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Salad Days

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Salad daysAt last! Summer is here and we can really appreciate the freshness and simplicity of salads. Crisp lettuces, juicy tomatoes and cucumbers, spicy peppers and onions and earthy beetroots beckon us! At this time of the year, we are spoilt with the choice of salad foods and nutrients are really at their peak. Lots of vitamin C in peppers and tomatoes. Cucumber and lettuce have an appreciable amount of vitamin K and as with most green leaves, lettuce also contains vitamin A – as beta carotene.

When foods are harvested at the time of maturity, they tend to last only a few days in the fridge so here are a couple of tips:

PLAN – ideally, make your menus for the week ahead. In this way you can use the leaves when they are really fresh and when they are past their best but still useable, throw them into a vegetable soup. Peppers and onions can be used in ratatouille. Tomatoes have so many uses – fried or in soup (especially gazpacho!) and ratatouille. Bake tomatoes with other summer vegetables such as courgettes, peppers and aubergines cut into chunky dice. Drizzle over some garlicky olive oil and chopped herbs, S & P and bake on 200 for about 40 – 50 minutes, stirring at half time. You can eat this hot, but even better – let it cool then refrigerate. Cooked veg salad, ready dressed!Lettuce

LETTUCE – this is possibly the most challenging salad vegetable to keep in good crisp condition. Many years ago, an elderly lady told me how to keep it fresh for longer and I still do this. Separate the leaves, wash them then leave them in a sink full of cold water for an hour or two. Dry them a little or use a salad spinner. Now, on a clean tea-towel, lay the leaves in a single layer and starting at a narrow end carefully roll up the tea-towel like a Swiss roll. Place in the salad drawer of the fridge. It works!