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Ensalada Mixta: A Fresh and Versatile Mediterranean Salad

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Ensalada Mixta, or Mixed Salad, is a quintessential dish in Mediterranean cuisine that celebrates the vibrant flavors of fresh vegetables, complemented by a simple yet flavorful dressing. This versatile salad is beloved across Spain, Italy, Greece, and other Mediterranean countries for its simplicity, freshness, and ability to accompany a wide range of main dishes. Featuring a colorful assortment of vegetables, olives, cheese, and a tangy dressing, Ensalada Mixta offers a delightful blend of textures and flavors that can be enjoyed as a starter, a side dish, or a light meal on its own. Let’s explore the origins, ingredients, and steps to prepare this classic salad that embodies the essence of Mediterranean dining.

Origins and Culinary Heritage

Ensalada Mixta has its roots in Mediterranean culinary traditions, where fresh produce is abundant and celebrated year-round. This salad reflects the region’s emphasis on using locally sourced ingredients and showcasing their natural flavors. While variations of Mixed Salad exist across Mediterranean countries, the essence remains the same: a harmonious combination of crisp vegetables, briny olives, creamy cheese, and a tangy dressing that enhances every bite. Ensalada Mixta is not only a delicious dish but also a testament to Mediterranean cuisine’s simplicity and focus on quality ingredients.

Ingredients for Ensalada Mixta

To prepare Ensalada Mixta, gather the following ingredients:

  • For the Salad:
    • Mixed salad greens (such as lettuce, arugula, and spinach)
    • 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
    • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced
    • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
    • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
    • 1/2 cup pitted black olives
    • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese
  • For the Dressing:
    • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • Optional Additions:
    • Sliced avocado
    • Cooked chickpeas or white beans
    • Sliced grilled chicken or shrimp

Instructions

Step 1: Preparation
  1. Prepare the Vegetables: Wash and dry the mixed salad greens, cucumber, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and red onion. Slice the cucumber and bell peppers thinly, halve the cherry tomatoes, and thinly slice the red onion. Place all vegetables in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add Olives and Cheese: Add the pitted black olives and crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese to the bowl with the vegetables. These ingredients add briny and creamy elements to the salad.
Step 2: Making the Dressing
  1. Prepare the Dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar or balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, minced garlic, salt, and freshly ground black pepper until well combined. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  2. Dress the Salad: Pour the dressing over the salad mixture in the large bowl. Toss gently to coat all ingredients with the dressing evenly.
Step 3: Serving Ensalada Mixta
  1. Chill (Optional): Cover the salad bowl and refrigerate for 15-30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  2. Garnish and Serve: Before serving, garnish Ensalada Mixta with additional crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese for presentation. Serve the salad chilled or at room temperature.
  3. Optional Additions: Enhance the salad with optional additions such as sliced avocado, cooked chickpeas or white beans for added protein, or sliced grilled chicken or shrimp for a heartier meal option.

Culinary Tips and Variations

  • Herb Variation: Add fresh herbs such as basil, parsley, or mint to the salad for an additional layer of freshness and aroma.
  • Nut Variation: Sprinkle toasted nuts or seeds (such as pine nuts or sunflower seeds) over the salad for added crunch and nutritional value.
  • Citrus Twist: Substitute lemon juice for part of the vinegar in the dressing for a citrusy flavor.

Nutritional Benefits

Ensalada Mixta is a nutrient-rich dish that provides essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants from its diverse array of vegetables, olives, and cheese. Mixed salad greens offer dietary fiber, vitamins (such as vitamin A and vitamin K), and minerals (including potassium and magnesium). Olives provide healthy monounsaturated fats and antioxidants, while cheese contributes protein and calcium. The salad’s dressing, made with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar, offers heart-healthy fats and adds flavor without excessive calories.

Conclusion

Ensalada Mixta epitomizes the freshness and diversity of Mediterranean cuisine, offering a colorful and flavorful salad that is both nutritious and delicious. Whether enjoyed as a refreshing starter, a side dish to grilled meats or seafood, or a light meal on its own, this salad invites you to savor the vibrant flavors of fresh vegetables, briny olives, creamy cheese, and tangy dressing. Embrace the flavors of Ensalada Mixta with this traditional recipe and indulge in the culinary delight of Mediterranean dining, celebrating the natural flavors and nutritional benefits it offers.

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Written by Robert Zelesky

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