I’m not entirely sure why I don’t make salads very much. Also, perhaps characteristic of being a meat-eater, I don’t ever order the salad on the menu either. Probably because of that one bad experience with an undelicious haphazard no-love salad when I was younger. But I’ve grown up now, only slightly, and yesterday was a special day for me in my salad-making history: I made a big ol’ one, not for me, but for W.
W was quite under the weather and craved a bit of light ‘clean’ food; a change from the usual fare of hearty stews and bold savoury flavours. So I spared her the wine prawn noodles I was having and made her a warm bulgar wheat salad of blanched kale and carrot, fried broccoli and blistered cherry tomatoes, with egg and crushed walnuts, together in a honey and balsamic reduction dressing.
Here’s how that salad went down in the kitchen:
Cook the grains in a covered pot on the hob for 15-20 minutes, on a low gentle simmer, with the grain to water ratio of 1:2. Cook this with a wedge of lemon and a small stick of cinnamon, and then welcome the aroma fairies. Fluff up with a fork when done and transfer to the mixing bowl.
Kale and carrot
In a pot of boiling water, add in shredded kale and carrot batons. Strain after cooking for 10 minutes and add to mixing bowl.
I’m sure most people would already know how to hard-boil an egg, but for those who aren’t quite sure, put the egg in a pot of water and bring to the boil for 8 minutes. After that, immerse in cold water and peel when cool enough to handle. Then, cut into quarters and put the pieces around on the serving plate.
In a hot pan with a two teaspoons of olive oil, sear the halved cherry tomatoes on one side for about 30 seconds, before turning them over and seasoning with a crack of salt and pepper to taste, and adding a pinch of oregano or basil, if you want. Cook till they have visibly softened and transfer to the mixing bowl when done.
In the same pan that you used to sear the tomatoes, fry the slices of broccoli over medium-high heat. Add a splash of water every now and then to aid the cooking and to prevent the greens from frying into dry bitter chunks. Transfer to mixing bowl once done.
Honey and balsamic reduction dressing
Finally, with a generous splash of balsamic vinegar, deglaze the pan and reduce by half. As soon as the vinegar begins to become syrupy, stir in a good spoonful of honey. At this stage, I like to add a small dollop of mustard to thicken the mixture.
Crush them, but don’t pulverise them. You want a crunch in your bite, not a mouthful of nutty powder.
With a spoon, give everything in the mixing bowl a little toss up with a small bit of the dressing, and then dish it out onto the serving plate with the quarters of hard-boiled egg. Drizzle a bit more dressing over the salad and top with the crushed walnuts. Then, smile and serve.
After this salad-making journey, I’ve come to learn that salads, like many other types of meals, need to be put together with love. And no, I’m not being all mushy about it; making a salad provides the opportunity to the maker to include all the good things in a single bowl. Considering which goes with what is a simple but thoughtful act, over and over, until the bowl is full. The possibilities are endless. Personally, however, I think a choice of grain plus a handful of different vegetables together with a crunchy addition, tossed in a sweetish sourish slightly salted sauce or dressing seals the deal.
Looks like we’ll see more of this kinda thing around the kitchen!
(W: I inhaled it, and it was absolutely yummy. Thank you x)