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My Offensive Salads

I’m long overdue for a food post. Growing up, I thought I disliked salads. I discovered in my early 20s that there was a type of salad I enjoyed: Caesar salads, especially those with chicken. But when that wasn’t an option at a restaurant, and I’d get a weak green side salad with my meal, I’d either ignore it or use way too much Italian vinaigrette dressing to make it appealing.

“Caesar or GTFO” was my overall attitude. Enter taking a new job where food is provided fresh, and frequently with a salad made of baby spinach and other ingredients. Since I’m working to lose weight, I tried the salad on a lark—lo and behold, it didn’t suck. Salads are now a regular part of my lunch diet, with just enough lemon vinaigrette dressing to add a tang but not so much to defeat the point of eating a salad when you’re dieting.

That’s forced me to confront why I hate typical green restaurant salads: they’re designed to be inoffensive. They’re bland, meant to pair with any sort of dressing you ask for as though they’re a vehicle for dressing rather than a food to be tasted on their own. Simple iceberg lettuce, carrots, maybe some tomato if you’re lucky, croutons for texture and crunch, and whatever dressing you throw on.

To hell with that. Life is too short for inoffensive salads. Let’s may our salads flavorful and passionate in and of themselves, not as shredded leaves floating in a pool of ranch. Let’s eat offensive salads.

I’ve made a couple offensive salads this past weekend:

  • Base: Equal parts red leaf lettuce and baby spinach, coarsely chopped
  • Herbs and aromatics: Green onions (coarsely chopped), Thai basil, sage, sometimes cilantro (finely chopped)—basically whatever I have on hand
  • Spices: A little garlic power, ground pepper medley, and an Italian seasoning blend that I have in my spice drawer
  • Protein: One salad had very briefly pan-fried salmon (that I bought from the butcher a couple hours earlier) with loads of herbs and spices. Another had chopped cajun-spice chicken deli meat that needed to get used up. In both cases, just enough in the salad to where you could see flecks of it around, but it didn’t dominate the salad with its presence.
  • Topping: Some grape tomatoes for color both visual and gustatory
  • Dressing: I used a lite basil and balsamic vinaigrette, just a little—if there’s a pool at the bottom of the bowl, I’ve used far too much. My wife uses a poppy seed creamy dressing.

If I had some parmesan or asiago cheese, I would have also used that as a topping with the chicken salad, but I didn’t have any. I wouldn’t have used any cheese in the salmon one, because that seemed an unappetizing pairing.

Happy eating!

– Ryan

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3 Responses to My Offensive Salads

  1. blackcoat says:

    See also: http://deadspin.com/how-to-make-a-salad-that-doesnt-suck-a-guide-for-the-5943632

    (Much of his food stuff is good. Much of his other stuff is mildly problematic. YMMV.)

  2. Wayne Zombie says:

    Restaurant lettuce salads are also designed to be CHEAP. Spinach are probably at the pinnacle of healthy stuff, salad-wise. What’s sad is that in our nearest large town of 40,000: the only salad bar is at the school that I work at. Our cafeteria has a two-cart salad bar that is quite good. And it’s also inexpensive: $2.50 out of your check with the all-you-can-eat salad bar.

    The interesting part is no salt on the tables. I don’t know what the link is between sodium intake and vision health, so I guess it’s just an overall reduction thing. I don’t care since it’s rare that I add salt to my food.

  3. John Powell says:

    Don’t for get Offensive Coleslaw! Or the fact that cabbage goes good in just about any salad.

    Sunflower seeds are good too.