Sometimes everything comes together and it all becomes clear. For, example, most people think of salads and can’t get excited. Well, that has all changed for me. Let me tell you how I got to this new place.
Two years ago we were in Italy, staying in a small village in Umbria called Maccerino. There was only one restaurant in the Village. It was operated by a family, with grandmother in the kitchen and mom handling the front along with two beautiful daughters. The father ran the family farm and either produced or bought all of the ingredients.
We had many of our meals there and I was surprised that they always served an arugula salad usually with fruit like watermelon, strawberries, or pomegranates. It all depended on what was in season. The dressing was a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sometimes they would add avocado, pine nuts, or pumpkin seeds. These were real taste treats. As we travelled outside the village, we continued to find these same arugula salads with different fruits and nuts.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago and I am reading an article from Reader’s Digest called “19 Aphrodisiac Foods Proven to Spark Romance”. (Actually, “aphrodisiac” as a word shouldn’t really have such a sexual connotation. It really means something that releases the “feel good” hormones like dopamine and endorphins. It just so happens that lovemaking releases the same hormones.)
Scrolling through the list, I find arugula, then watermelon, then strawberries then olive oil and pine nuts. Holy Cow! This is all of the stuff we were served every day in Italy. These Italians only eat libido-enhancing foods! Good grief, no wonder that they are the epitome of fun loving, happy and, yes, sexy people. Then I looked more closely at the list and thirteen of the nineteen foods were really salad ingredients with arugula as the only leafy green.
Suddenly it became clear. Salads can be really sexy. The Italians know what they are doing.
Clearly, we have to get on involved with this salad thing. Let’s look more closely at the Reader’s Digest list: There are some non-salad items like oysters, which always seems to be at the top of the list (and I wonder if there is really any science to back that up). And, then there is also coffee, chai tea, honey, chocolate and, strangely enough, whipped cream (no comments).
The other 13 top foods are salad ingredients. Here they are:
- Peppers, especially hot peppers
- Pumpkin seeds
- Olives and Olive Oil
- Pine Nuts
Of course, you might wonder what to do with some of the things on the list, like the artichoke, but I’ve always got my friend, Bob, who would quickly tell me what he thinks I should do with an artichoke.
So, let’s get started. Here is your assignment for the summer. Start with a simple salad that will really surprise you – Arugula with Watermelon. Then experiment with different combinations of things. You will quickly come up with a number of new ideas that might lead to creative ideas all over the place.
- 8 oz. Organic Baby Arugula (I buy organic because we wouldn’t want one of those pesticides ruining our sexy summer salad. And, most stores carry it and it is not too expensive, especially compared to cancer treatments.)
- 2 cups of diced watermelon, about ½ inch square.
- 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- ½ Tsp. salt
- ¼ Tsp. pepper
Mix together and serve.
People will think that you are a genius after you serve this very simple salad. Now you can begin to experiment. Try the same recipe with strawberries and then pomegranate. The latter is a little hard to “shell” and be careful of staining clothes, but you will love it. You will find that arugula and almost any fruit dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastes surprisingly good.
You need to do your own thing, but here are some thoughts to get you going.
- Prepare a salad with arugula and avocado. Avocado goes well with anything. Then grill a flank steak, slice as thinly as humanly possible and add to this salad. Yum!
- Throw raw pumpkin seeds (shelled of course – not the ones we used to eat out of little bags and spit out the shells) on all of the salads for some extra crunch and a burst of micronutrients found in no other food. Or, even better, roast some pumpkin seeds. You simply buy one pound of raw seeds, wet them in a colander, add one tablespoon of salt, mix and toast in a skillet until nice and brown. Put them in a bowl, add one tablespoon of olive and mix well. This also makes a great appetizer and goes well with cold beer on a summer day. (In Mexico, these roasted seeds are called Pepitas – See our post)
- Try the salad equivalent of a “garbage pizza” and throw all of these libido liberators together. People who have tried this have reported a new level of delight.
Make sure that you try these salads and let us know how it went.