|Photograph printed by permission of Tony Jurich.|
I start with a crunchy lettuce (iceberg or romaine or the small, firm cogollos), mixed with fresh spinach, though spinach doesn't last long in the heat of the summer, so I've omitted that for a few weeks now. Onto this base goes carrot, either shaved with a vegetable peeler or sliced thinly. Then thinly sliced mushrooms and a handful of corn kernels. Protein comes usually in the form of tuna, out of a small can of tuna packed in olive oil (I use the oil for my dressing, and Goldie cleans the can before it goes to the recycling station). Protein may also be garbanzo beans, hard cooked eggs, or the occasional leftover chicken from dinner earlier in the week. A diced tomato forms the outer circle on our salad plates; tomatoes are especially delicious at this time of the year, though they are often good even in winter, even though they may cost a little more. Frozen peas, rinsed under the water tap to thaw, for color and potassium.
Those are the staples, but there is almost always some more: diced red, green, and/or yellow pepper, red radish, cucumber, onion. Green beans, judias verdes, Brussels sprouts, or whatever vegetable is left from dinner the night before. And herbs--I haven't had much luck in keeping herbs alive for very long, but at present I have some thin chives, parsley, thyme, and a red sage--and sometimes I resort to dried hierbas de provence or treat myself to a good sprinkle of Penzey's Sunny Spain seasoning.
This month I have been adding chunks of alpicoz, the funny-looking light-green vegetable pictured at the forefront above. A friend of a friend, a high-school student, took this picture at a market when he was visiting Valencia earlier this year. My friend sent me the photo and asked if I knew what the strange snake-like vegetable was called. I had never seen it, but I went to the Benijofar Tuesday morning market and found a vendor, who consulted with his whole family and told me they thought it was alpicoz, a type of cucumber. Back home to do some research on the Internet and then the following Sunday I found one at my Sunday market. It is indeed a "fine" cucumber, more delicate than a regular English cucumber, and without the dark green skin. It tastes refreshing cut up in small chunks for the lunchtime salad, and also was a wonderful addition to the chicken-grape-almond main dish salad I made last week from a traditional family recipe. I have yet to try it in the Gazpacho Extremeño recipe I found on the Internet.
Or were you thinking of the traditional meaning of "salad days" when you started reading this post? In addition to enjoying summer salads, I also have been thinking back to the "carefree innocence" of my youth. My high school reunion was held this past weekend, and even though my body spent this Sunday in Spain, my thoughts were in Sidney, Ohio, with the friends who had gathered there, and those who had not, who I knew from way back in my "salad days."