KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — Sometimes less is more.
The simple summer salad before me consists of barely three ingredients — fresh leafy greens, scarlet raspberries and slices of Brie — if you don’t count the dressing, which is but a most basic vinaigrette.
The satisfying crunch of the arugula and frisée leaves, the sweet tartness of the raspberries, the mild creaminess of the Brie: together these make for a refreshing bite with every forkful of salad.
Sometimes we don’t need more than that.
There is a certain magic about making a dish from scratch without investing half a day on it. To use fewer but fresher and better quality ingredients.
And if you spend less time in the kitchen, sweating and toiling over a hot stove or kneading dough on the countertop, so be it.
Cooking and baking for hours can be a meditative endeavour, but taking only a few minutes to whip up a meal can be just as restorative.
It will leave you more time to read a book or take a walk in the garden, to take stock of your life.
For life can be complicated, sometimes tiresomely and tiringly so.
Some of us may consider that we have it all figured out: family, a job, a roof over our heads, food on the table, and whatever else we may require for a decent life.
Then something comes and pulls the rug out from underneath us, and we’re left scrambling, trying to gather our wits and return to The Way It Was Before.
We are certain that we can always rebuild.
And then there are the few of us who understand that we will never figure it all out. That we will always be searching, always wondering what our purpose might be.
We are certain that we will be happier once we know.
Life can be complicated and sometimes we are the ones who make it so.
There will always be troubles — trials and tribulations aplenty — but for now we crave a simpler life, if only for an hour or two on the weekend when we can put aside our work and our worries. (If but for the moment.)
An easy and uncomplicated dish, then, to balance a life that is never less than interesting. A trouble-free meal.
Barely two or three main ingredients, allowing each to shine on its own yet their sum glow all the brighter for their union. (When raspberries meet Brie, you hear some movie trailer narrator intonation, sparks will fly!)
You take another forkful of this summer salad and you think to yourself: Sometimes less is more. Sometimes we don’t need more than that.
RASPBERRY & BRIE SUMMER SALAD
For a summer salad, I typically stick to a bare-bones formula of greens, berries and cheese. There’s no cooking involved which is a boon when it’s hot.
Select from your favourite leafy greens to create the base of your summer salad. Curly frisée, a type of endive; spicy-bitter radicchio; dark kale, a superfood in its own right; peppery mizuna; the fat and fragrant leaves of basil – consider the greens you love best.
Use a salad spinner. Nothing is more disappointing than leaves that wilt from too much liquid and a watered down dressing.
For berries, I have chosen raspberries, which are full of antioxidant polyphenols called ellagitannins, which may help reduce oxidative stress. Strawberries and blueberries work great too, and are rich in nutrients as well.
Besides Brie, you may choose from a variety of cheeses — again, pick what you like! Parmesan and aged Cheddar are another two possibilities, though perhaps better grated rather than sliced.
To dress your salad, you don’t need much beyond basics such as good extra virgin olive oil, lime juice (or sweeter balsamic vinegar), runny honey and some salt and pepper to taste. Pour it all into a clean used jam jar, screw on the cap tightly and give it a hard shake.
If you feel more substance is required or to enjoy this salad not as a side but a main, add some protein. Some chilled and sliced cooked chicken meat, cubes of tofu or even opening a can of tuna does the trick.
200g salad greens, washed and spun dry
125g raspberries, about one punnet
100g Brie, cut into thin slices or wedges
100ml extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2-3 limes
1 tablespoon runny honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Use a salad spinner to dry your salad leaves after washing. Place into a large salad bowl. Layer the raspberries and slices of Brie over the salad greens.
Pour all the ingredients for the vinaigrette (extra virgin olive oil, lime juice, honey, salt and pepper) into a clean used jam jar. Screw on the cap tightly and give the jar a hard shake until everything is well combined.
Drizzle some of the over vinaigrette over salad right before serving. Go light on the vinaigrette; you can always add more later if necessary.
For more Weekend Kitchen and other slice-of-life stories, visit lifeforbeginners.com.