Todd English prefers a no-rules approach to salad making.
"That's what makes salads so great, their versatility and there are no rules so you get to be totally creative to make them into whatever you want!" English said in an e-mail interview. "Salads really are one of the few acceptable ways that we eat raw foods in this country, and they're a wonderful way to eat healthy and fresh while enjoying the bounties of each season!"
While he doesn't have a single favorite salad, English loves any salad that is a picture of contrasts.
"My favorite salads are the ones where there are different components of flavor and texture," he said. "I love the contrasts in flavors of sharp, sweet and acidic, plus contrasting textures with soft or crunchy lettuces balanced by creamy cheeses, toasted nuts or crunchy croutons. And I LOVE vinaigrettes."
For AP's 20 Salads of Summer series, English offered a recipe for grapefruit and crab salad from his forthcoming book, "Cooking in Everyday English."
"I always approach my cooking thinking about flavor equations, and layering big bold flavors," he said. "Salads lend themselves perfectly to this because with each bite you are getting a combination of ingredients, textures and sometimes even temperatures. Also, this salad is proof that you don't need a ton of ingredients or labor intensive steps to create delicious food.
"The few ingredients I've used shine together. I thought about balance, such as the coolness of the crab with the acidity and tartness of the grapefruit, and the use of the coconut milk, which is a Thai cooking technique I learned," he said. "Thai cooking looks to balance sweet, salty, and sour, and this salad does that with the coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice in the dressing."
GRAPEFRUIT AND CRAB SALAD
Start to finish: 20 minutes
1/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup coconut water or coconut milk
1/4 cup canola oil
4 teaspoons fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon minced dried Thai chilies (about 3 chilies)
1 pound drained jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over to remove any shells
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 red grapefruit, sectioned
In a medium bowl, whisk together the lime juice, coconut water or milk, canola oil, fish sauce and chilies.
In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, cilantro and dressing, tossing well. Add the grapefruit sections, then toss gently.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 210 calories; 90 calories from fat (43 percent of total calories); 10 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 55 mg cholesterol; 14 g carbohydrate; 17 g protein; 2 g fiber; 600 mg sodium.
(Recipe from Todd English's forthcoming "Cooking in Everyday English," Oxmoor House, 2011)