Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Praise of a Delicious Salad

I'm fond of salads. They can be just the perfect meal (or side to a meal), if made properly. Unfortunately, too many salads use nasty iceberg lettuce as a base, and they become a vehicle for meat, cheese, and fatty dressing. That's not a salad; that's an excuse to continue eating crap while pretending to be healthy.

The most important part of a salad is the proper ratio of ingredients along with a good balance of textures and flavors. Too little green and too much topping ends up not being a good salad. My preference is a base of mixed greens (green leaf, red leaf lettuces, possibly some spinach and arugula), some other veggies (grated carrots, beets, etc), a little something sweet, something nutty/savory, something cheesy, with a modicum of vinaigrette*. A good balance of crunchy and soft ingredients is a must. If we're making it a meal, a boiled egg (more savory) is a nice addition along with a piece of toasty bread. A dash of salt and pepper, and voila! delicious salad.

If you top it with too much stuff, you get to the end of the salad and you only have toppings and no greenery. I like a bit of greenery with my other salad components, and I don't much care for gobs of dressing (just a smidge for extra flavor--sometimes none at all). When all of it is in balance, I am happy eater of salads.

For the past two days Lance has created the perfect salad. He started with a base of green leaf lettuce, shredded nicely. He then topped it with chopped Medjool dates (sweet), almonds and walnuts (savory/nutty), and some bits of soft goat cheese. He sprinkled on some black pepper, and I dressed it with a small dash of vinaigrette. Every bite is crisp and green, with the flavor of dates and goat cheese and nuts and pepper. The textures and flavors are in balance, and I didn't have toppings left at the bottom of my bowl. It is, at this moment, the perfect salad.

*Annie's makes a shiitake vinaigrette that's amazing. I also love the word "modicum".


Kathryn said...

I don't know. I'm kind of a fan of iceberg lettuce....but only when it's cut into a wedge. That way I can eat the "salad" with my hands by just dipping it into the dressing (or more usually a nice balsamic vinegar). I really just like any excuse to eat with my hands. Sprinke it with a little bacon flavored salt and I'd be in heaven.

Jennifer said...

Suggested appetizer:
Large whole dates with a thin smear of cream cheese, topped with an almond.

My grandmother had a small plate of these at her house recently and they're very satisfying. They hit the sweet/salty/cheesy/ nutty/chewy/crunchy cravings all at once.