Latin Twist: For the Love of Salads, Part 1

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It seems like our definition of salads—like that of so many other dishes—is evolving. Or maybe it’s just that our salads, like the times, are a changin’! I remember  when I was about 19 (and actually when I lived in Spain!) creating ones with chunks of iceberg lettuce topped with Russian dressing. Wow, has my salad evolved (though hmmmm…I wouldn’t mind going old style…with hardboiled eggs and bacon bits! Woo hoo!).

What causes these changes? Well, as far as this dish, the biggest salad influences on all of us may be eating at different restaurants, trying those at different friends’ homes, and of course traveling. Though we all may all have our go-to lettuce combos, many of us are constantly looking for more.

These days, my salads are a combination of a few things:

1) What I’ve got in the fridge;
2) What I’m craving;
3) What I’m serving (if anything) in addition to the salad;
4) The weather,  and my mood (!); and
3) What looks good—and will work well together.

How did I come up with today’s interpretation? I had Persian cucumbers; they’re the thin-skinned,perfectly crunchy sweet ones that don’t require peeling! I also had some strawberries (ah…spring, spring, spring!) and wanted to incorporate them. Bright orange and juicy clementines were in a bowl. I felt that these three ingredients would be enough.

But this week, it was additionally about something else for me: I wanted to also add the finishing touch of an extra-special olive oil. Now, I’ve played with olive oils before—especially when I lived in Spain. Even more recently, when I was there in October, I couldn’t resist trying (and buying!) some samples!  And unless you’ve been under a rock, you’ve probably notice that olive oil stores have recently sprouted throughout our area. It’s all good for those of us who like to dabble in fine finishes.

Which, of course, brings me back to one of the key points of my post today: salads can be that much more enhanced by a wonderful ending. If you read one of my other posts this week (Spanish Salad with an Italian Finish), you’ve already heard my olive oil spiel. Now stay with me here, because it only gets better: once you start thinking in terms of how an ingredient—like olive oil—http://www.inthekitchenwitharlen.blogspot.com/2013/04/midweek-food-musings-spanish-salad-with.htmlcan improve a dish, it inspires you that much more to think about how many ways you can incorporate it.

So, mis amigos, I share with you the result: una ensalada deliciosa! Hope you’ll like it, too, and that you’ll share some of your salad creations with me!

Cucumber, Clementine, and Strawberry Salad

Yield: 2 servings

This quick, fruit-meets-cucumber salad is the perfect complement to grilled fish or chicken, baked pork chops, and of course much more!

Ingredients

  • 4 Persian cucumbers, sliced
  • 3 clementines, sectioned, and then halved
  • 4-6 strawberries, hulled and chopped
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Excellent-quality olive oil (I used Poggio Grimodi, which I'll tell you how you can get soon!)

Instructions

  1. Combine cucumbers and fruit in a medium-size bowl.
  2. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Finish with olive oil.
  4. Serve!
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About Author

Maybe it was the dinner parties my mom always threw—or the hours I spent prepping and cooking alongside her (and then on my own!). Or maybe it was array of fabulous dishes that my family sampled in New York City’s richly diverse restaurants, but I’ve loved creating, savoring, and sharing food for as long as I can remember. Living in Spain, and later in Peru, also greatly influenced my life. These years abroad taught me Spanish—and about living in different countries--but also introduced me to teaching English as a second language, which I’ve done—mostly in the US-- for the past 20-plus (yikes!) years. I’ve authored two cocktail/tapas books, Mambo Mixers and Calypso Coolers, coauthored more than 15 others (mostly food related!), and raised two children. Now I'm chef and owner of my own restaurant, Mambo 64 in Tuckahoe, New York. My message is the same, whether I'm teaching, writing, running the restaurant or being a regular guest on the Spanish-language network Telemundo (on the morning show, Buenos Días Nueva York!). My belief in food—and the power of food—is far reaching, and is married with another one: the power of stories. I’m sure that if we could all sit down and have meals together, sharing both tastes and tales, we’d have peace on earth. Enjoy!

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