I had an epiphany last weekend while trying out a new recipe for an Asian-style slaw. It called for 1/2 head of shredded green cabbage, 2 shredded carrots, raisins or dried cranberries, chopped green apple and bottled balsamic vinaigrette.
As I often do, I started messing around with the stated recipe. I kept the cabbage, carrots and Granny Smith apple, but since I already had dried cherries, I subbed them in place of the other dried fruit. Also, I wanted to make a balsamic vinaigrette for the salad instead of buying a bottled dressing. Using the old vinaigrette ratio of three parts oil to one part vinegar, I whisked up a combo using balsamic vinegar and some blood orange olive oil given to me as a Christmas present by my aunt and uncle. To finish it off, I sprinkled in some toasted sesame seeds.
The slaw was delicious, and I started thinking about how many other summer salads follow the same basic formula: freshly chopped or grated veggies and fruits, a pop of sweetness from dried fruit, a dressing of choice and some kind of seed or nut, if desired. One of my favorites, carrot-raisin salad, is made with shredded carrots, raisins, mayonnaise and a touch of sugar. Sometimes people add crushed pineapple. Another of my favorites is broccoli salad, which can be made with broccoli crowns or the packaged broccoli slaw, mixed with raisins, mayonnaise, sunflower seeds and bacon bits, if desired.
So think about these categories of ingredients and how many options you have:
Vegetables/fruits: green or red cabbage, carrots, broccoli, broccoli slaw, cauliflower, apples, mandarin oranges, pineapple, celery, fennel bulb, etc.
Dried fruit: Raisins, dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried cherries, apricot, mango, etc.
Nuts/seeds: Peanuts, cashews, slivered or sliced almonds, toasted sesame seeds, sunflower kernels, toasted walnuts, etc.
Dressing: You could play around here with a basic mayonnaise or any kind of vinaigrette that suits your fancy, or go with a favorite bottled dressing.
Mix and match to suit your tastes! Does anyone else have thoughts on how these different ingredients could pair together, or can you add ideas to the list of components above?