Beyond tossed salad
Broccoli, tomatoes, cucumbers, beets, squash and cabbage make a great base for summer salads
Most of us think of a salad as leafy greens with tomatoes and a dressing. But a salad can be any combination of vegetables — and doesn’t even need to include greens. There are also tuna salads, chicken salads, macaroni salads, rice salads, fruit salads and gelatin salads.
A salad, really, is just a cold dish of chopped up ingredients. Salads are usually savory, but can be sweet, like a fruit salad. The word “salad” itself has little to do with lettuce. Instead, it comes from salt — originating from the Latin words sal or saltare (to salt, a verb). The Latin term gave rise to the French salade and the Portuguese salada. The English borrowed the word as well as the dish from the French.
In the beginning, salad consisted of greens and other vegetables pickled with salt. In ancient Greece and Rome, a salad came to mean raw vegetables dressed with oil, vinegar, salt and herbs.
From Rome, the custom of eating raw dressed vegetables traveled to France. Franois Rabelais (1490-1553) mentioned a long list of salads made with various vegetables, including cress, chervil and asparagus. King Louis XIV (1638-1715) is reported to have eaten “a prodigious quantity of salad all the year round.” (Maguelonne Toussaint-Samat in History of Food 1992). The same author reports that salads were thought to be “moistening and refreshing” and were claimed to “liberate the stomach, promote sleep and appetite, temper the ardors of Venus and quench the thirst.”
The French developed many types of salads, including salads made with cooked vegetables as well as raw. Salade andalouse is a rice salad, made with cooked rice and seasoned with salt, paprika and vinegar. A French vegetable salad is salade de legumes.
Salade Parisienne is made with vegetables, truffles and lobster or crayfish, and dressed with mayonnaise. And salade Nioise, probably better known, is a potato salad with eggs, green beans, olives, capers, tomatoes and anchovies, dressed in a light vinaigrette.
Salad became popular in England too. The first salad book published in England was John Evelyn’s Acetaria (1699). His salads were made with roots, stalks, leaves, and flower buds, but not with fruit or meat.
By the 17th and 18th centuries, salads fell into disfavor. The medical establishment of that time considered raw fruits and vegetables unhealthy and blamed them for causing sickness. Occasionally, cooked vegetable or poultry salads were served. By the mid-19th century, the health professionals reversed their opinion, and raw vegetables were considered healthy once again. Emma Ewing’s cookbook, “Salad and Salad Making (1883),” was the first known American cookbook solely dedicated to salads. Molded gelatin or aspic salads were invented around this time. A variety of greens and raw vegetables were used. The lettuce and tomato salad so common today was made popular by Fannie Farmer at her Boston cooking school in the 1890s.
Vegetables are nature’s most perfect and most abundant foods. They’re rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and important enzymes. However, in our modern diet of over-processed food, many people lack the digestive enzymes needed to absorb raw vegetables. The result is digestive distress like gas, bloating and abdominal pain. Eating cultured vegetables and yogurt can help restore the intestinal enzymes needed for proper digestion.
Modern agricultural methods, like chemical fertilizers, produce vegetables inferior in nutritional quality compared to those our grandparents ate. In addition, nutrients and flavor begin to diminish as soon as vegetables are harvested, so transport and storage reduce nutritional quality. That’s why it’s important to obtain fresh, organic, local produce when available. This time of year, fresh local produce is one of the things to be grateful for.
Brocolini and Tomato Salad
1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 Tablespoons fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 bunch broccolini or broccoli
3 large tomatoes
1 sweet onion or 1 bunch scallions
1 cup garbanzo beans, optional
Crush garlic with salt. Combine with oil, basil, and vinegar. Dice tomatoes, broccolini and onions and toss in the dressing. Stir in garbanzo beans, if using.
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
1 bunch fresh beet greens OR spinach, washed
1 small beet, peeled and shredded
1 sweet onion, peeled and diced
1 apple, washed, cored and diced
Crush garlic with salt. Combine with oil, cider vinegar and maple syrup. Toss in greens, and toss to coat. Add beets, onion and apple, and stir to combine.
Chopped Greek Salad
Turn this into a main course by adding chopped diced cooked chicken or garbanzo beans.
2 large tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
1 large cucumber (about 2 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup chopped fresh Broccoli or broccolini
1 cup diced sweet onion
1/4 cup crumbled Feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 cup garbanzo beans (cooked or canned)
Toss tomatoes and cucumbers with salt. Let rest 20 minutes, or while you prepare remaining ingredients. Combine with remaining ingredients and toss. Serve as is, or drizzle with a little olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at email@example.com or on Facebook at Words Are My World.