A salad seems like a simple thing to throw together, and it can be. When it comes to side salads, less is more: green leaf with parmesan, romaine with tomato, spinach with red onion and apple. I usually don’t bother emulsifying a dressing, but just drizzle the greens with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon or a dash of balsamic vinaigrette. However, when you’re craving an entree salad of chain-restaurant proportions, you need a little more oomph.
I have to admit a level of excitement when I am invited to lunch to The Cheesecake Factory or California Pizza Kitchen or even Applebee’s. I know that there’s a southwestern-style salad waiting for me, complete with tortilla strips, chipotle ranch, pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream. One of these days, I will tackle that beast, but for now the guilt has been taken out of that particular pleasure by a favorite local restaurant, The Mixx.
Even though I can enjoy an oversized salad drenched in rich, creamy dressing while supporting local business, I still feel a little defeated ordering a no-cook item in a restaurant, so the tempting pretzel-bun sandwich with a side of sweet potato fries usually wins out. Therefore, the only logical thing to do is to start making these more-is-more salads at home.
One of the magazine’s I subscribe to has a spread in each issue that is a formula for variations on a simple dish. For instance a spread on macaroni and cheese would lead you to choose the shape of your pasta, two different cheeses, a few vegetables and/or meats to stir in, etc. I call it the choose your own adventure recipe. Hopefully this post will serve as a similar guide to your entree salad adventures.
2 parts olive oil
1 part lemon juice or vinegar
mix-ins (in no particular order): mustard, shallot, capers, olives, sesame oil, bacon fat, honey, serano or jalapeno pepper
Whisk together. I usually use a 2-cup liquid measure and a fork. Otherwise, you can use a salad dressing shaker, which works okay.
Entree for 2
Sweet fruit: red apples, oranges, peaches, grapes, cherries, avocado, tomato
Mild vegetable: cucumber, carrot, red pepper, summer squash
Tart fruit: green apples, dried cranberries, grapefruit
Zesty vegetable: onion, shallot, radish, green pepper
Cheese: Try blue cheese or goat cheese if you use a lot of fruit, try parmesan or cheddar if you use more vegetables
Protein: beans, hard-boiled egg, ham, turkey
Crunch: toasted nuts, croutons, bacon
1 cup torn mild greens: green leaf, red leaf, romaine
1 cup torn bold greens: spinach, arugula, frisee
Wash and dry greens, preferably in a salad spinner.
Slice or chop all fruits and vegetables in a similar manner. Choose paper-thin slices, ¼-inch dices, or wedges.
Crumble, grate, or shave cheese. Try a vegetable peeler to make ribbons of parmesan.
Combine in an enormous bowl.
Toss with dressing and serve (these are my favorite salad servers).