The thing, said Kenny, is that everyone who wants to lose weight will tell you that they hate salads.
Until I started going to France regularly, I was probably among their number. Remember the Scottish attempt at a "salad"? A piece of cold meat, or worse. Possibly a birstled three day old Scotch egg whose centre was so overcooked that the egg white was a dirty grey, and which, in the wrong hands, could have doubled as an offensive weapon.
The salad part comprised a piece or two of wet lettuce. You probably should have felt grateful for the water on the plate - at least it had been washed. Half a tomato, perhaps, but Lord knows what else. And a dressing for your salad? Well, if you were very unlucky there was something called Salad Cream, made with the type of industrial vinegar which was outlawed at the same time as DDT. Take someone away from a plate of good plain Scottish fare and substitute that muck? No wonder it's summarily rejected.
But come across the Channel with me, and encounter the delights of the salade composée. I first encountered them in the form of warm salads, which I have written about before. I've had these with saucisson de Lyon, duck gizzards, poached eggs, scallops, lardons and all manner of goodies. But for a cool summer dish, a salade composée made with more conventional ingredients takes a bit of beating. Essentially a bed of leaves topped with anything you fancy. At the moment, however, we have to temper the fancy with a little regard to calories. Here are a couple of ideas.
They all start with leaves. Serve yours on a nice broad platter - it makes it look bigger. Mix the leaves up. Make sure you have some crunch - iceberg is an obvious one, though it has little flavour. Sticking with lettuce, you can use Little Gem, Romaine or Cos. Chinese leaves are great - technically a brassica, but who cares. Rocket, spinach or watercress add flavour and any supermarket will sell you bags of mixed leaves to add colour. In short any salad leaves you like. The calories are negligible. It's the dressing you have to be careful of. The addition of potatoes will make the dish more filling.
You can't serve salad without it - one of the many reasons why the Scottish variety of 50 years ago was an abomination. In a warm salad one of the joys is the mixture of the dressing and the food juices. For this type of salad you can let all sorts of flavours mingle. In part 1, I gave ideas for a multi purpose dressing and variations on that, which came in at 68 calories for 200ml. Calories for more traditional dressings include-
Vinaigrette (1tbsp) 80; lite mayonnaise (1tbsp) 35; normal mayonnaise (1tbsp) 96; horseradish sauce (1tbsp) 45.
So, depending on how many calories you have allocated for the meal in question, you may well be able to have a bit of what you fancy. In much the same way that we can get by with less cooking oil than we think, a little vinaigrette goes a long way. Think how you normally see a puddle on the bottom of the salad bowl. I suggest you look at your salad constituents, work out the calories, THEN decide on your dressing.
Chicken Salad (Serves 4 - 345 calories per serving, plus the dressing)
Obviously all the ingredients are optional, but go for flavour and texture. I find raw pepper repeats on me, but if you blanch it in boiling water for a minute or two then allow it to cool, that improves matters. Crunch could also come from cucumber, celery or radishes.
Salad leaves as above; 400g poached or roast chicken (no skin) thinly sliced; 4 hard boiled eggs, halved; 8 anchovy fillets, halved (optional); 1 red, orange or yellow pepper, seeded and thinly sliced; 8 olives, stoned and halved; 8 cherry tomatoes halved; 400g new potatoes, boiled and cut into small chunks; fresh basil leaves, torn.
Boil the eggs in advance and shell. Put your leaves in a bowl and dress with your choice of dressing. Place the chicken on top. Around the sides arrange the eggs with two pieces of anchovy on top of each. Add the pepper slices, olives and tomatoes, then top with the still warm potatoes. If your calorie count allows, serve with (portion controlled) mayo, lite mayo, or whatever.
Hot Smoked Salmon, Beetroot and Grapefruit (Serves 4 - 274 calories per serving plus dressing)
To avoid any confusion, no heat is applied by the cook. I'm referring to salmon which has been hot smoked, giving it a completely different texture and flavour. If you eat it the same way as cold smoked, it is not very nice; however, incorporated into a salad, it's one of our favourites. For a demonstration of how to segment a grapefruit, click here.
Salad leaves as above; 400g hot smoked salmon, flaked into medium sized chunks; 400g cooked beetroot (not pickled), cut into cubes; 2 grapefruit (pink look nice, but any type will do), peeled and segmented; 400g Jersey Royals, boiled and cut into small chunks; fresh dill and fresh mint; lemon.
Exactly the same idea. Do be careful with the beetroot, as it can look as though you have bled over the plate and the other ingredients. Some lemon in your dressing is ideal here, and you could dress the potatoes with mint and the beetroot with dill. This combo is particularly good if you have a lemon based dressing for the leaves and some horseradish sauce on the side.
I could go on, but you get the picture.
SALADS ARE NOT BORING.
You'll be delighted to hear that The Wee Fat Lawyer is taking a week off. Normal service next week.