Stop looking at that dog* and look at the SALAD

PREVIOUSLY: MOUTH OF BROTMAN: Kinda Over This Sourdough Thing. I Guess We Should Make Salads Now

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Another beautiful summer day! We’ve all staggered through and made it to the weekend, albeit barely sentient. This last week in Humboldt has been filled by entertaining events, like lots of garden harvesting and a sky-rocketing infection rate, two events that combine to make my house Ground Zero for salad.  My friends at Luna Farm have their annual orgy of figs happening right now, and their green basil and parsley make any salad so much brighter; their Farmer’s Market stall is mind-blowing. Ground cherries!

My sweet two-year-old and my fat terrier have zero interest in salads, but when it’s a new-cut lettuce, lemon cucumber, fig, peapod, parsley, cherry tomato, chives, poached carrot, wheat berries fried in garlic, Bulgarian feta, raw corn, roasted red pepper, toasted walnuts, pepitas and sunflower seed salad, I am just fine not sharing at all.

In last week’s “salad tossing,” I codified some Basic Principles re: salad making, and this week I will get a few more deets in. 

Now about nuts. One of the most necessary components of a salad is fats, to offset the rabbityness of lettuce and the boringness of kale, and my favorite way of getting in fats is nuts and seeds. A good salad should have both nuts and seeds, and there are no wrong choices. Except for peanuts, which after all is a legume, all nuts and seeds are winners. Peanuts themselves are fab in the right salad, but they can’t work everywhere. You need Asian ingredients, or African, to make peanuts fit in a salad, in my opinion. Just out of a bag is fine, but toasting them yourself really brings them up a notch. 

The main thing with nuts and seeds is to watch them maniacally. Once they start heating up, the window between Toasted and Burnt is small, so don’t go look at your phone. Take a handful of nuts and chop ‘ em a bit — walnuts are my favorite, but cashews, filberts, pistash, almonds, brazil nuts… they’re all good. Put them in a dry frying pan over medium heat, and add your seeds as well — again, any/all varieties are delicious, more than one kind, as many as you like!  — I like sunflower in particular, and pumpkin.  Give the pan a good shake every thirty seconds, When you hear a seed pop, it’s time to focus on the pan fully, and stir constantly. You’ll be able to smell the toasting aroma, and the nuts and seed will start to show toasty color.  At this point, you can add seasoning if you like — a bit of paprika and /or oregano, salt and pepper, a dollop of tamari.  Another forty seconds, and pour them into a bowl to cool and get crunchy

For some reason Americans are nervous nellies about fresh herbs. I like big fat handfuls of fresh herbs, like a half bunch of dill, wads of parsley and a few sprigs of de-stemmed oregano and basil. Fresh herbs not only kick up flavor to the equivalent of a rave, they punch up the nutrients to almost unreasonable levels. The trick with herbs is mincing. Parsley and dill are tough, and basil and mint are pungent; mince like you’re rescuing a drowning puppy. That shit needs to be fine. Also, be reasonable. You can use a big handful of dill, but tarragon is pretty potent, so just s few sprigs is plenty. Ditto mint, oregano, all the bossy herbs. Taste if you’re unsure.

Now, what about cheese? I think in salads it has its place, but grated cheddar is not my jam. Whatever floats your boat, but I think grated cheese has a weird vibe, like a Denny’s look, and it should be crumbles of the good stuff. My hands-down favorite is the bulk Bulgarian feta at the co-op - Bulgarian one is way better than the other two -  but I can get down with crumbled blue, goat, and even coarse bits of parm or romano. Ricotta salata, if you can get it. Nothing too pricey. If you are lucky enough to have an expensive cheese you should eat that guy all on it’s own, with bread.

Next week: MORE SALAD. Cooking individual components; carrots, peppers et al.

* - the dog’s name is Rex.