Classic Leaf Salad With French Vinaigrette
My favourite salad of all time is a simple bowl of fresh leafy greens, dressed with a classic French style dressing. Some of the simplest things in life are often the best and what I love about this salad is that the assorted leaves each have a character of their own – some sweet, some bitter and others slightly peppery that help stimulate digestion. The vinaigrette is the finishing touch that helps combine the flavours, tantalise your taste buds and keeps you coming back for more.
I love to choose an assortment of leafy greens such as cos or romaine lettuce, with long crisp leaves, delicate butter lettuce with soft pale green leaves, red radicchio that are slightly bitter and rocket that has a peppery flavour, which marries wonderfully with the subtle leaves and light acidity of the dressing. The taste of a French dressing can vary based on the oil and vinegar you decide to use. I like to vary the oils and vinegars based on what I have in my fridge – white wine vinegar – red wine vinegar – apple cider vinegar are all great. For the oil my favourite is a simple cold pressed extra virgin olive oil that has a nice fresh young pepper finish – other good option is a cold pressed walnut oil that is smooth and buttery and has the benefit of being rich in omega 3.
What’s great about it:
Leafy salad greens are known as functional alkaline foods. The American journal of clinical nutrition states that alkalising diets improve bone density and serum growth hormone concentrations and also help to prevent muscle wastage. Salads are a pre-biotic for your gut. Pre-biotics are high fiber foods that stimulate the favourable growth of pro-biotic bacteria in the gut and help rebuild the natural levels of good bacteria that your body needs. A good supply of pro-biotics in the gut will boost your immune system, enhance digestion and reduce digestive disorders. The word probiotic means pro-life, so where possible choose foods that are life giving to your health.
Mixture of leafy greens – your choice of:
Iceberg – butter-head – cos (romaine) – radicchio – endive – rocket – dandelion – watercress.
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
60 ml cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped eschalots
1 clove smashed garlic
Combine all the ingredients for the salad base into a large bowl.
Make the dressing by mixing the vinegar and mustard first, then add the garlic, shallots and whisk in the olive oil until creamy looking and emulsified. You can also combine the dressing by placing all the ingredients into a screw top jar and shake vigorously to form an emulsion.
Season with a little black pepper and sea salt if required.
Pour over the salad and mix through just before serving.
Add freshly chopped garden herbs such as chervil, chives, mint, parsley or dill.
Omit garlic for a more subtle flavour.
Serve with hard boiled organic eggs or roasted walnuts.
Use lemon juice in place of vinegar. Or use a combination of citrus such as lemon, orange and pink grapefruit.
HOW TO MAKE A BETTER SALAD
1 Prep the leaves
Wash the leaves well with plenty of water to get rid of any nasty bits then drain on a clean tea towel or colander, or place into a salad spinner that will spin your leaves dry in seconds.
2 Slice veg thin
If you’re throwing raw veggies into the mix it’s a great idea to slice or shave them thinly, which will make for a better eating salad and add a lovely crunch and texture.
3 Mix it up
Choose different varieties of leafy greens and vegetables to boost nutrient levels. Try raw shaved asparagus, snow pea sprouts, micro greens, watercress, cucumber, radish, beetroot or carrot.
4 Add some protein
If you don’t want to be raiding the refrigerator an hour after eating your salad, you need to add some protein to keep you full. Good sources include nuts, seeds, smashed organic egg, fish.
5 Add herbs
To help punch up the flavor and add a good dose of phyto-chemicals add some fresh herbs such as parsley, mint or basil.
6 Make your dressing
A great healthy salad dressing consists of heart healthy oil such as cold pressed olive, combined with vinegar or lemon juice. The oils helps fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K absorb into the body, whilst the acetic acid in the vinegar helps suppress the appetite and slows the speed at which our stomachs empties.
7 Avoid soggy salad
If salad leaves are your base, add the dressing just before serving to prevent them from going soggy.
8 Boost it up
Adding seeds and nuts to salads can help boost the fibre, mineral and protein content that can help reduce cholesterol and support your immune system.
9 A touch of garlic
Garlic is linked with everything from helping to fight against cancer and blood clots to raising levels of good (HDL) cholesterol and lowering blood pressure. Garlic contains a special compound called allicin, which provides the greatest health benefits – it’s pretty much destroyed in cooking, so try and eat it raw if you can.
10 Make it yourself
Remember the best salads are the ones you make yourself. Leafy greens and vegetables, quality protein and heart healthy fats. Know what’s in the food you eat and you’ll stay on track to being healthy and feeling great !