Some people adore salads; I don’t. Most salad lovers worship raw greens; I don’t. Well, generally. There is an exception. When raw greens are combined with fruits and nuts, a salad becomes lovable. Adorable, in fact. Yep, just like this lettuce, lychee and mango salad tossed with homemade honey-mustard dressing.
You find the combination of salad ingredients strange? Think, instead, of how versatile salad is. For me, that versatility lies in the combination of salad ingredients rather than in the endless variety of salad dressings and condiments that one can toss them with. The thing is, in many restaurants where I’ve ordered salad, I have often been asked if I wanted more grated Parmesan or more pepper, and there had been moments when I wanted to scream, “Don’t you people know anything except to drown salads with grated Parmesan and pepper?” There are a lot of other cheeses that go well with salad and they don’t always have to be grated — they can be torn by hand, or crumbled or shaved. And pepper? Too much pepper can ruin the delicate flavors of salad ingredients.
Then, there’s the matter of the dressing. I mean, seriously, does anyone really think that by simply changing the dressing, a salad would become a new experience every time if the combination of ingredients remains practically the same? A salad dressing is called a dressing for a good reason — it is a dressing, an accessory, a helper. The real life of the salad is in the ingredients, not in the dressing.
So, next time you think salad and you want to get excited about eating tasteless raw leaves, think of what you can combine them with rather than what you can dress them with.
Lettuce, Lychee and Mango Salad
- lettuce (any variety)
- lychees (I used canned)
- sweet ripe mangoes
- nuts any kind
For the dressing:
- 2 parts honey
- 2 parts Dijon mustard
- 2 parts extra virgin olive oil
- 1 part lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
Rinse the lettuce well. If you're worried about traces of pesticide on the leaves, see tips on what you can do. Tear the lettuce into bite-size pieces and dry with a salad spinner.
Cut the cucumber into thin rings. Peel them before cutting or not is up to you.
If using canned lychees, drain well. If they are rather large, cut them into halves.
Cut both sides of the mangoes as close to the stone as you can. Score the mango flesh without piercing the skin then scoop out with a spoon.
Roughly chop the nuts. Toast in an oil-free pan until lightly browned and glistening. Cool.
Make the salad dressing. Take a jar with a screw-type cap and pour in the honey, mustard, olive oil and lemon juice. Shake well to combine. Add salt and pepper, and shake again. Taste and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
Place the lettuce, cucumber rings, lychees, mango strips and half of the nuts in a bowl. Using your hands, toss them lightly. Pour in just enough salad dressing to wet the ingredients. Toss lightly once more.
Heap the salad into bowls and top with the remaining nuts.