Monday, January 21, 2008

Good ingredients can make a simple salad great

At this time, the only plant in the yard that produces anything edible is a small Meyer lemon tree, and around early winter, I usually harvest a small basket of them, after which begins the great quest on how to use them up before they turn bad, because I don't really need a lot of lemon juice in everyday cooking.

Meyer Lemons

I have made standard Indian pickles out of them in the past and they work just as wonderfully as regular lemons, but pickles last forever in our house, because we don't eat a lot of them, so I need other alternatives. There are several recipes for lemony cakes and breads but sometimes that seems a tad too much just to use up a few lemons, so instead I try to substitute these Meyer lemons in healthy everyday recipes that use lemons.

First up, this simple salad, versions of which you might have had before. It is a good example of how a few good quality ingredients can shine even when treated very simply, and give tired known combinations a refreshing lift.

The fresh mixed greens were an excellent base for the rest of the cast. The English cucumber was local and organic. Albeit hothouse, it was very sweet and tasty. The olives were from a fancy Italian store, and while I am not too knowledgeable about olives, I believe this is a store that takes pride in their quality, not to mention that everything there is rather pricey, so they have to be good, right? The feta was so-so, but it held its own in the mix, so I can only imagine what a good feta cheese would have done. A small chopped tomato or a few cherry tomatoes would be wonderful in this salad if they are in season, but I did not have any. The Meyer lemon in the dressing was from the backyard, of course, and it cannot get any more local than that.

Things made with few ingredients, where each one plays a standout role towards the final dish have become a hot favorite with me currently, and as I continue to explore the options, it is interesting to find many traditional Indian dishes that fit well into that category too.

Salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, olives, feta, and Meyer Lemon dressing

Simple salad, inspired by tired versions of the Greek or Mediterranean Salad


This would serve about 4 as a small side or starter salad. Precision is not very important here, and the following quantities are just guidelines.

Ingredients for Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette

1 Tablespoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a bit of salt and pepper to taste
dash of granulated sugar

Whisk the lemon juice and oil together for a couple of minutes until they are emulsified. Add the salt, pepper, sugar, and stir together until the sugar dissolves.


Ingredients for Salad

5-6 cups of mixed greens,
1 cucumber
a little bit of red onion (this is hard to quantify - I'd say about 20 thin rings, or to taste)
handful of olives
a few Tablespoons of feta cheese

Tossing it together

Wash and dry the greens, and place in a large bowl. Peel and slice the cucumber, or leave the skin on if you like. [I like to keep a striated skin]. Slice the red onion. Pit the olives - a cherry pitter works very well for smaller olives.

Just befere eating, toss the dressing with the greens, a few spoons at a time, using only as much as required to light coat the leaves. It is alright if there is leftover dressing. Add the rest of the ingredients, and toss just once or twice to distribute evenly.

19 comments:

Richa said...

just looking at the fresh lemon is mkng my mouth water :)

sra said...

They really look so fresh and nice, I can almost smell them here! ET, you probably know but a short-term, quick fix pickle is to put some crunchy veggies in lemon juice, mix it with some salt and chilli powder and let marinate in the fridge.

desiknitter said...

Yum! I make the exact same salad often, using goat cheese and olive oil from local vendors at the farmer's market here. Instead of lemon juice I use a dash of vinaigrette that the same olive-oil wali sells, but I guess I could go even more local and use the lemons in my backyard! Thanks for the tip...

Suganya said...

I cannot take my eyes off those sexy lemons. That smooth skin and glossy look. Wow. They are slightly sweeter for a lemon. I would make candied peels with 'em.

Suganya said...

ET, This sounds good. No butter and only 2 eggs.

TheCooker said...

Beautiful lemons.
Using few and simple ingredients: this is such a January thing (at least for me).

Manisha said...

Lovely lemons! I finally found some Meyer lemons last month and ran around the produce section in sheer joy! I can see how they would make wonderful lemon pickle. The fragrance was incredible!

I have been living off a similar dressing except that I use balsamic vinaigrette instead of lemon juice cos I can't find them Meyer lemons no more. :-(

Nina's Kitchen (Nina Timm) said...

First time visit to your blog and I'm inspired. I use lemons every single day - just about on everything - it always brings out the flavour. But you know what they say - when life throws you lemons, make lemonade. I love the layout of your blog - my side bars are too wide and I fail to fix it, can you go and look on my blog and mybe advise - thx Nina
www.lekkafood.blogspot.com

musical said...

Those lemons look super-good! Would love to have some of those :). Ah! a drizzle of some lemon juice on carrots! Or on my varan-bhaat! Lovely salad, the fresh ingredients indeed make these simple things taste great!

Poonam said...

ET: Thanks for coming over. Your salad looks yum!

evolvingtastes said...

Richa, thanks for your prompt comment!


sra, that is a great idea, I didn't
think of making quick vegetable pickles with it, I always thought of pickling the lemons themselves. Thanks a bunch, really!


desiknitter, I have been thinking of your mother's lemon saaru, it is on my list! You have Meyers, too, right? Goat cheese and olive-oil 'wali' - you are a true californian now. There is a balsamic-vineger 'wali' at our market, and when I got chatting with her I found out that she gets her vinegars from Modena and bottles them here. That made me wonder if that qualifies for her to be in the farmer's market, but I don't know how these things work.


Suganya, thanks a lot, that cakes does sound good, and candied peels sound fantastic too. The lemons aren't very sweet, but they don't pucker, and this years crop is also juicier than before.


TheCooker, you go through this every January? Wow.


Manisha, you found them, finally! I know you were mildly obsessed with them, but don't know why. If I had a bumper crop I could have sent you some, but I don't do anything that will make more of them grown.jitna mila bahut hai. Balsamic vinaigrette is a fave too, and actually works better in some salads than lemony ones.


Nina, glad to have inspired you. Lemonade would be great, thanks for the idea. If only we had a spot of warmth and sunshine to go with, it would be perfect. As for your sidebars, that would be related to your template, I believe, other than that I don't know much.


Hi Musical, long time no see! What have you been up to? You are such a global (national?) punjabi yaar - you make varan bhaat too?


Poonam, you are welcome. Hope you have been fine.

Cynthia said...

I just want to bury my head in that bowl and take in the heavenly scent of those fresh lemons. They are perfect in everyway. Pickles go fast in my house so you know what that means? :)

Manisha said...

Mildly obsessed is an oxymoron! :-D

Yes,I have been looking for them ever since someone told me to make my lemon pickle with Meyer lemons as they have a wonderful fragrance and a much thinner peel.

TheCooker said...

Come January, I start craving simple things, foods that need just a few (but outstanding) ingredients.
I'm enjoying this talk about the olive-oil-wali and vinegar-wali.

bee said...

lemon juice freezes really well.

evolvingtastes said...

That's true Manisha, they do have a different fragrance, although since they have been backyard lemons for me, I was never overly taken by them. Y'know - ghar ki murgi dal baraabar.

Also, did you think the peel was thinner than regular ones? Mine don't have a very thin peel, but it is definitely softer.

evolvingtastes said...

bee, good tip, thank!

Manisha said...

A friend of mine also gets a bumper crop every year. I should check with her - she was going to send me some!

Yes, the peel is much thinner!

Padmaja said...

Wow!! I can live on this simple salad forever!!!
It looks divine to me!!!

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