Monday, January 24

Basil with Cured Ham Salad

I decided to make a salad today. 
Incidentally, Mondays is when our gardener tends to our garden all-day.  I've started this mini project: growing different herbs all around the house (it all started when one of my best friends named Tricia, gave me a Keffir Lime plant a few years back, and since then, I've been addicted).  My ever-growing collection of basil, tarragon, oregano, several kinds of chillies, keffir, and peppermint will soon welcome the dwarf calamansi! 

My love for gardening is due to my grandfather who exposed me to the beauty of flowers.  He was known to have a green thumb.

Determined to use herbs from The Young Tongue's garden, here's how I made today's salad...
Wash fresh hand-plucked basil leaves thrice.  I do this 3-time ritual because I've always been worried of pesticides and soil coming into my food.  And although I don't use pesticides for my herb garden at home, I still wash it thrice.  I'm a creature of habit I suppose.
If you don't have a salad spinner or was just too lazy to look for it in the kitchen (like me), line a plate with paper towel and arrange your basil leaves one-by-one to dry.  If you want to keep your washed herbs or salad greens in the fridge ahead of service, you can also use this same paper towel to cover it.  It will help keep your greens crisp.

If you want to keep your herbs longer in the fridge, place it in a bowl or glass with water (this works for those herbs without woody stalks).  Woody stalks do better infusing oils.
If you have some truffle infused-oil (I stress on the word "infused" because so many claim to be the real deal -- I heavily advice reading labels for your protection), this salad works well with it.  But if you don't have any, extra virgin olive oil will do.
I like using balsamic reductions for my salad dressing.  It's top notes are far from acidic - something to consider when feeding someone with a sore throat.
Drizzle your balsamic reduction and truffle oil on a salad plate.
Add sea salt, preferably one that comes from ile de re (which has a subtle taste of the sea).

Add your basil.
And add cured ham.  I used a present from a friend named Mags.  She got this cured ham from Spain and hand-carried it all the way Manila.  It really tastes good!  The Young Tongue is addicted with this too.
Add some cherry tomatoes.
Finish off with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.  I like to use the stravecchio because it's saltier and tastier than the regular ones.  Basically, it's aged for 3 years.  

I learned from a trip to Parma, that the regular ones are aged for 2 years.  So don't be fooled.  I came across a store (I won't tell where) that sells Parmigiano-Reggiano that is younger than 2 years (you can easily tell with the marks on the rind which should have no lines).  I guess they buy the blocks that don't sell in Italy?  And that's not quite the real deal.