I revised my definition of the simple salad after our time in Brazil.
I thought what I was eating prior was a simple salad until I had my first bite of a salad there. I remember thinking -- but where are the candied walnuts, the blue cheese, the cranberries, and could I have a little dressing?
It took simple to a whole new level and it took it a while to grow on us, but it did. Occasionally we even find ourselves craving that same simplicity almost 5 years later.
I had the opportunity to spend one afternoon with a friend there while she prepared us dinner and it allowed me to see first-hand how such a salad comes together. First, everything is the same color. No flecks of white from feta cheese or bursts of red from cherry tomatoes. No, it was all, equally as pretty, shades of green.
First lettuce, then parsley and finally a few rings green bell pepper. Next, the secret salad ingredient - salt. I have to admit I had never salted a salad straight from the shaker until we moved there. No pepper, though. Black pepper was non-existent where we lived.
The salt is what made the dressing flavors pop. And what I mean by dressing is loads of olive oil and fresh squeezed lime juice.
When I was trying to use up a few leftover vegetables last week, I decided to return to the basics and recreate a similar salad for dinner. I made a few changes like cilantro because I’m not in love with parsley, red bell pepper because I had it on hand, green onion for the same reason and kale because there was a handful I didn’t want to go to waste.
I went ahead and massaged the kale in olive oil. If you haven’t done this before it reduces bitterness, softens the leaves and really makes all the difference. Just pour the oil over it and rub it in with your hands, working it for a few minutes.
Regardless of whether you use kale or not, a good olive oil is essential for this salad. With such simple flavors, it must be delicious. I’ve mentioned Oregon Olive Mill before and I love their extra virgin olive oil. They recently sent me a new variety called Frantoio. It’s a single Italian olive varietal with a buttery flavor and a peppery finish, which I love in a good olive oil. I was waiting for something simple to use it with so that the olive oil's flavors would stand out and it worked perfectly in this salad.
When the kale is ready to go just layer on the other ingredients, toss with a little (or a lot) more olive oil and lime juice and it’s ready to serve.
Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime
Makes: 2 to 3 servings
2 cups finely chopped kale leaves
1 tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
⅓ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 green onion sliced
Juice of 2 limes
⅛ tsp fine ground sea salt
Place the kale in a medium bowl and add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Massage the kale for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the lettuce, bell pepper, cilantro and onion. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and lime juice over the salad. Sprinkle on the salt. Toss to coat all the ingredients and serve.
Disclosure: The olive oil mentioned in this post was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. It is an excellent olive oil and I’m happy to share about it.