Inspiration in a Bowl
I have a friend who won’t eat salads in the winter. I don’t feel that way – salads are one of my main food groups, year round. I used to trek to the now-defunct Sandwich Box for salad in the dead of winter and have moved onto Kupfert & Kim. In any event, it’s summer and even the most stalwart meat and potato eaters are lightening up. Salads are versatile, easy to make and with a little planning you can keep many of the components on hand. I don’t think that you need a salad cookbook but if you do, check out Salad Love by David Bez. Whether or not you buy the book, this article points you to some online resources and hopefully some do-it-yourself inspiration.
A plain salad gets boring really fast. That’s not what I’m talking about. It’s easy to build a great salad, and make it as filling as you need it to be. I’m a fan of the Big Salad and here are some of the ingredients that I like to use. I start with greens (baby spinach, arugula, romaine or spicy greens) and add vegetables (peppers, beets, baby tomatoes, carrots, cucumber, fresh peas, radish, avocado, fennel, cabbage), fruit (apple, pomegranate seeds, dried fruit, blueberries or strawberries), nuts and seeds, protein (chickpeas, lentils, chicken, fish, cheese, hard-boiled egg or some other protein, grains (farro, bulgur, millet, barley, croutons) and always salt and pepper. A bottle of homemade dressing is always in the fridge.
Salads are having a moment, so if you need direction you can find it on the Internet. A few appealing recent examples are caramelized fennel and farro salad and charred green bean and lentil salad at notwithoutsalt.com, roasted cauliflower salad with dates and lentils at greenkitchenstories.com and Greek farro salad at cookieandkate.com.
The classics are still kicking around. I love a good Caesar salad and you can now make it with kale at epicurious.com. For a better version of the spinach salad at Toby’s Good Eats (see Toronto Life’s “15 signs you grew up in Toronto in the 1980’s”) try Smitten Kitchen’s spinach salad with warm bacon vinaigrette, with soft eggs and crispy bacon. It’s very delicious, even more so with homemade croutons. I also like shaved brussels sprout salad with a warm prosciutto-mustard vinaigrette at spoonforkbacon.com. Blue cheese fans will like the updated version of the iceberg lettuce wedge salad – go to seriouseats.com and loveandoliveoil.com.
There are trends in salads, as with all other foods. Shaved salads without greens are a great way to change things up (look it up on food52.com). Eating vegetables raw that are usually eaten cooked is another one, such as Jamie Oliver’s shredded raw beet, feta and pear salad or raw broccoli tabouli at cookrepublic.com. Slaw-type salads are crunchy, refreshing and perfect for summer. Savoury yogurt is a great accent to drizzle on top. So where does this leave us? Salad days are here. Your mother used to tell you to eat your vegetables. You can do it, and it’s a lot more fun now.