I must confess, I didn’t grow up eating a lot of salad. My dad has a traditional salad he likes to make with dinner — tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, maybe an onion sliced up with salt, pepper and a little vinaigrette. It’s a good addition to every meal, but time and repetition led me to take it for granted. My dad keeps it very traditional, so there isn’t a lot of salad experimentation going on.
I didn’t learn to love salad until I had to learn to cook for myself. Somewhere in my ongoing quest for health, I accepted that I needed to incorporate raw, fresh vegetables into my life. At first it was like, “salad, ugh.” I felt a real resistance towards making them. I’m ashamed to admit just how much fresh produce I’ve let go bad through the years, all in the name of an ambitious and unrealistic health kick or a fad diet that didn’t stick. But I think I’ve finally gotten the hang of it. Now I LOVE salads and I’ve learned how to appreciate and make use of veggies without dread or hesitation. I’m learning to master the Dinner Salad — salads so substantial that they work as a complete, satisfying end of day meal.
Here are my secrets and a few recipes!
First things first, don’t overshop at the supermarket. I know, it’s tempting. But if you’re like me, when you buy too many fruits and veggies thinking ambitiously “I’m gonna eat all of these!” — it is likely that you won’t and that crisper will be filled with soft, squishy, no-longer-edible veggies later on. Shop less and more often. Green leafy things go bad quickly, and so do mushrooms. Get them on the day (or day before) you’re using them. And make a menu that intentionally uses what you’ve got. Buying a big bag of carrots? Awesome. You can make salads, soups, you can roast them, you can make carrot stick snacks…just use the whole bag. Getting celery? Cool – you can make salads, sautee it up in a mirepoix with those carrots, make a delicious tuna fish sandwich the next day, etc etc you get it.
Second things second, try out a recipe that considers your favorite flavors. Salad doesn’t have to be boring. It’s as boring as you allow it to be. I love southwestern flavors — corn, black beans and guacamole make an ordinary salad extraordinary. And you can skip extras like cheese and tortilla strips — instead try crispy dried beans or carrots for crunch. It’s all about your ingredients. These are some of my favorites.
My ideal kind of dinner salad isn’t limp and lifeless the next day. I enjoy a combo with staying power. I had this salad for dinner and then for lunch the next day:
Sometimes the dinner salad is the main course, topped with some grilled chicken or sauteed shrimp, even shredded beef or pork if you like. Sometimes it can be a side dish. Take for example, this lentil quinoa salad recipe via the Food Network:
Last night I made the lentil quinoa salad (recipe via @foodnetwork .com) – lentils, quinoa, green onions and fresh cilantro in a mustard/wine vinegar/vegetable oil emulsion dressing with a hint of citrus zest. It was SO good. Light and refreshing but filling and high in protein. I’d recommend it to a friend #salad #recipes #fiestadinnerware #quinoa #nom
It’s a delicious side recipe that would refrigerate and travel well in summer BBQ season. Most salads made with leafy greens don’t make for great leftovers, but salads with beans and veggies like sweet peppers, celery or sometimes even tomatoes and cucumbers can be great on the next day.
I love beans on my salads, and I also love nuts and dates. Those were the toppings here:
A photo posted by Afrobella (@afrobella) on
PS: all of those photos feature Fiesta Dinnerware in case you wondered. My salads get served in the extra large bistro bowl, pedestal bowl, or hostess serving bowl (for my bellas who are Fiesta collectors).
I’m always looking for new veggies to try or new salads to make. So tell me – what are your favorite salads? Toppings? What are you eating that makes you feel healthy and happy these days?