There’s no good reason not to keep on smiling your way through a wide selection of salads even in the depths of winter. Classic salads, like Ceasar Salad, Waldorf Salad, or Salad Nicoise might once have been best made using produce found in summertime, but in many cases the ingredients can be found quite readily year-round, or just a small tweak will allow you to amend the recipe to use what’s in season. Then there are the sorts of seasonal ingredients that are actually better in the colder months – apples in autumn, beetroots in winter, and so on.
In their book, Around the World in Salads, Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi show you 120 ways to ‘love your leaves’. In her introduction, Katie Caldesi explains her interest in salads, and how they became vital to her diet after a diagnosis of diabetes in the family.
“I have always been drawn to salads. I like the crunch of fresh vegetables, lively colourful leaves and punchy dressings. They sharpen my mind and give me energy yet still fill me up without leaving me sluggish and tired. I can’t say the same for how my husband, Giancarlo, feels; he was pasta man and I was salad girl. Then within one month our world turned upside down. Giancarolo was told he was diabetic; he had to lose weight, give up sugar and easily and eat less carbohydrates. This meant less pasta, no more cappuccino with sugar or cakes and biscuits. Then just weeks later he was told he was intolerant to gluten, badly so. Poor Giancarlo! He had to give up pasta, bread and pizza, all the things a traditional Italian man loves. On the bright side he could eat salads and no one told him he shouldn’t eat vegetables!”
A new world
“A few months after this we found out that our son Giorgio is also gluten intolerant. So now we are pretty much gluten-free as a family and vegetables take centre stage. We grow plenty of our own and try to buy local and organic where possible.
“Salad is fresh, it is rich in nutrients and usually, though not always, low in sugar and often gluten-free. Our book was inspired by a new way of eating at home, eating healthy food made from scratch 90% of the time and treating ourselves to indulgences the other 10%. When we eat carbohydrates such as pasta, potatoes, grains, or sugary foods such as fresh or dried fruit, natural unprocessed forms of sugar, we eat them with protein and fat so as not to raise blood sugar levels. Looking back this is the way that Giancarlo’s family ate in Tuscany when he was growing up. Small portions of pasta with ragu sauce, meat went further with plenty of vegetables, and salad from the garden accompanied bread and cheese. His family were all lean and healthy. It was in the UK Giancarlo started to have huge portions of pasta, milky coffee all day, cravings the sweet fruits and sugary biscuits. To stop it I needed him and our children to cross over to the green side of life.
“Together we set out to discover new ways of eating vegetables with a focus on salads from all corners of the world. We travelled to Southeast Asia, Morocco, Italy and the US to discover a new way of eating. We worked with family cooks and chefs from countries such as India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, North and South America, China, Japan, France, Kuwait, Greece, Peru, Korea , and more. We wanted to understand and be confident in using unfamiliar ingredients to prepare dressings, marinades and spice rubs. We also learned to cut vegetables differently, how presentation makes a huge difference, how to play with textures and to balance sweet-and-sour.
“From our travels we have broadened our culinary horizons. We have been inspired by other cultures and have been enthused by the people we have met all those cooks who have generously brought their salads to life for us. We have usually increased our repertoire of family meals and found a healthier way to eat.
“Giancarlo and I are both enthusiastic teachers (in our cookery school) as well as restauranteurs. In writing book we wanted to say ‘look how easy it is to prepare’, ‘try this, it’s really good for you and tastes amazing’ and above all ‘look how you can make every day vegetables into magnificent and moreish salad’.”
Food features and recipes like this appear in the Desang Diabetes Magazine, our free-to-receive digital journal. We cover diabetes news, diabetes ‘kit’ and information on food suitable for maintaining good blood glucose control or a diabetic diet, including a regular Making Carbs Count column. It’s free! Go to the top of this page to sign up – we just need your email address. See current and past issues at