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Tuesday, 19 April 2011

A Toast to Virtue!

Salads make me feel virtuous. 

Let's be honest: As the weather gets warmer and we head towards Summer - that glorious Season of all seasons - I want to be able to wear a bikini on my beach holiday. And look good in it.
I also love food. Too much.
It's a difficult dilemma, this.

I ask my beautiful French friend, AE, how French women stay so skinny.
"Aah, to be honest Ameee," she says to me smiling sweetly, "they eat breakfast and lunch but most of the time, for dinner, they just have a glass of wine and, you know, they 'forget' to eat..."

Hmph.

I don't think - for all the bikinis in the world – that I could ever 'forget' to eat. 

And since I’ve given up on the starvation idea before even attempting it, I am just quite happy with myself when I eat something healthy. And in the end, it’s all about feeling happy isn’t it?

So salads make me feel virtuous. Cool, crunchy, and full of nutrients, salads are a super-convenient way to work in a couple of servings of fruits and vegetables into a single meal.  There is so much research out there expounding the health benefits of salads that I won't bore you (and myself!) too much with the scientific jargon. Very briefly though – all the raw vegetables in salads provide fibre, which in turn lowers cholesterol levels. Eating salads is also a smart way to get “good fats” - the essence of brain function, into your body. Good fats are found in olive oil, avocado and nuts, all common salad ingredients. And finally, the most obvious of them all - simply the health benefits of the fruits and vegetables themselves, which provide a whole host of powerful antioxidants including vitamins C and E, lycopene, folic acid, alpha- and beta-carotene...

All this and the fact that I genuinely like salads. Both making them and eating them. I enjoy the mix of colours and flavours and textures, the simple, beautiful, refreshing zinginess of a well-made salad. And of course, the fact that you can put together a salad that both looks and tastes good in about 10 minutes!

I'm going to make my salad and eat it on my deck. I throw open my patio doors. The sky is blue and cloudless, a slight breeze carries the distant voices of children playing, a red robin hops happily in my sun-drenched garden.

Its a salad day.

I decide to keep it simple, use just whatever I have in the fridge:

- 1 head of red-leaf lettuce
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 Granny Smith apple
- 1 clove raw garlic
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
- 1 tbsp cranberries

Wash the lettuce and tear it into bite size pieces. Chop tomatoes into small pieces. Core and cut the apple into chunks, leaving the skin on. I am using Granny Smith, mostly because that’s what I have (!!) but also because it usually works really well in salads - it is a hard, crisp apple with a tart, refreshing taste and a distinct, juicy "crunch" to its bite. Combine lettuce, tomatoes and apples in a large serving bowl. Sprinkle chopped walnuts and cranberries into the mix and toss well.

Dressing this salad is a simple affair. Mix together the olive oil and vinegar. Peel a clove of raw garlic and mash or mince. Add the garlic to the dressing and combine well. Pour the dressing over the salad just before you are ready to serve.

This salad contains sweet, sharp, nutty, and salty notes – the perfect thing to get your tastebuds going on a warm Spring afternoon! And just to create a small scandal in France, I decide decadently on both food and wine.  I pour myself a glass of sparkling white – cool, crisp, refreshing – much like my salad!

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