A Good Salad Is Hard to Find

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.

Vinaigrette 
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.

Salad
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).

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2 thoughts on “A Good Salad Is Hard to Find

  1. I was excited to see The Food Processor show up in my Reader again. And even more excited to see you wrote about salads. Now I’m craving one!

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