Sunday, 18 August 2013

Six of the best salads of summer

It's petered out somewhat over the last fortnight, but at least we can't moan that there's been no summer at all this year. July was a corker, and although August has been cooler and damper so far it's hardly been a monsoon style washout like some of those in recent years, and for that we should be thankful.

The return of prolonged warmth for the first time in a while has given me a new found interest in all things salad-y. If it's cold (or possibly warm, but definitely not hot) and you can mix it up and bung it on a plate with the minimum of fuss, that's the dish for me.

Easy, colourful, refreshing, no hot ovens necessary, only grilled meat needed by way of accompaniment, these are my six favourite salads of the summer.

Pickled carrots and beets, mozzarella. A Nigel Slater idea this, and a very good one. Give strips of root veg a light pickling in lemon juice and wine vinegar, then serve with mozzarella and dress with olive oil and the pickling juices. Quite subtle this, mild and tangy with a great contrast in textures.

Peas, cucumber, feta, mint, spring onion. Lovely mix of gently sweet and sharp in this one. Any fresh, lactic cheese would do the job. Fresh peas are essential, don't use frozen.

Bread Salad. Read about it here. Still my favourite discovery of the summer.

Watermelon, feta and mint. Make sure you chill the melon before making it and you'll end up with the sweetest, juiciest salad imaginable. Save this for a genuinely hot day.

Peaches and Parma ham. Discounting the black pepper and olive oil this only has two ingredients so I'm not sure it really counts as a salad. Is it just a meal? An assemblage? Who cares when it tastes this good. The contrasts here are the thing, so make sure your fruit is chilled and your meat isn't. Cold, sweet peach flesh and warm, salty pig flesh is a match made in heaven.

Grilled onions and pomegranate. More of a relish than a full blown salad, but an excellent accompaniment to any sort of barbecued lamb. Toss a thinly sliced red onion in a teaspoon of sugar and the same of sunflower oil, then sweat down under a hot grill until you get some lovely caramelised bits. Throw in the pips and any juices from half a pomegranate. Sweet, sharp and slightly bitter, it cuts through fatty meat beautifully.

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