Salad Days?

Hearty salads brighten up the chilly days of spring.

We might still be a few months away from summer yet, but we’re dreaming of warmer days and the crisp crunch of lighter fare. Here, some of our heartiest salads give you a boost.

Thai-Inspired Beef Salad

3 pounds chuck steak
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2 cups fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup fresh basil (wash all the fresh herbs and dry thoroughly; pluck leaves and tender stems to use in the salad)
a few fresh red chili peppers
¼ cup fish sauce (nam pla)
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup sesame seed oil
1 small packet star anise seed (optional)
½ cup dry roasted peanuts
4-6 plump green limes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 packet arugula (rocket) leaves
1 punnet of red cherry tomatoes
2 cucumbers
1 clove of garlic
2 red bell peppers
2 tablespoons uncooked ground and roasted rice (optional)

For the salad dressing:
In a clean bowl mix together:
½ cup sesame oil
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 minced clove of garlic
½ teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper

Place the piece of beef in a heavy pot that has a well-fitting lid. The pot should accommodate the meat snugly. Pour 1 cup of cold water into the pot. Add a ¼ cup of soy sauce, ¼ cup fish sauce, 1 tablespoon sugar and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook over a very small flame in the lidded pot for 2 to 3 hours or until very tender. Check once or twice in the course of the cooking time to ensure the liquid does not run dry. Turn the piece of meat over once. When very tender, turn the heat off and leave to cool in any remaining liquid. Refrigerate overnight. Do not attempt to shred the meat while still warm — it will dry the meat out.

Slice the two red bell peppers into thin strips and store in a zip-lock bag and refrigerate. Slice off the ends of the 2 cucumbers. Peel, discard the centers and slice into thin ribbons. Store this in a bag too, and refrigerate. Thinly slice 1 to 2 red chili peppers, depending on your heat resistance. Discard most of the seeds.

Remove the piece of meat from its liquid , and shred roughly by hand. Use a thick shred, which retains the flavor of the dressing. Discard any fatty bits and gristle. Add the strips of red bell pepper, cucumber ribbons and sliced chili pepper. Wash and halve the cherry tomatoes, and add to the bowl. Cover and set aside in a cool place.

Meanwhile cook some jasmine rice as you would normally (about three measured cups rice for six people). When the rice is cooked, turn your attention back to the salad for the final touches. Mix the salad dressing well until all the ingredients are combined, taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, and pour a little at a time over the salad. Be sure to pour enough dressing to coat the salad with a luxurious gloss, but not enough to make it soggy, and the leaves to wilt immediately. Toss in the fresh herbs— basil, cilantro, mint— with torn arugula leaves. Lastly, sprinkle in the ground rice and peanuts. Viola! It is ready for the table. Serve with a small mound of steamed rice on the side.

Serves 8

Smoked Scallop, Arugula and Cucumber Salad with Grapefruit Viognier Vinaigrette

8 scallops, approximately 2 ounces each
4 large grapefruits
1 egg
4 ounces baby arugula, cleaned and picked
750 ml bottle Viognier 
2 English cucumbers peeled, seeded and cut into   2-inch lengths
1 pint sugar
4 pints water
1 shallot, finely diced
1 pint good white wine vinegar
1 pint light olive oil or grape seed oil
salt and pepper to taste

Peel grapefruit and remove the pith. Slice peels lengthwise and cover with one pint of water in heavy pot. Heat to boiling and drain. Repeat process two more times to remove bitterness in the peels. The fourth time, add sugar to water and simmer for one hour. Set aside.

While you are cooking the zest, juice three of the grapefruits, combine with Viognier in a heavy pot, and reduce on medium heat until you have about 3 ounces by volume liquid. Set aside and cool to room temperature.

Photo by Sera Petras

While that is cooking, peel and segment the remaining grapefruit, slicing between the white segment lines so that only fruit segments remain (no white pith).

Prepare smoker. Season scallops with salt and ground black pepper, put in smoker. Smoke in a pressure smoker for three minutes. Do not cook all the way through, as there will be a second cooking to caramelize. Remove scallops from smoker and place in refrigerator.

Slice cucumbers lengthwise, about 1/8 inch thick, making sure to avoid seeds. In a bowl or dish, cover cucumber slices with vinegar and shallots, and season with salt and pepper.

In a blender, thoroughly mix Viognier grapefruit reduction and egg. Drizzle in oil until emulsion is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reserve.

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Add a light coat of oil and sear scallops on both sides until caramel in color, adjusting heat as necessary.

To plate, spread vinaigrette on the bottom of each plate. In a large bowl, mix arugula and candied grapefruit zest. Toss in a small amount of oil to coat leaves. Drizzle some of the syrup (made during the grapefruit zesting process) on leaves as well. Place cucumbers, arugula, grapefruit segments and scallops onto each plate.

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Recipe courtesy of Zynodoa, Staunton

Moroccan Lamb and Couscous Salad

2 lamb shoulders, cubed
⅓ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon turmeric
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
5 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all ingredients for the marinade. Add the cubed lamb shoulder and refrigerate overnight.

In 3 tablespoons of the olive oil brown the lamb and remaining marinade well, then remove from pan and set aside. Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and sauté the onion for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger and sauté an additional 2 minutes. Add carrots and tomatoes, stir well and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the lamb plus 2 cups of chicken stock and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, cover and bake in a preheated 325-degree oven for 1 ½ hours.

For the couscous salad:
2 cups quick cooking couscous
2 ½ cups water
¼ cup raisins
¼ cup dried apricots, chopped
6 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup red pepper, diced
¼ cup green onion, sliced
2 cups chick peas, rinsed
2 tablespoons fresh chopped mint, parsley and cilantro
2 tablespoons slivered almonds

Soak the raisins and apricots in ½ cup boiling water for 1 hour. Drain and add to the couscous. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the mixture. Cool and fluff with a fork. Make a dressing with the oil, lemon juice and spices and mix well. In a large bowl combine the couscous with the red pepper, green onions and chickpeas. Add the dressing and mix well. Toss in the mint, parsley and cilantro. Garnish with the almonds.

Serves 8

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