AUSTRALIA, being one of the great culinary leaders of the world for modern food, leaves no doubt that your choice for a good old salad around the barbie has reached new heights.
This means we all have, at some stage, moved away from the old iceberg lettuce and reached out for the more exotic salad fillers available to us. One of my all time favourite green leaves to munch on at a BBQ would have to be a bunch of freshly picked rocket leaves.
This peppery salad leaf is steeped in Italian heritage and marries perfectly with any Mediterranean ingredients to hit the table.
Rocket salad is so versatile it can be used in almost any dish — from soups to using a few tangy leaves to spread over your favourite pizza.
In my kitchen, we make summer rocket pasta where we blanch the leaves and add to our pasta dough to make deep green peppery pasta before turning it into ravioli filled with prawns and scallops.
But of course, one of the most common uses of rocket is creating big bowls of leaves tossed with vine-ripened tomatoes, caramelized red onions and shavings of Parmesan cheese.
And if you needed more reason to crown rocket the greatest – it is perfect with a number of vinaigrettes and dressings. It all depends on the mood you are in and what you are cooking on the BBQ.
With salad dressings, follow the classic 3:1 ratio – 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. Splashing a few drops over just before serving lifts the flavours of the salad further and makes it the perfect accompaniment.
Aged balsamic is the classic go to or fresh lemon for fish and chicken is hard to beat, simple yet refreshing.
Another useful recipe tip I have for the BBQ, especially for my rocket pesto recipe is to substitute the rocket for basil – it is hard to beat.
So lets get cracking on a few simple salad ideas for this king of salad leaves. Enjoy and happy cooking!
Chris’s top summer salads
Roasted butternut squash, pine nut and rocket salad with yoghurt and mint
Need – Two handfuls of roast squash, chilled, 3 tsps of toasted pine nuts, ½ cup of Greek yoghurt flavoured with mint cucumber and black pepper. Thinly sliced red onion. Three handfuls of fresh rocket.
To do – Lie out the squash onto a large dish and arrange the ingredients over the squash. Splash the yoghurt over the salad and drizzle with fresh olive oil, serve and smile.
Classic smoked salmon, rocket, sun blushed tomatoes, basil and preserved lemon
What you Need – 250g freshly smoked salmon, 5 handfuls of rocket, small jar of sun blushed tomatoes, ½ bunch of basil leaves, olive oil, 3 cheeks of preserved lemons thinly sliced (found on most supermarket shelves).
What To do – Toss the rocket, tomatoes, and basil and preserved lemon together in a large bowl and lay on a large plate. Place the smoked salmon over the leaves and any remainder basil leaves, then dress with the olive oil and sea salt.
Rocket Pesto — You will need a hand blender or Mortar and pestle
What you Need – 3 handfuls of fresh picked rocket, 4 tsp of toasted pine nuts, ½ cup of grated Parmesan cheese, 1 clove of garlic finely chopped, olive oil, salt and pepper.
What To do – Roughly chop the leaves and place into a jug for blending, add the Parmesan, pine nuts and garlic. Add ½ cup of olive oil and start blending. When the leaves are broken down slowly add the olive oil till a smooth paste forms. Once a paste develops, taste and add a little salt.
Perfect for a hot or cold pasta salad, warm charlotte potatoes or char grilled salmon steaks.