Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Aunt Nanette's Life Altering Salad

My Aunt Nan is famous for the amazing salads that she makes. Salad??! No, seriously. These salads are life altering and absolutely gorgeous. No family function is complete without the addition of greens a la Nanette. After another fantastic version at Hanukkah this weekend, I begged and pleaded for the recipe. Lucky for us, Nan graciously complied.

On a visit to San Francissyco many years ago, I got my butt kicked when I showed up to a party with a 'salad' ... greens, tomatoes, sliced carrots and celery ... "who would bring something like THAT..." I overheard another guess comment when my dish was placed next to the gourmand salads. I vowed then and there that the Alfalfa Sprout/ Mung Bean hipster set were going to rue the day they wilted my greens! This salad has even prompts people who don't eat green things to pick up a fork and it's often requested with an invite to any type of soiree. First, look in the crisper to see what's available. Any and every vegetable and fruit is open to inclusion when I am at the salad making helm. It's rare I have left over cooked artichoke hearts, Brussels Sprouts or asparagus but when I do, in they go.
Aunt Nanette's Life Altering Salad
I'm not giving a specific ingredient list here and you will see why when you read Nan's recipe. Enjoy!

1. I do like to use a salad spinner to clean and wash the lettuce, whether it's romaine, iceberg or my very favorite spring mix with arugula and basil leaves. Cleaning them gives the opportunity to be sure that all the greens are in good shape - nothing mushy, rusty or gunky. Those leaves taste bitter and spoil the tongue. Your bed of lettuce is as important as your bed for sleeping so always make your bed and keep it clean!
2. I grate a carrot and an apple - chill the apple to make grating easy ... and I use a salad shooter to avoid scraping my knuckles into the salad and because the shooter creates longer shreds of where ever it is I'm shooting. If the weather is really hot - above 85 degrees I shoot the apple into a separate container and squeeze lemon over it to keep the apple from turning brown. Otherwise, use whatever citrus you are including in the salad as the preservative. I like to turn the lettuce, carrot, apple so it's thoroughly mixed. This makes the salad so moist that you may choose not to dress it.
3. Next goes the citrus. I love, love, love the pink grapefruit for it's tang and it is a nice complement to some of the stronger flavors I include. Use clementines, oranges, tangerines ... but, when you do use grapefruit, cut away all the skin as that is bitter and of course remove any seeds. There is no bitter in salad-making.
Squeeze one quarter in there to keep it moist.
4. Add the goodies - anything that is fabulous goes ... melon, star fruit, kiwi (I'm a skin on kinda gal 'cause that's where all the nutrients are and 'cause that's the way the kiwis eat 'em). For today's salad I threw in cut grape tomatoes and pineapple - I prefer Roma tomatoes but, it is December after all ... remember, Tomatoes are a fruit, so they do play nicely with all the other fruits in the bowl!
Chop things up into manageable pieces. It is best to arrange the salad so that guests can get some of everything when they serve up the salad.
5. Next I slice things that I want to make a pattern with .. avocados, pears, asparagus spears ... and arrange them with the "presentation, presentation, presentation" motto. This is kinda like the "Charlies Angles Parking Karma" motto, only different, for obvious reasons.
6. Now for the cheese, I like to go with the hard, stinky cheeses because all the fruits and veggies can take it and I'm all about the complementary tastes. A loccatelli or razor sharp provolone, a smoked gouda, a huntsman - magic! I use a cheese grater and yes, it does make a diff ... though if you have to go with the sprinkled parm, no harm ~ no foul. I load the walnuts (or almonds, pecans, hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, peanuts ~ provided no one has a nut allergy ~ into the same grater and grind a nice layer over the grated cheese ... ooo baby. I dump out any ungrated nibbly nut bits into the center of the salad.
7. Now your greens are ready for the finishing touches ... berries or pomegranate seeds or any other fruit or veg that you want to highlight.
I never make this salad the same way twice because typically I'm just using whatever is in the house. Folks have been known to throw cooked beef or chicken strips or hunks of crab and lobster, even oysters so do what you feel. You can also provide dressings. I'd recommend a vinaigrette but usually I let the moisture from the grated fruit and veggies do their thing. Bon Appetito and a hearty thank you to my very favorite Foodie - Emily ~ who impresses every time we have a meal together!

Thanks Nan! Love YOU big :)

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