By William Turner
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 Macerino. 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.
The food was great as it always is in Italy — Tortellini al Tartufo was their specialty, but alas, we’re discussing salads, not pasta. 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 traveled 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 are only eating 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 13 of the 19 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 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 (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.
ARUGULA AND WATERMELON SALAD
- 8 oz. organic baby arugula (I buy organic because we wouldn’t want one of those pesticides ruining our sexy summer salad. It’s readily available and it’s not too expensive.)
- 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,” so be careful you don’t let the juice stain your clothes. Believe me, though, you’ll love it. You will find that arugula and almost any fruit dressed with olive oil and balsamic vinegar tastes surprisingly good.
The next step is experimentation. This is so good in so many ways that I am almost hesitant to offer too many suggestions. You need to do your own thing, but here are some thoughts to get started.
- 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! If you really want to go crazy, add a little chimichurri sauce
- Throw raw pumpkin seeds on all of the salads you make for some extra crunch and a burst of micronutrients found in no other food. (Use the shelled ones — not the ones we used to eat out of little bags and spit out the shells.) Or, even better, roast some pumpkin seeds. You simply buy 1 pound of raw seeds, wet them in a colander, add 1 tablespoon of salt; mix and toast in a skillet until nice and brown. Put them in a bowl, add 1 tablespoon of olive and mix well. This also makes a great appetizer and goes well with cold beer on a summer day.
- 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 goes.