Extraordinary Salads

Let’s be honest. If you were to ask most people what they’d choose for their last meal on earth, probably none of them would say “salad.”

We’ve all seen it, and eaten it—a pile of cold, limp greens with a few anemic slices of tomato on top and a blob of dressing accompanying it as a consolation prize. Also, “diet” and “deprivation” were two words that came to mind when I heard the word salad.

But no more.

A salad, done right, is a celebration of flavors and textures. It can be something anticipated, and savored, and then remembered fondly. Greens are often the foundation, but they needn’t be. Forget iceberg lettuce—most produce sections offer an abundant selection of leafy greens from romaine to arugula, and even beet greens and tender leafy herbs. Add raw or steamed vegetables for a hearty and satisfying base. Then, be creative. Meats, cheeses, pastas, grains, more vegetables, nuts, seeds, olives, bread, pickled foods—all add bright, flavorful morsels of goodness and crunch. Basically, if you like an ingredient –you can add it to a salad.
Here’s just a few of my favorites:

toasted pine nuts

artichokes

avocados

pecan pieces

olives

roasted or pickled beets

raw or steamed green beans

sweet piquante peppers

And then there’s dressing—another opportunity to elevate an ordinary salad to extraordinary status. Make your own, if there’s time. Or use a good quality store bought dressing that complements your meal, salad or satisfies your palate. Vinaigrette is easy to make, and best made fresh. Creamy dressings use more ingredients, but are worth the extra effort.

Served with hearty bread, salad makes a wonderful light meal. Adding diced chicken, beef or even fish (sliced seared Ahi tuna, anyone?), salad can be as satisfying as meat and potatoes.

Ingredients for Herb Vinaigrette dressing from Andrew Weil’s website
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
4 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
1 1/2 cups extra-virgin olive oil
4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 bunch parsley, stemmed
3 tablespoons basil, chopped
Instructions
Combine all ingredients except oil.
Whisk to combine, slowly adding oil to emulsify.