About this time last year, NY Times food writer Mark Bittman posted one of the greatest articles ever. At the time, we printed it out and now the pages have become so dog-eared and stained (mostly with olive oil and tomatoes), that we can’t even read some of the text anymore. Obviously it’s time to print out another copy – so glad the online version of the paper includes free access to its archive.
What article could cause such devotion, you ask? It’s Bittman’s paean to the simple summer salad…101 of ’em to be exact. The beauty of his list is that he has come up with so many different – yet incredibly simple – ways to concoct surprising, tasty combinations of ingredients. He has salad creations for every palate: vegan, vegetarians, carnivores and carb-lovers.
When the article first appeared last summer, we vowed to work our way through the entire list. We’re still working on it. Let’s face it: 101 is a heckuva lot of salad!
But no worries if you’re not up to trying to work your way down the list. We’re willing to share some of our favorites here with you. Word of warning though: we love cilantro, curry and olive oil and you’ll find many of our salad picks include them:
From the Mostly Vegan section:
#2 – Mix wedges of tomatoes and peaches, add slivers of red onion, a few red-pepper flakes and cilantro. Dress with olive oil and lime or lemon juice. (Bittman calls this salad “Astonishing,” and we couldn’t agree more).
#15 – Cut cherry or grape tomatoes in half; toss with soy sauce, a bit of dark sesame oil and basil or cilantro. (Almost too simple to believe – but trust us, it’s yummy).
#36 – Mix cooked or canned chickpeas with toasted coconut, shredded carrots, chopped celery, curry powder, olive oil, lime juice and cilantro. (This one has curry, olive oil and cilantro…we’re in heaven!).
From the Vegetarian section:
#42 – Trim crusts if necessary from day-or-two-old bread (or even three-day-old bread), cube and marinate in black olive tapenade thinned with more olive oil. Add chopped capers and toss with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella. Anchovies optional (maybe for you, but for us anchovies are mandatory).
#50 – It’s puttanesca-ish: Egg salad with pitted black olives, chopped tomatoes, capers, anchovies (optional), a tiny bit of garlic and some red onion; mayonnaise as needed (We have a “thing” for puttanesca, which actually means “whore” in Italian. Want to know how that word ended up as a culinary term? Find out by clicking here.)
#63 – Sunday brunch salad: Mix diced cucumbers, chopped tomato, minced red onion and capers with bits of smoked salmon. Dress with lemon juice (you won’t need much oil, if any). Take a step further by adding croutons of cubed toasted bagels. (We do like a splash of olive oil on this one).
#69 – Stir-fry small or chopped shrimp in olive or peanut oil with lots of ginger; while still warm, combine with tomato wedges, chopped romaine, cilantro, scallions and lots of lime juice. (Bittman says this one is good in pita; we also like it in a rice paper wrap).
From the Salads with Meat section:
#76 – Slice fresh figs — many, if you live where they grow — and top with crumbled bacon, balsamic vinegar (the best you have) and crumbled blue cheese. (Also try this with prosciutto instead of bacon, and feta instead of blue cheese).
#80 – Sort-of-Cobb salad: Choose any combination of hard-cooked eggs, chopped prosciutto, cooked chicken, crumbled Gorgonzola, chopped tomatoes, chickpeas or white beans, sliced red onion, olives. Make vinaigrette with capers and anchovies. (A great way to make use of leftover roasted chicken).
From the Noodle Salad section:
#84 – Spring rolls, unrolled: One at a time, soften a few sheets of rice paper in warm water. Drain, pat dry, cut into strips and toss with chopped cucumber, grated carrots, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts, chili flakes and chopped roasted peanuts. Dress with toasted sesame oil, fish sauce or soy sauce, and rice vinegar or lime juice. A few shrimp are a nice addition. (We like to make our own fresh spring rolls, but this is easier and takes less time).
From the Grain Salad section:
#93 – Mix leftover rice with lemon or lime juice, soy sauce and a combination of sesame and peanut oils. Microwave if necessary to soften the rice, then serve at room temperature, tossed with sprouts, shredded radishes, chopped scallions, bits of cooked meat or fish if you like and more soy sauce. (We always have leftover rice around; this is a delicious way to use it up).
Those are just a few of the salad ideas we’ve declared “tried and true…and tasty.” But if you’re the more ambitious type who wants to tackle all 1o1 recipes – or you just don’t want to take our word for which salads are best – feel free to check out Mark Bittman’s entire simple summer salads list by clicking here.
What else is there to say but “Bon Appetit!”