Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Main Dish Salads


I love salads, and have big ones for lunch 3 or 4 days a week.  I don’t try to be Goldilocks, but have a few ideas about what a proper big salad should be:
  1. It needs to fill me up.  Even if I have been swimming. But I don’t want to be chewing on it all afternoon.
  2. The texture needs to be just right.
  3. They need to be tasty.
For me, a combination of protein, carbs and fat is best for filling me up.  So I include a high protein food, like some left-over chicken, grilled fish, or hard boiled eggs.   If I don’t happen to have any of those around, I might open a can of beans or fish (like salmon or sardines), or just add some nuts or cheese.   Beans do double duty as carbs.  I also like boiled potatoes or leftover brown rice.  But most often I just have some whole grain crackers (like Rye Crisp or Akwana) on the side.  My dressing always has some olive oil in it.  Nuts or cheese also do double duty to add some fatty filling goodness.  I also really, really like avocados in my salad.  This is the real reason I spent so much time in San Diego – a variety of avocados all year long, that have been properly handled so they get ripe before they rot!

The vegetables (and a sharp knife) are key to get a nice balance of crisp, crunchy, tender, and soft.  Hard raw vegetables, like carrots, and radishes give crunch – but should be thinly sliced so they are not too chewy.   I like cucumbers quartered, and in thick slices, so they don’t clump together. Some vegetables really need to be cooked before going into a salad, like broccoli, cauliflower, or beets. It’s a great way to use up dibs and dabs of things.    And lettuce should be in fork size pieces.   Soft (and creamy) can come from beans, potatoes, avocados, or cheese.. but not too much, otherwise you get glop.

I want something that punches up the flavor:  a few olives, or feta cheese.  A nice bit of roast chicken.  A bunch of great tomatoes. Some herbs.  Anchovies.  Left over cubes of roasted sweet potatoes.    Salads are a great way to use up leftovers, but don’t include everything that might be lurking in the fridge.  One or two proteins, one or two flavor punches, not more than 4 or 5 veggies.    Last, make sure it’s properly dressed.  Lately I have been guilty of just using lemon juice (generally a 1/3 to ½ a lemon), some olive oil, plus salt and pepper added directly to the salad.  When I don’t have lemons, I’ll make vinaigrette or for an occasional change of pace, a creamy dressing.   I have started not putting salt into the dressing – instead, just sprinkling a little salt on the lettuce just before dressing.  You can more easily tailor how much to use (not much salt is needed if you have feta cheese or anther salty ingredient).  And I think you get more salt flavor from less salt this way.   I also like my salads tossed so even with a little dressing, every bite is coated.  Then Goldilocks likes to put it on a plate and not just eat it from the bowl. 

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