I’m of the opinion that making salad is not cooking. I don’t know if people oppose this view, or agree, but it has always bothered me a little to see recipes for salads. What do you need the recipe for? You just throw some lettuce in a bowl, mix in some variation of the typical combination of nuts, cheese, and fruit and you have yourself a salad. I even got annoyed at my wonderful Williams-Sonoma Florence cookbook (which I love, thanks ma) for including a recipe for a simple cold, mixed green salad that involved no cooking at all. It’s not that difficult to do, do you really need something to tell you “Put all ingredients in bowl. Combine well. Eat.”? Yes. Even though I go off now on salad recipes, I do love a good ole mix of spinach, goat cheese, strawberries, and pine nuts. Or blue cheese, pears, and walnuts. Or parmesan, tomatoes, and pine nuts…or any number of combinations. I feel that these are all fairly obvious pairings that anyone can easily throw together, which maybe is why I get irritated when I see recipes for these common salads upon the pages of my favorite books or websites. What I want to see is something out of the ordinary, a salad that doesn’t happen everyday.
For me, that salad happened one day in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico around the summer of 2003. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the restaurant, but I do remember we returned. And I remember the wonderful plate of avocado and mango salad that I got, with perfect alternating slices of green and bright yellow that matched in size. Now, I’m aware that there are many recipes for an avocado and mango salad, but this was my first experience with it, and I have since rarely seen it on menus and have yet to be served one at a friend’s dinner. I have, however, gotten to serve it to others, and earlier this week I had a craving for that creamy, muted avocado flavor and the thick sweet mangos, so I had the pleasure of breaking someone else into the goodness that is an avocado and mango salad. And then I decided that I could live in Mexico.
Avocado and Mango Salad
1 squishy but not too juicy mango
1 ripe avocado
1 head of butter lettuce (I used butter lettuce, but you could try any green you like)
some basil leaves (this was a last minute decision and good one. I am partial to basil though...)
Freshly ground pepper
Wash and tear off butter lettuce leaves, arranging them on a plate or bowl however you want. Cut the mango into long, half-moon slices (if I had a better way to say it, or knew how to cut a mango correctly, I would tell you). Halve the avocado and cut into long slices like the mango. Arrange alternately on the plate, or throw them all in, wherever they end up is fine. Tear basil leaves in small parts and put in between fruit. Squirt a lime and grind some pepper. Eat. Enjoy with one other person. Think of being in Mexico.
A little note: I know my version is very simple, even without olive oil as a dressing, but I like my main flavors to really stand out. Dan is not so simple. And he is very into his Asian flavors. He was not going to stop at simply “squirt a lime.” He made his own dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, tamari (soy sauce), olive oil, cilantro, basil, mint, a tiny red chilli pepper, and added some pickled ginger to the finished salad. There is still a debate as to whose is better. Dan's salad