Secrets to a perfect summer salad

With December on the foot of our door steps, it’s time for  us South Africans to embrace  our heritage of salads and side dishes. Thanks to our love of a good braai, there is a rich legacy and history of these side dishes, deeply rooted in the traditional potato salad, coleslaw, sambals, beetroot, three bean dishes and more. Local hoteliers from the Radisson Hotel Group share their secrets on how South Africans can perfect their salads this summer. Variety, variety, variety!When tossing  your veggies together this summer, the importance of variety cannot be stressed enough. 

Think:Variety in texture: Make sure to include some type of crunchy ingredient in your salad. This will help to create a variety in texture for each bite.Variety of flavors: Think about including a blend of flavors such as sweet, salty, umami, bitter, and/or spicy.Variety of colors: When you look at your salad, you’ll want to see a variety of different coloured vegetables to get a wide array of nutrients.

A good place to start when it comes to creating variety in your salads is to shop at your local farmer’s market. By doing so, you are guaranteed variety in your vegetables because the farmers only sell the produce that is currently in season. This means that the vegetables that are available to you will change every time the season changes. PS. Seasonal fruits and vegetables have more nutrients in them and usually have more flavour, too!

Lettuce get creative!

Next, it’s important to think outside of the box. Remember that salads don’t always need to be made with raw vegetables. If you are someone who prefers cooked foods, you can create  a few variations of cooked vegetable salads. Or, you can do a mixture of some cooked vegetables and some raw vegetables in your salad.

When coming up with new salad creations it can be helpful to think about three distinct categories for the types of salads.

  1. Fresh - Fresh salads are made by simply taking different fresh vegetables and layering them on top of each other. The thing that most people forget to add is some crunch (e.g., nuts, seeds, or crunchy vegetables) and variety in flavor (e.g., sweet, sour, salty, umami, etc.).
  2. Cooked -  To make cooked salads, you can roast or steam a variety of vegetables and then add a topping of your choice. Some vegetables to consider for cooked salads: eggplant, bell peppers, zucchinis, mushrooms, asparagus, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower. 
  3. Pre-made salads: Pre-made salads are similar to the salads that you will find in the deli at your local health food store. The nice thing about these salads is that you can make a big batch at the beginning of the week and plate it with some leafy greens or in a bowl on top of brown rice or quinoa.
  4. Salad in a jar - This method is not just reserved for Pinterest photos. It’s really simple, and you can make it at home! Using a different container for your salad can help change things up a bit. You can put your salads in jars at the beginning of the week, and then before you want to eat it just add the salad dressing, close the jar, and shake everything up.

Remember to layer the heavier ingredients on the bottom and the lighter ingredients on the top. For example, chickpeas, quinoa, or almonds would be on the bottom, and spinach, sprouts, or radishes would be on the top.

Get your leek on!As you can see, there are endless ways to create variety when it comes to preparing salads. Now it’s your turn to take action.  Using the guidelines above, note down three new salad recipes that you’ve never made before. Next, include the ingredients for one of the salads you created to your shopping list for you to make this week.  Do the same for the following weeks. And be sure to use these for any hosting you do this summer season. It will undoubtedly impress any and all guests that come to visit.