Lets take a leaf out of natures book and look at the different fruits available at this time of year. Melons, water melons, peaches, apricots, to name a few. They are all flavoursome, with plenty of juicy pulp aimed at quenching thirst and filling your tummy. Effectively, the fibre helps to lower cholesterol and keeps the digestive tract running smoothly, while the moisture helps to replace the loss of body fluids.
The whole Mediterranean diet is designed to sharpen your appetite, which gets somewhat dulled by the summer heat. The more local the products, the fresher they are.
Barbecue, picnics, beach parties, dinner parties and restaurants are all popular for sharing and enjoying these delightful foods with as many people as possible.
Unfortunately, one particular food, that should receive the highest level of attention at this time of year, does not. Yes, its the unimaginative bowl of salad, placed in the middle of the table.
A green salad should be one of those dishes that really sing on your plate, not the ho-hum obligation that you eat because you think you should. Yet the difference between the two is down to small detail.
Be creative! Mix the varieties in your salads, premixed lettuces are sold at supermarkets, but do make your own blend. Think of adding interesting flavours consider the slightly bitter chicories such as endive or radicchio, peppery like arugula or even mild baby spinach. Also look for interesting textures and colours like some frisee or curly red leaf lettuce.
The greens should be thoroughly washed and most importantly dried before using; otherwise they will water down the dressing. Use a spinner and then roll the lettuce in paper towels.
For a slightly sweet, mild anise flavour, try adding some chopped fresh fennel bulb to your salad or use fennel as the basis of the salad itself.
All kinds of other vegetables can be added to salads depending on your mood, from tomatoes and onions to cucumbers, shredded carrots, shredded cabbage, avocado, olives, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, radishes, peas, corn, beans, etc. Avoid raw mushrooms as they can be slightly toxic.
Lightly steamed veggies and chilled also make excellent salad additions, think of asparagus, green beans, broccoli or cauliflower.
Fruit can add a bright flavour surprise to green salads. Try a small amount of sliced fresh strawberries, blueberries or raspberries. Orange or grapefruit slices or fresh pineapple go really well, especially with dark greens like spinach.
Try roasting vegetables on the grill or roasting them in the oven before adding to salads. This works well for onions, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms and many others.
Make your salad sing! Use a small amount of crumbled bacon bits; crumbled hard boiled egg; crumbled strong cheeses such as blue cheese, gorgonzola, Roquefort or feta; brine cured olives; toasted nuts or seeds; anchovies.
If you add grilled chicken, beef or even tofu your salad can turn it into a meal.
Dressing the Salad
Do not over dress! Salads only needs about 1 teaspoon of dressing per person, as long as you toss it well. A basic vinaigrette can be made right on the salad pouring about 1 1/2 tsp. vinegar to 2 tsp. oil. The vinegar first, then toss, then sprinkle the oil and toss again. This is to avoid that the oil keep the vinegar adhering to the lettuce. Season with salt and pepper.