When you find yourself lacking imagination and inspiration for next meal, let the nature guide you. After all, its hard to plan for complicated meals involving passion fruits and artichokes when you don’t know if they’ll be available at your local store. Sometimes you know you want something fresh, crisp and light but have no specific ingredient in mind. That’s actually what happened with me today. I suddenly got craving for a salad – just a simple pile of something green, colorful and crunchy – to break the winter routine of one-pot meals. The question became – what kind of salad? It seemed wrong to make anything with tomatoes before the start of summer, spinach and kale reminded me too much of winter, and my usual beets and carrots wouldn’t produce the ‘green and crunchy’ effect. The answer suddenly came to me when I saw purple potatoes!
That’s right, some of you may not realize that, but our popular crop comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors, including my favorite color! Although some may be tempted to make a purple mash out of this beauty, I prefer to simply slice them into unpeeled rounds and roast in the oven until soft and slightly crispy around edges. They look stunning against the backdrop of leafy greens and help upgrade salad from an appetizer category into a main meal, especially when accompanied by cucumbers, radishes, boiled egg and avocado slices. The ingredient list may seem a bit lengthy but feel free to swap or omit items you don’t have or don’t like. No fresh lemon on hand? Try using few drops of fruity white vinegar. Skip the egg and the cheese if you are vegan and add some olives or sliced almonds. Allergic to arugula? Use spinach or lamb’s lettuce (German: Feldsalat) instead.
Salads are amazingly flexible in terms of preparation so don’t be afraid to come up with your own combinations. The key is to use fresh produce at the peak of their ripeness or else you risk ending up with bland and watery shadow of the image you had in mind. I also tend to use very moderate quantity of dressing and I am happy most times with just a bit of lemon juice and olive or nut oil (e.g. walnut, hazelnut). The bottled dressings from supermarkets will most likely be made of mystery ingredients and contain jaw-dropping number of calories. Besides, for fresh salads with leafy greens, a good dressing should elevate further the freshness of flavors, not weigh it down with salt and fat. So when in doubt whether to use store-bought dressing or not, my advice will always be to skip it and go for a slice of lemon!
Spring Meadow Salad
Serves 1 as main meal or 2 as a side dish
– 1-2 purple potatoes (or use normal variety)
– 1 egg
– 1 small cucumber or 1/4 of large
– 3-4 radishes
– 1/4 of avocado, sliced
– couple of slices of fresh feta, crumbled
– few leaves of each arugula, green and red frisee
– 1 sprig each fresh dill and thyme
– 1 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 2 tsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 200C/375F. Wash and scrub the potatoes (no peeling unless you want to). Slice into thin rounds, arrange on a baking sheet in one layer, drizzle with 1 tsp of olive oil, sprinkle thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes (depends on quantity so check for readiness after 20 minutes). In the meantime, wash and dry arugula and frisee, and arrange on the plate. Drizzle with lemon juice and sprinkle with black pepper. Thinly slice radishes into rounds and cucumber into half-moons and set aside. When potatoes are close to being done, start boiling the egg. Arrange cooked potatoes on top of greens, followed by cucumbers, radishes, avocado, chopped dill, feta, and egg. Finish by drizzling the remaining tsp of olive oil over the plate.