Salad Leaves Are Overrated
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you’re asked to create or bring a salad? Chances are that the first thing that pops into your mind are salad leaves. Salads have evolved from that humble, often scoffed at side dish that no one really fancies to become a lot more than just that. Outside of those plain ol’ salad leaves and dressing out of a plastic bottle, everything from fruits, nuts, greens, meat, cheeses and more can be tossed together to create a powerful punch of taste, flavours and aromas that leave your belly and tastebuds asking for more. Salad-making has also become a bit of an art form where one could really go ‘out of the box’ to create a repertoire of salads that are hearty and nutritious, or indulgent and extravagant.
I had a delightful chat with salad creating extraodinaires, Phenie, Amy and Sammy over at The Devil Wears Salad on their quest to create salad recipes that are not only delectable, but are also worthy to steal the show at the dinner table. Read onto uncover their devilish salad secrets to make even Anna Wintour craving for more.
I must ask about the name! Was it inspired by 'The Devil Wears Prada?
Absolutely! Initially, we were stumped for a name so we asked Amy’s partner to help as he has a way with words and is fairly creative. We had a few criteria to meet as it would set the course for our brand and the trajectory of the business. This was our brief:
Criteria 1: We wanted a name that evoked a sense of style, sophistication and dare we say sexy!
Criteria 2: The name also had to be synonymous with excellence, that we were always on top of our game and the forefront of our industry, just the way Anna Wintour was in the world of couture fashion.
Criteria 3: We wanted to play devil’s advocate and fly in the face of what everyone thinks salad should be. We talked about dark moods, wicked styling and provocative recipes.
Criteria 4: We also love a bit of tongue in cheek, play on words and of course, something that was fun and memorable.
And with that, he came up with The Devil Wears Salad in literally seconds. And the rest is history!
What's the thing you love most about working on your business?
Where do we start? All 3 members of the team have their forte, which is what makes this business work so well. We live and breathe The Devil Wears Salad not because we have to but because it still keeps us up at night and gets us out of bed in the morning. Nothing more fulfilling than being excited about what we do.
But if we must pick one, it definitely goes back to the very core of why we started this website in the first place and that is to create salad recipes that not only work but to also show our readers how to make them entertainment worthy and steal the show!
What are your top 5 tips when it comes to creating a salad that's both a taste and visual feast?
Excellent question and I believe that people who shy away from making salads is because they haven’t been privy to the right decision-making processes and methods:
Tip 1: We always start with one hero ingredient. Salad makers make the mistake of deciding on a whole bunch of produce and then they get frustrated. Just choose one thing and from there build the rest of the ingredients around it by understanding what ingredient pairs with what. We understand that sounds difficult, which is why we created an entire pairings section on our website to help our readers.
Tip 2: When we’re looking at all the ingredients, we have to picture it in our minds what it would look like if they were put together. Is it too bland in colour? Are all the textures and forms limp and boring? We always try to add at least 1 element that stands out or at least gives the salad that oomph it needs.
And when we look at our ingredients, we don’t always cut it, cook it or present it in the stock standard way. Why do carrots always have to be diced or tomatoes have to be sliced? Well, they certainly don’t in our book!
Tip 3: We are never afraid to try new things. With the emergence of hybrid vegetables, we are constantly introduced to produce that we are not familiar with. We especially love finding these in farmer’s markets where we also get to talk to our local and regional farmers and learning more about the fruit and vegetables they grow.
Also, we love to explore ingredients that are culturally foreign to us. No better way to excite the senses then to walk into a grocer where you have no idea what 90% of the things they sell are!
Tip 4: We always try to mix it up with our dressings, which is the one component you don’t normally see in a salad. But there are so many combinations that you’d be spoilt for choice. The dressing is our opportunity to balance or uplift the overall taste of the salad.
For example, if the salad is too bitter, create a dressing that is sweeter or if the salad is too bland, create a dressing that has umami undertones. We also know this sounds complicated so we have also created an entire section on the website with dressing recipes.
Tip 5: Contrary to popular belief, we don’t mix and toss about half of our ingredients. We do a lot of “building” and “layering”. This way it gives us better control of styling and it’s not just one glob of mess. And this is not a practise just for taking images, it is common practise in our salad making process.
What are some of your favourite salad ingredients?
That is a BIG question! In general, we love anything fresh, exotic, plump, unusual, colourful and most importantly, bursting with flavour.
To be more specific, we love pomegranate, cauliflower, burrata, radicchio and cherry tomatoes. Beautiful, basic produce. Nothing out of the ordinary there!
Is there such a thing as an unhealthy salad?
Yes of course! Like any food we consume, we can choose to make it as unhealthy or healthy as possible. Just because one is adding a fresh/raw element to a recipe, does not instantly make it healthy, especially if the other elements are fatty, contains a lot of refined sugar or is perhaps deep fried.
In saying that however, salads in general do provide for a healthier option in perhaps most cases if done properly. We use a lot of fresh produce and vinaigrettes but some of our recipes do also have a teeny bit of naughty in them too! Too hard to suppress the devil in us.
Not everyone's a fan of dressing, do you have any tips on creating a salad that doesn't require dressing?
Salad dressings are the shoes that completes the outfit for a great night out.
But if shoes are not your thing, opt for one plain black pair of heels that will complement any dress. In the salad world, that would simply be good olive oil.
It is therefore crucial that you pick ingredients that are packed with flavour that don’t require a dressing to enhance it in anyway. Let’s not forget that the dressing also provides the moisture that binds the ingredients together.
Choose ingredients that are delicious, some that are juicy or creamy and something that provides a bit of crunch. Fruit make for an excellent ingredient in salads as it gives you some natural sweetness. Add a cooked component like caramelised onions or some dairy like goat’s cheese.
What are 3 of your favourite salad creations?
Asparagus, Roasted Onion and Balsamic Tomato Salad
This is a classic example of how one can enhance a leafy salad. Many people see mixed greens and instantly think its dry, bland and rabbit food. With a little creativity, this leafy salad is transformed. Roasting the onions makes it sweet, blistering the tomato gives it the super juicy element whilst the asparagus gives it crunch.
Rissoni, Asparagus and Edamame Salad
We love this salad because we wanted to showcase the fact that not all salads have to be colourful to be presented well nor does it need to have strong flavours to be delicious. This salad represents the understated flavours of ingredients and how we shouldn’t underestimate a simple salad. This salad command so much attention.
Roaster Beetroot Salad with Halloumi and Pomegranate Glaze.
This is a visually stunning salad. The kind you put on the table and instantly your guests go “wow!”. The deep purple hues of the beetroot are simply gorgeous and certainly highlights the light creamy textures of the halloumi. The flavours are like a party in your mouth. Sweet and salty fighting to get your attention.
Last but not least, what are your grand plans for ‘The Devil Wears Salad’?
Our number one goal is to be the go-to authority on salad recipes. We are constantly exploring, learning and researching and the path is wide open for any opportunities to help us get there.
We would love to perhaps have a retail element one day, merchandising, a cookbook, a magazine or newspaper column, workshops, etc.. The digital world continues to evolve at a lightning fast rate and one never knows what other things lay in waiting for 3 work from home mums who would love nothing more than to make friends with salad!
With Happy Food Vibes,