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The Crisper Whisperer: The Dinner Salad

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[Photograph: Carolyn Cope]

I think I'll just start by saying that I wrote—and then, for your reading pleasure, deleted—about five paragraphs of reasons why I sometimes like to eat a big salad for dinner.

The world is a complicated place, isn't it? And sometimes it feels like the question of What We Should Eat looms large and dark as a storm cloud over it all. I know this isn't the case for everyone, but for me, making a big salad for dinner is like opening a huge, rainbow-colored golf umbrella to protect my family and me from the impending storm.

Once we're safely tucked away under there, the answering of the fun questions (as opposed to the angsty ones) can begin. Namely: what the heck should we put in our big dinner salad tonight?

As a kid, I wouldn't have OK'd a salad for dinner unless it included some serious animal protein like sliced steak or chicken. And the more it resembled a burger, the better. Cheese, bacon, croutons, and a creamy dressing were definitely all in the "Pros" column.

Looking back, I now realize that the only thing saving me from arrest, cardiac or otherwise, at the Charlie Brown's Steakhouse all-you-can-eat salad bar was probably the blinding flash of light cast by my braces as I smiled from ear to ear.

You'd see a young girl breaching the outermost boundaries of salad bar protocol, tilting the plastic bin of bacon bits directly into her bowl. You'd reach out to stop her. But then—bam!—your whole world would go white. And the next thing you knew, she'd be gone.

I can't say I ever really had an "aha" moment where dinner salad composition is concerned, but there aren't any Charlie Browns near my house anymore. And these days, a dinner salad can be anything from a big bowl of really fresh raw vegetables with a simple vinaigrette; to a showcase for roasted winter squash, root vegetables, and whole grains; to, on occasion, something more closely resembling the old-school burger situation I described above (and will vehemently deny if questioned). No matter the season, my dinner salad pretty much always starts with leafy greens of one variety or another. But after that, the sky's the limit.

What about you? What are your favorite ingredients, tips, and tricks for making salad into dinner? Please share them in the comments.

About the author: Carolyn Cope is the voice behind the popular food blog Umami Girl. A recent transplant to London, she's trying her best to act nonchalant in the company of courgettes and aubergines. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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