Lettuce-free salads. Some ideas to get you started!

12 March 2018

Lettuce, tomato, sweetcorn, onion… Hang on a minute, we’re in the 21st century, you know! If your salads still religiously feature all of the above, it’s high time you opened your eyes to new possibilities. Including chickpeas, quinoa, couscous, pasta, rice, Swiss chard, lentils or whatever else you fancy! Let your imagination run wild as you discover that there’s more to salads than lettuce. Here are some ideas to brighten up your lunchbox and your life!

Quinoa. A superfood like no other, a slow-release carb packed with nutrients. Its downside, some would claim, is its insipid taste. They may be right, but we prefer to see the glass half full: let’s make the most of its discreet taste to mix it with other ingredients. Any ideas? How about some onion, cucumber, tomato, carrot, avocado, sesame seeds and a light yogurt sauce? A fantastic salad in a trice.

Couscous. We’re not usually very experimental with this extremely versatile cereal, which we tend to eat only in Arab restaurants accompanied by chicken, chickpeas and vegetables. Couscous works wonders in salads and can be mixed with all kinds of ingredients. How about goat’s cheese, chickpeas, avocado, radish, sweetcorn, fresh coriander and cherry tomatoes, dressed with extra-virgin olive oil and apple vinegar?

Pasta. Farfalle, fusilli, penne rigate… They’re all wonderful for throwing together a pasta salad for any occasion. And the great thing is you don’t have to go to the shops for anything; simply open the fridge, see what’s inside and use your imagination: fresh cheese, hardboiled egg, tuna, carrot, smoked salmon and even thin pieces of cooked chicken breast. Looking for an original recipe? King prawns, feta cheese, a handful of nuts, cooked broccoli, a dash of fresh basil balsamic vinaigrette, et voilà, a wonderful balanced, filling and delicious pasta salad!

Spinach and Swiss chard. There’s life beyond lettuce leaves: highly nutritional spinach and Swiss chard are packed with vitamins and folic acid but have hardly any calories. But let me guess, you usually eat them boiled with potatoes and carrots, or even in pasties or lasagne, right? Well, start eating them raw to really make the most of them. In spring, they go well with seasonal fruit, such as strawberries, plus some avocado, tomatoes, blue cheese and toasted pine nuts. Top off with some croutons and you’ve got a mouthwatering dish.

Pulses. Chickpeas and lentils are probably two of the foods we tend to neglect. Apart from stews, they don’t get much of a look in, when in fact a jar of pulses can often come to the rescue. Our suggestion for a quick, easy and refreshing lentil salad is sweetcorn, tuna, spring onions, chopped olives and your favourite vinaigrette (or a dash of aromatic olive oil with lemon rind), plus whatever else you feel inspired to add. Another trick for getting a good dose of protein without eating meat is to combine lentils with rice (try some basmati) and serve with your favourite side, from cauliflower to tofu.

Rice. What is there to say about one of the most popular and versatile foods in the world? If you’ve got a jar of rice at home, you can forget about precooked rice. If you want something exotic, make a poke bowl: a full meal from Hawaii made with rice, raw fish (some tuna chunks, for example), a superfood (such as kale or avocado) and whatever else you fancy: bean sprouts, apple, celery, radishes… Finish this marvel of nature off with a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and you couldn’t be happier.

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