To mangle a well-known English phrase: dressings maketh salad. This might not be strictly true, but dressings and sauces can certainly be deal-breakers.
Dressings and sauces are the pearl necklace, Louboutins, or Hermes scarf to a simple salad. Or they should be. That just-so accoutrement that if got wrong ruins the whole look – or taste; but if spot-on is oh so right. And not showy about it.
I try and get round potential dining out disappoint by doing that American trick of asking for dressing on the side. This simple request – that I transplanted to Edinburgh in the late 1980s – used to elicit a pause at politest, and a “why?” at worst. Followed swiftly by “no”. Now it is as common as asking for a doggy bag. I say why ruin perfectly acceptable vegetables with an ill-judged, mouth-puckering vinaigrette, or sweet as candy Russian dressing? “On the side” gives you portion control and most importantly, taste control.
Making your own dressing or sauce – this one does double duty – is the ultimate in culinary control. Compare a shop-bought hollandaise with a homemade one. Or a strident yet weirdly sweet jarred pasta sauce with your own, stirred-with-love effort. No comparison. Dressings are even easier. And have just as much impact. Get that acid to oil balance just right and you have a friend for life. The 3:1 ratio of oil to acid is where good dressings begin.
This simple dressing/sauce is one of my favourites, although it doesn’t strictly adhere to the above classic ratio. I have made versions of this off and on for all of my adult life (i.e. a long time); before I even knew that other people were doing the same and serving it in restaurants and publishing it in books. It is highly tweakable, so if this is your kind of sauce, just make it your own. Add more garlic. Use dried mint rather than fresh (dried mint is not inferior, just different). Leave out the mint altogether. Up the tahini. Your call.
The grilled bread salad is perfect here – giant homemade croutons are always welcome on my salads – but this is also addictively more-ish with torn bits of fresh sourdough bread, spring crudités, stirred into nubbly grain salads and drizzled over room temperature sweet roasted root vegetables.
As manners maketh man I wouldn’t recommend bringing this in to a restaurant. But as dressings maketh salad, choose wisely and ask for the dressing on the side.
Grilled Bread Garden Salad with Green Tahini Sauce
Good bread, grilled with slices of squeaky, minty halloumi cheese and added to a selection of summer vegetables is my best summer salad. But really, the green tahini sauce is the star. Pour it on anything and everything. xx
1 small garlic clove
40g (0.8 oz/ ¾ packed cup) chopped parsley and coriander/cilantro – your call about the balance
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh mint
4 tbsp water (more as needed)
1 tsp preserved lemon, minced (optional, but for me essential)
2 tbsp tahini (toasted sesame seed paste)
Juice of ½ large lemon – about 2 tbsp
½ tsp honey or other equivalent other sweetener (optional)
½ tsp ground coriander seed (freshly ground if possible)
Salt, to taste (I start with a three-finger pinch and go from there)
1. Place the garlic, herbs and water in the bowl of a small food processor/hand blender. Pulse to blend. Add in the remaining ingredients and blend until you get a mostly but not completely smooth sauce. Taste and adjust as needed.
Serve with this salad or as a dip for crudités, bread, to stir into grain and bean salads or pour over roasted vegetables.
Grilled Bread Garden Salad
Add in whatever looks good at the time of year you are making this. For end-of-summer we have been eating the following:
1 pack of halloumi cheese, sliced about ¼ inch thick (or use something like feta or mozzarella and don’t grill it)
1 small flute of good bread, sliced on the diagonal or in rounds (about 5-6 small pieces per person)
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sweetcorn cob, stripped of the kernels (or use defrosted frozen – about 1/3 cup)
Cupped handful of sugarsnap peas, stringed
Mixed salad and herb leaves – some mild and some bitter
Carrots, julienned, sliced or spiralised (the more surface area that is exposed, the sweeter the taste)
Special equipment: Griddle pan
1. Rub the griddle pan with a little bit of the oil and heat to low-medium. Add the halloumi slices and cook on both sides until soft and striped. Set aside.
2. Slick the bread slices with the oil and griddle on both sides until toasty and marked. Set aside.
3.Add the sweetcorn to the pan and cook until the kernels smell nutty and are browned in places. Don’t cook it too long or it will get hard and chewy.
4. Layer up all of the ingredients and serve with the green tahini sauce.
Some halloumi recipes from others:
Halloumi Vegetable Skewers – Hungry Healthy Happy
Grilled Tomatoes and Peppers with Halloumi – Coffee & Vanilla
Asparagus, Halloumi & Potato Curry – Deena Kakaya
Grilled Halloumi with Strawberries and Herbs – Epicurious
Falafel & Halloumi Kebabs – Tinned Tomatoes
And a couple from me: