August 3rd, 2018/ BY Nancy Johnson

My salad days are right now, sitting outside

What exactly is a salad day? I’ve heard that phrase many times throughout the years and often wondered what it meant, but was too lazy — until now — to research it. Turns out the phrase was coined by Shakespeare in Antony and Cleopatra, written in 1606, when the bard was 42 and well past his salad days. In the play, Cleopatra regrets her youthful dalliances with Julius Caesar, all of which occurred in her “salad days/when I was green in judgment.”

Ok, now I get it. Salad = green = inexperience = a couple wee mistakes along the way. It all makes sense.

But what of the salad itself? We know the ancient Greeks ate mixed greens with salt, vinegar, oil and herbs. So did the Romans. Salad’s enduring popularity continued throughout the centuries, culminating in the debut of the ubiquitous salad bar in the mid-1970s. And while many salad bars (although not all) have since disappeared, the salad remains a star on most restaurants’ menus, albeit bigger, fancier and more filling with every passing year. And that’s a good thing.

If I had to choose my salad days, they wouldn’t be those days when I made so many mistakes in my green youth. Instead, my salad days would be right now, today, sitting on the deck on a hot summer evening, having salad and wine with good friends, most of whom have known me since my bumbling youth and who, unbelievably, still like me anyway.

not-so-classic caesar salad

serves 6

The most distressing thing about Caesar dressing is that it’s traditionally made with raw egg yolks. Today, pasteurized eggs are available, but I prefer to make the dressing the scaredy-cat way — with mayonnaise.

You can chop the romaine with a knife if you’re serving the salad right away. Otherwise, use your hands to tear it into bite-sized pieces. Toss salad with dressing just before serving.

To make homemade croutons, cut sturdy bread (Italian or French, crust removed) into 1-inch pieces. Toss with 3 tbsp olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Bake in 375˚F oven, turning occasionally, until golden (about 10 to 15 minutes). Add grilled chicken or salmon for a satisfying dinner.

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp pepper
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 tsp anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, crushed in a press and minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp water
2-3 heads romaine hearts, chopped
Croutons and Parmigiano-Reggiano, for garnish

In a small bowl, whisk all dressing ingredients together. Toss with romaine. Transfer salad to 6 plates. Garnish with croutons and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Match: Enjoy with a French rosé.



grilled chicken salad with raspberry honey mustard vinaigrette

serves 4

Grilled chicken salad is one of my very favourite dishes. I usually toss together whatever I have on hand, but during the summer, I love to add fresh juicy peaches to the mix. Grill peach halves along with the chicken, if you’d like.

4 boneless, skinless chicken fillets
Raspberry Honey Mustard Vinaigrette, recipe below
1 bag garden salad greens with red cabbage and carrots
2 ripe peaches, pitted, peeled and diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup raspberries

raspberry honey mustard vinaigrette

1/4 cup raspberry vinegar
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp dry mustard
2 tbsp honey
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, minced

In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients. Reserve 1/2 cup for the salad and set aside.

Place chicken in food storage bag. Pour remaining vinaigrette over chicken; marinate in refrigerator 1 hour. Remove chicken from marinade. Discard marinade. Grill chicken 8 to 10 minutes per side or until cooked through.

Toss salad greens with peaches and scallions. Arrange on 4 plates. Cut chicken into slices and arrange on top of salad. Scatter raspberries over each salad. Drizzle with reserved 1/2 cup vinaigrette.

Match: Open a Chenin Blanc.

miss molly’s broccoli salad

serves 6 to 8

There is a lovely little tea room near my home that serves the most delicious broccoli salad. It’s based on a popular recipe from the 1970s, and reminds me of my misguided salad days. This one is not a science; add as much or as little of the ingredients as you’d like. I’ve made this recipe with peanuts or pine nuts instead of sunflower seeds, with and without bacon and sometimes with shredded cheddar cheese, added just before serving. Substitute dried cranberries or cherries for the raisins.

6 cups chopped broccoli florets
1/4 cup minced red onion
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seed kernels
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 cup sugar (more or less, to taste)
6 slices bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled

In a large bowl, toss broccoli with red onion, raisins and sunflower kernels. In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. Stir into salad. Garnish with bacon.

Match: I usually have Miss Molly’s tea with this salad, along with little heart-shaped sandwiches.

Broccoli salad


watermelon and feta stacks

serves 4

A surprising combination of watermelon and feta, neat, square and stacked. Truth be told, I’m not crazy about combining sweet with salty, but for some reason this combo works and is delicious as an appetizer to a barbecued dinner. I cut the watermelon into squares because the block of feta is mostly square, but you can cut rounds, hearts or bunny-rabbit shapes. Whatever you’d like.

1 small seedless watermelon, rind removed and cut into 12 x 3-inch squares, 1/2-inch thick
1 package block feta cheese, cut into 8 slices
Hot Jalapeño Dressing, recipe follows
Fresh thyme leaves, minced

On 4 plates, stack 1 slice watermelon and 1 slice feta cheese. Layer until each serving has 3 watermelon slices and 2 feta slices. Drizzle with Hot Jalapeño Dressing.

Match: Champagne is very nice with this.

hot jalapeño dressing

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1 jalapeño chile, seeded and minced
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a medium bowl, combine lemon juice, vinegar, shallot, jalapeño and sea salt. Whisk in olive oil. Drizzle over watermelon stacks. Garnish with thyme.

thai cucumber salad

serves 4

Refreshing is the word I think of when I make this salad. It’s great as a side dish with any dinner, Thai or not. Use a mandoline to slice the cucumber, which you may peel or not, depending on your preference.

1 English cucumber, thinly sliced and patted dry
2 tbsp red onion, peeled and minced
2 tbsp sweet red pepper, minced
2 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Minced cilantro, for garnish

Combine cucumber, red onion and red pepper.

In a small bowl, whisk together rice vinegar, water, sugar and salt.

Pour over cucumber. Garnish with cilantro.

Match: Serve with a Gewürztraminer.



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