Note: Please welcome Mary Pagones, who you may know better as HeartofGlass around here. She will be chiming in over the next few months with a weekly summer salad recipe. SE overlord Ed is always looking for more ways to incorporate salads into his diet, and Mary is full of tasty ideas. —The Mgmt.
If you want to strike boredom into the culinary heart of any calorie-conscious foodie, say the words "just have a salad." As in "well, let's go to the steakhouse or a lobster shack, because you know, you can always just have a salad."
Usually said salad is a wedge of iceberg, one or two leaves of romaine tossed in for a bit of color, two red tomato ping-pong balls cut in half. Perhaps a garnish of some shredded carrots.
Ironically, I love salads, but I tend to be rather arrogant about my salad-making skills. Protein is a must, as is a balance of differently-textured veggies—and often quite a bit of fruit. I'm convinced I make a better salad than any restaurant—my ingredients are fresh, and I can tinker with the balance of ingredients until it's just perfect for what I want that evening.
Why You Should Have Salads for Dinner
1. For those who aren't Serious Cooks, salads are the gateway drug to cooking.
2. For Serious Cooks, it is a way of making your own food without too much stress for one night a week.
3. How much can you screw up a salad?
4. It's difficult to make a salad without having some sort of leafy, healthy green throwing itself onto your plate, even as a garnish.
5. You'll feel very, very virtuous. Just say it: "I have a salad for dinner at least once a week."
6. Yeah, yeah. Vitamins, fiber, low in calories (provided you don't drink Hidden Valley Ranch from the bottle).
7. Not having to turn on the oven when it's hot.
8. Vegetables are the one food group where portion control truly doesn't matter.
9. If you suddenly don't feel like eating the salad and get a strange urge to order pizza, it can easily keep in the refrigerator until the next day for lunch, as you atone for your sins.
10. It really is seriously easy to pre-prep the ingredients.
I'm not a snooty salad-maker: one of my favorite types of salad is a kind of faux Asian with fresh spinach, orange slices, steamed string beans, a ripe, mild pear, and nuts (almonds, cashews, and macadamias) for protein and crunch. Sesame oil and rice wine vinegar (the proportions depending on your taste or caloric needs) make a nice dressing although I often just use a splash of apple cider vinegar.
For a full confession, my first faux Asian salad came from McDonalds. One of McDonald's first "healthy" campaigns designed to improve its image. Ah, the 1980s. The era of the guilt-free McNugget.
But I was hooked on the faux Asian flavor combination as well.
I have a nut consumption issue (or rather, a hard time stopping myself from nut-inhaling) and eating nuts on a salad (as opposed to from the jar) is a great way to slow myself down and have a more balanced dinner than bonding with Mr. Peanut one-on-one.
About the author: Mary Pagones eats food, mostly plants, but still worries far too much what she is eating in New Jersey.