamarind chutney which go really well with salads. They add a zing to the other ingredients and make sure that eating salads is not boring,” says Sabhlok.
He further adds that it is a great idea to add seasonal fruits like mangoes, litchis, plums and apricots to your salads to bring in a little bit of juicy sweetness.
Philipose adds, “The choice of dressings also makes a lot of difference. Skip the heavy oil/ mayo-based dressing and opt for lighter yoghurt or lemon-based dressings for your salads to make them more healthy.”
Chef Pavan Chennam, Hotel Conrad Pune, shares some interesting ideas that will make salads look great and taste delicious:
Focus on the colours: Making a colourful salad not only makes it attractive but is also important for completing your daily nutritional intake. It is important to use equal quantities of colourful veggies for a balanced taste and effect.
Source locally: The season brings with it a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be paired to make an appetising salad. Choose from a variety of seasonal fruits such as mangoes, watermelon, muskmelon, cucumbers, etc.
Explore different greens: With the rise in temperatures, it’s extremely important to include greens in your diet. Balance the greens in your salad with alternative green veggie options such as green beans, dill, celery, and avocado. It’s also important to choose the greens carefully as they suffer bruises and sometimes have worm infestation. Clean the vegetables thoroughly before use.
Add a crunch with nuts: To make your salad fun and delectable, add healthy and crunchy nuts such as walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, almonds, pine nuts.
Drop in some grills: Eat light this season, and to skip the meat simply add a few grilled ingredients such as grilled eggplants, bell peppers, portobello mushrooms and cottage cheese.
Dress it with additional toppings: Apart from conventional toppings, add some fun elements like cream cheese, mozzarella, berries and so on.