Saturday, 28 November 2015

"My salad days,when I was green in judgement and cold in blood"

 "My salad days,when I was green in judgement and cold in blood"

Who is old enough to remember Cleopatra (comin' atcha!)? In case you don´t they were a band of three sisters with cloying lyrics and colourful overalls! Oh trivia - They topped the music charts in the late 90's with the help of Madonna who signed them to her record label! And the rest was history....and I am old enough to have taken O levels and A levels,long before GCSE´s were even thought of. I studied Anthony and Cleopatra for English literature and the above quote came to mind recently. I would love to think that when Shakespeare wrote it he was craving a winter salad perhaps.One might believe that "salad" refers to the sort of meal one was once, in less lavish (or more diet-conscious) days, forced to subsist on. Others think of their salad days as times of youthful innocence and indulgence, of brightly coloured, freshly grown adventures. But the inventor of the phrase had neither romantic austerity nor flaming youth in mind.
In this particular context, by "salad days" Cleopatra refers to a time not when she had to eat salad, but when she was like salad. From the fifteenth century on, "salad" could mean any raw vegetable; metaphorically, the young Cleopatra was as "green" (inexperienced) and "cold" (passionless) as a piece of lettuce. At least, this is how she explained her youthful affair with Julius Caesar. Love it or eat, it my current exclusion diet has got me thinking about eating salads in the winter.When push comes to shove salad is not the easiest of things to compose at this time of the year.Here in the Algarve with a more temperate climate we are luckier than most in that we are able to have access to some of the vegetables needed most of the year,but as the year draws to a close tomatoes have lost their summertime firmness and flavour and leaves are hard to come by unless of course you go for the supermarket bagged variety.In most cases these have been washed and disinfected in chlorinated water to inhibit bacterial growth.Oh dear, I am still searching for that salad bag labelled washed in spring water,which probably means old water from last spring anyway.All this is reduces the nutritional value of the leaves.Labels claiming ‘packaged in a protective atmosphere’ actually means that it has been ‘gassed’ in modified air in order to extend its shelf life. No good for what I am currently looking for.One thing the doctor did not omit from my diet was bread.In Portugal, rootling around in the bread bin, it will never be too hard to find day old bread, for which there are dozens of uses.Not in the mood for migas, crispy homemade croutons tossed with olive oil, and herbes de Provence immediately came to mind,  and this would add the baker´s touch to a born again salad of roasted peppers, a touch of fennel and some sprigs of thyme.A simple yet scrumptious salad.
Roasted pepper salad with born again bread                       Portion for one serving

4 baby pimentos,Red yellow orange and green, seeded and randomly chopped
2 pieces of fennel sliced into quarters6 baby pear tomatoes
a  scattering of home made Croutons, tossed in olive oil and herbes de provence

Put the peppers , fennel and tomatoes in a small roasting tray and toss with some olive oil and a few sprigs of thyme.Roast in a hot oven for about 15 to twenty minutes until the tomatoes start to wrinkle and the peppers are softened and have taken on a bit of charred colour.Toss the the croutons among the vegetables and return to the oven for 5 minutes more.Serve immediately.The salad is packed with flavour and coated in oil so should not need any dressing.Add a little vinaigrette if you like.

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