Since we are on the subject of salads, let’s linger for awhile shall we? As a society we have come such a long way when it comes to salads. Remember back in the 70ties (Ahem, yes I am that old. And damn proud of it by the way!) when they were mostly used as garnish? They usually consisted of sad looking limp iceberg shreds that were already turning brown and would be topped with modern day food insults such as tinned peas and corn kernels. Or the mother of all “do not go there” salad additions, tinned (sweetened) pineapple chunks! Good lord! I for one am sure glad that decade is over and done with. Although I still long for a MF big and bad Afro and bell bottom jeans every once in a while. But salad wise, we are definitely in much better shape in this millenium.
I think much of that is thanks to the luxury of travel. While our parents and grandparents who lived in Europe and North America were munching on their “exotic” but gross pineapple topped side salads, their Asian, Mediterrenean (why the heck is this word so hard!!!, I have to keep looking it up on google spelling!) and Middle Eastern brothers and sisters knew better. Much better. Think of delicious sour, spicy and crunchy Thai papaya salads for example. Or a gloriously fresh Greek salad with juicy cucumbers, fabulously aromatic black olives and salty feta. And let’s not forget the salad that never knew it was a salad until we Westeners decided to call it so, Tabbouleh. Traditionallly made with just a hint of cracked wheat mixed through a mountain of super fresh herbs and dressed with lemon juice and great quality olive oil. So as we started to travel more and taste all these fantastic salad interpretations from all over the world it must have slowly downed on us that we were missing out big time. And so the change slowly began, culminating in what you could call a true Salad Fetish by the late nineties. And thank heavens for that. Because salads can be great, fantastic or even orgasmic (there I said it!) when done right.
One of my food heroes who really transformed the way I look at salads is Peter Gordon. Oh lord, how I’d love to meet that man some day. I do not care that he is gay, I am in love with him and have no intention of falling out of love with him anytime soon. So don’t even try and convince me otherwise okay! End of story! He is a chef who, in my opinion, does fusion cuisine the way GOD almighty intended it to be done. Not CON-fusion but IN-fusion. By marrying, not only, ingredients and textures but also cooking techniques from World cuisines he elevates dishes to meals that are not strangly weird but just utterly delicious. His book Salads is a bible to me and I often read it in bed, fall asleep and wake up drooling…. See, I told you I’m in love!
Anyway, back to the issue on hand. With modern day salads being transformed to exquisite main courses bursting with different flavours, textures and colours I have grown very fond of them. Which is sometimes frowned upon by the old school Ayurvedic community, since traditional Ayurveda does not promote eating uncooked foods. However I have compromised, as I do with all things Ayurvedic in my life, by mainly making salads that have plenty of cooked items included. Also I make a point of thinking about which constitution will be eating the salad as all three types respond to salads differently.
With their innate strong agni (digestive fire) Pitta can best digest raw foods. Salads tend to be cooling for the easily overheated Pitta and thus make a good meal on a regular basis for them. Kapha digestion can be sluggish and they may have difficulty digesting raw food. But on that same note raw foods also help scraping ama (accumulated toxins) from their guts, of which they may often suffer. So they can have salads on occasion but should include more cooked, especially (dry) roasted or stir fried, ingredients in their salads than Pitta’s. Also they should include hot and spicy tastes to stoke up their agni, and go easy on the oily or creamy dressings. Asian type salads often work best for them. Vata’s loooove salads. But salads do not always loooove Vata’s back! With their fickle digestive systems they really need to avoid eating salads too often, especially in colder weather or climates. If they insist on having a salad I advise for all components being cooked and add just a small amount of uncooked salad leaves that need to be really well dressed with a lovely sweet and sour dressing. All types do best on salads in the warmer months of the year.
