I like grease, cheese and slippery sin as much as the next person. But sometimes, all I want is a huge salad. It’s just that they are actually my favorite food. I know that sounds like absolute madness, but it’s true. I think salads are hugely underrated. At least good ones are. Whoever decided to put iceberg lettuce in a bowl and cover it with Hidden Valley Ranch and call that a salad was, like, sooo totally stupid! You are doing it all wrong! Here’s how I feel about salads. I tend to be a little opinionated about them. It’s okay if you disagree:
Depth, breadth, and variety.
Use lots of ingredients. This can vary depending on the type of ingredient, but I shoot for at least 6, not including the dressing. The more the merrier. Make it interesting. No, make it fascinating. This category includes all the regular vegetation that you traditionally think of when you make a salad. Cukes, peppers, tomatoes, whatever you are into. Mix up those textures and colors!
[I will concede that some salads manage to be awesome in their simplicity. Like a great caprese salad that just has mozzarella, tomato, basil, and olive and balsamic vinegar. Beautiful. But that’s not really the kind of salad that I am talking about here. I think of those salads more as specialty salads. And the type of salad I am showcasing here as more of an everyday salad that one might eat for dinner.]
Greens are great but they should not comprise more than 50% of the entire salad. And they should be good greens: spinach, dark lettuces, weird lettuces, radicchio, pea shoots, etc. No iceberg. Just don’t.
Protein is awesome. Plus it can magically transform the salad from a side to a main dish that keeps you full. There are so many salad-worthy options here. Some of my favorite salad proteins include:
- chick peas, black beans, any beans.
- tuna, shrimp, salmon or some other sea creature, grilled chicken, etc.
- Nuts like almonds, pecans, walnuts.
- Seeds like pepitas, sunflower seeds, chai seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, whatever seeds.
- Hard-boiled eggs sometimes make an appearance in my salad.
- And there’s always legumes, like lentils. In addition to protein, they are fiber-licious.
Fat has a very special and important place in a salad. Make it healthy. Avocado, olives. I love kalamata ones. When I run out of kalamata olives in my house, sirens go off and panic ensues. Not fun. The neighbors worry. To avoid this, I try to keep a small arsenal of olives stocked in my pantry at all times. Seeds and nuts are also good sources of healthy fats!
Kind of straddles fat and protein. (whoa hot, right?) I don’t always add cheese. But if I do, I go for something like feta or a goat cheese or romano. That’s just my personal preference. I like strong flavored cheeses that you don’t need to use much of.
Sometimes, but not always, I like to add some whole grains to my salad. Makes it more substantial and gives you even more fiber. I like farro or barley or quinoa. The salad pictured below has black rice. Which is the total goth sister of white rice.
I like to add some extra stuff that might come in a jar. Artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers. Also, I have found that I like adding small amounts of veg that you wouldn’t normally put in a salad. Example: raw turnips sliced into really thin strips. They are spicy and crunchy. Now that’s fascinating! Or if I am super ambitious, I sometimes roast some veggies ahead of time to throw into salads. Stuff like plum tomatoes, asparagus, broccoli or cauliflower, little cubes of sweet potato. In the summer, how super wonderful is it to grill veggies to put in a salad!?
Now, this is a very unpopular point of view, but sometimes, if a salad is done correctly, I don’t think it needs dressing. I know. Totes absurdo. But if I do desire some dressing, I always make my own. Fuck bottled dressing. You don’t want all those ingredients you can’t read. Gosh, look at me, I’m getting so worked up. I’m swearing and telling you what you want to put on your salad.
Sorry. Anyway. I just follow a few little dressing-related rules of thumb: Oil to acid ratio should be like 3:1. ISH. No big anvils will fall from the sky if you don’t follow that ratio, but that’s the guideline. I’m willing to bet you know what oil is. Some good acids include lemon or lime juice, or even orange juice! Any of several varieties of vinegar. Dijon mustard or coarsely ground mustard are fun to add in there. I like to throw in some herbs if I have them. Lemon or lime zest. you can mince some garlic or onion to put in there. The combinations are limitless.
Whew! When you are done with that, you have the world’s perfect meal! Everything you need to keep going at whatever you got going on, a nutritional powerhouse. And there is just so much versatility that I could eat one every day and never get bored. That’s just me, though. I would never impose my excessive salad habit on anyone else. Well, unless you count my husband…
Here’s a sample salad for your viewing pleasure:
Besides the black rice it has:
- Kalamata olives
- Pea shoots
- Sweet yellow pepper
- And last, but definitely not least, the Tahini Goddess dressing from Somer’s Green Smoothie Challenge. Somer is a tahini goddess for inventing this dressing.