Thomasina Miers’ recipes for summer salads

<span>Thomasina Miers' smoky caesar with fried croutons.</span><span>Photograph: Kim Lightbody/The Guardian. Food styling: Ellie Mulligan. Prop styling; Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Lara Cook.</span>
Thomasina Miers' smoky caesar with fried croutons.Photograph: Kim Lightbody/The Guardian. Food styling: Ellie Mulligan. Prop styling; Anna Wilkins. Food styling assistant: Lara Cook.

Some think of salads as an exercise in restraint. For me, though, they are the opposite. Just think of dressings: delicious mixtures of vinegar, oil and almost anything else. Vinegars lend sparkling acidity to anything they touch, while a good olive oil is full of the right fatty acids, tastes wonderful and carries other flavours effortlessly. And, like all good fats, it really sates you. A great salad is a mouth-watering combination of fresh ingredients, a glossy dressing and all the crisp crunch you could want.

Smoked mackerel caesar salad with fried croutons

A riff on a classic using flaky smoked mackerel for extra umami, and croutons fried in a pan for ease.

Prep 15 min
Cook 10 min
Serves 4

2 thick slices sourdough, cut into 3cm cubes
3-4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp capers
, drained and dried on kitchen paper
2 large cos lettuces
270g smoked mackerel fillets
grana padano or parmesan, finely grated

For the dressing
2 egg yolks
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tsp red-wine vinegar
1 tsp
dijon mustard
6 anchovy fillets
, drained and chopped
2 small garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Salt and black pepper
olive oil
100ml vegetable oil

To make the dressing, put the egg yolks, lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, anchovies and garlic in the bowl of a small food processor, add a pinch of salt and blitz to a paste. With the motor running, gradually add the oils, beginning with a very slow, thin trickle and slowly moving up to a thin stream once the ingredients have emulsified. Blend to a smooth sauce, adding one or two tablespoons of water towards the end, until the dressing is the consistency of pouring cream. Adjust the salt or lemon juice to taste.

To make the croutons, put a frying pan on a medium heat. After a few minutes, add two tablespoons of the oil and the cubes of bread, season with a few pinches of salt and saute, stirring, for four to five minutes, until golden and crisp all over; add more oil if needed. Sprinkle with the paprika, fry for half a minute longer, then transfer to a plate. Add the remaining oil to the pan, turn up the heat and fry the capers for a minute or two, until they start to pop and turn crisp.

Cut the lettuces in half lengthways and break up the leaves, then wash and dry them. Mix the leaves, croutons and mackerel in a large bowl, flaking the fish into generous chunks (fry the skin in the frying pan until crisp and use this to garnish the salad, if you like). Toss the lot in the dressing and cheese, then arrange on plates and top with the crisp capers and freshly ground black pepper. Taste: there will be saltiness from the parmesan, capers and dressing, but you may need a touch more. When it’s tasting irresistibly good, serve.

Grapefruit, mint and burrata salad with pistachio oil

Bittersweet grapefruit, fresh mint, creamy burrata and a nutty crunch.

Prep 10 min
Serves 4

For the pistachio oil
60g pistachios
2 handfuls mint leaves
2-3 tsp cider vinegar
Juice and zest of
1 lime
½ tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp capers
150ml extra-virgin olive oil

For the salad
3 little gem lettuces
50g rocket
2 baby cucumbers
, halved lengthways and finely sliced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium grapefruits
, segmented, any juices saved
225g burrata
20g grana padano or parmesan, finely grated

First, make the pistachio oil. Shell the pistachios and put all but a tablespoon of them in a blender with half the mint leaves, two teaspoons of vinegar and all the other ingredients. Blend for a minute until thoroughly combined, and taste, adjusting the seasoning with more vinegar, salt or sugar if needed.

Separate the gem leaves and wash and dry them with the rocket. Toss with the remaining handful of mint leaves, cucumber, olive oil and saved grapefruit juice. Pile on to a large platter, scatter the grapefruit segments on top, then break up the burrata and strew over eveything. Grate over the hard cheese and top with the pistachio oil. Roughly chop the reserved pistachios, scatter over the salad and serve.

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