Since I know it can be a challenge to have a suitable salad in winter when you are a Vata I designed one especially for these creative whirl winds. One that has soothing, grounding warmth written all over it and will help them wind down after another day of doing 100 things at the same time. With the sweet, salty and sour tastes taking centre stage this salad is like a comforting motherly hug on a cold winters day. Oven roasted root veggies in ghee, cracked wheat (or bulghur) with fortifying toasted almonds and seeds and an apple vinegar, maple syrup and almond oil dressing. And to top it all off a one of kind sweet date and roasted red onion chutney spiked with freshly ground lassi spices. My darling Vata’s, may you be content and at peace. (And I am of course secretly hoping that this one will be the one to win Peter Gordon over….)
One last word of warning. Contrary to popular belief I do not agree with the notion that all salads should be “easy” nor “quick”. This one certainly isn’t. But it is meant as a complete meal and takes less time than it would take you to make a main course from scratch. Also all the different elements are not difficult to make and the manual labor of making them is very grounding for stressed out Vata’s after a(nother) busy day.
Warming winter salad
- 130 grams coarse whole wheat bulghur
- 250 ml boiling water
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander or parsley leaves
- 2 little gem
Roasted root veggies
- 500 grams pumpkin sliced in wedges (if organic leave the skin on)
- 300 grams jerusalem artichoke (aka topinamboer or aardpeer in Dutch) in medium slices ( if organic leave the skin on)
- 1 medium sized red onion, skin removed, sliced in 4
- 4 or 5 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 teaspoon roughly crushed coriander seeds
- 3 tablespoons melted ghee
Roasted nuts and seeds
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
- 1 tablespoon almond flakes or roughly chopped whole almonds
- 1 tablespoon nigella (aka kalonji seeds)
- 2 teaspoons apple vinegar
- 2 teaspoons (or a bit more to taste) maple syrup
- 75 ml olive oil
- 25 ml almond oil
- 1 tablespoon shredded fresh mint leaves
Date and roasted red onion chutney
- 2 pitted medjool dates
- 1 teaspoon apple vinegar
- the roasted red onion (see above)
- 1 teaspoon lassi spice mix made by mixing equal portions ground cumin, ground black pepper, ground cinnamon and ground cardamom
To make the bulgur put the cracked wheat in a bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Add a pinch of salt and seal the bowl tightly by putting a well fitting plate on top or covering in plastic wrap. Leave for at least 10 minutes to steam. Check if the bulghur is done after this time. It should retain some bite but not be too hard. But too mushy is a real disaster so be sure to check this well. If the wheat has not absorbed all the water but has the right doneness to your taste you can pour it through a sieve. If you still find it too hard after the 10 minute mark put the lid back on it and leave it for another 5 minutes. This can vary depending on the type of wheat you use and how coarsely it was ground. Let cool a little before mixing in the chopped herb of your choice. Take the leaves from the little gem apart and set some pretty ones aside for garnish later.
Preheat the oven to 190 degrees C. Lay out the pumpkin slices, jerusalem artichoke and red onion on a baking tray. Sprinkle the pumpkin with the crushed coriander seeds and lay some thyme sprigs on top. Drizzle over the ghee, making sure the bottom of the veggies are also coated and finally sprinkle over some salt. Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes turning the veggies around half way the baking time. The jerusalem artichokes may need a little bit longer than the onion and pumpkin. So test them for doneness and if so just take the other veggies off the tray and reserve on a (warm) plate. Cover them with some foil to keep them warm. Return the jerusalem artichoke to the oven for another 5 minutes or so. You want a slightly crunchy crust with a center that is done but has not turned to chips yet. At this point you can also add the nuts and seeds, which you’ve put in a small oven dish, to the oven and toast them until they are just golden in colour.When the seed mixture is toasted let it cool down a bit before mixing half through the prepared bulghur. Reserve the rest for sprinkling over the salad.
Meanwhile make the dressing by mixing all ingredients together in small food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Make the date chutney by processing all ingredients in a small food processor as well, scraping down the sides of the bowl in between pulsing. Season to taste.
Arrange all the separate salad elements on 4 plates or one big flat serving dish. Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad leaves and reserve the rest for guests to help themselves to more at the table.