Salad assembly generally is a pathetic — and pathetically easy — process that involves grabbing whatever greens haven't wilted at the back of the refrigerator, piling on whatever other vegetables are handy — and if we're feeling indulgent maybe some leftover protein and cheese — and calling it good. Follow a recipe? Not likely.
So I was surprised to be so smitten with "Salad Love," a new cookbook by London salad blogger (three words not often strung together) David Bez. The book is based on his blog, "Salad Pride," which he started in 2010, after challenging himself to create and consume a new salad every day for a year. The blog is a lovely source for salad inspiration, but the book is even lovelier.
Its main strength: "Salad Love" takes a counterintuitive approach to being a cookbook. There are no recipes, at least not in the traditional sense.
Rather, the book packs in 260 salad and dressing ideas, collections of ingredients Bez suggests work well together. Each ingredient set is accompanied by a photo (by Bez), as well as suggestions for making each salad vegan or omnivorous, as appropriate. But the rest is left to the reader. And the message clearly is that improv is good.
It's a flip book approach to salad making, and it works. The ideas — all of which take 20 minutes or less to assemble — are creative without being outlandish, spanning a toss of broiled squid, avocado, edamame and chili to kale with blackberries and raspberries dressed with an almond vinaigrette. The book also is divided into seasons, a nice play for a meal many people think of only during warmer months.
This is a salad book, and salads aren't all that sexy. So this book is likely to fly under a lot of radars. But if you're a salad eater looking for easy inspiration, it's well worth checking out.
("Salad Love" by David Bez, Clarkson Potter, 2015)
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org