Right after the new year, it is the perfect time to reflect on the poor food choices we made and buy a gym membership we will use twice. Those that know me know that I am far from a diet expert however I do make an excellent salad. Salads don’t need to be those things we eat to punish ourselves for donuts and hot chocolate. Salads are a nutritious and fun way to eat many foods. Sometimes they don't require any cooking either. We will run through a few concepts in salad assembly that will help take your post latke salad to the next level.
Salads all have three major components. The base(s), garnish(s) and the dressing. Don’t believe me? Think of any good salad that doesn’t have all three. From tuna salad to the Caesar salad, they all contain these three essentials.
The base is probably the most important of the three major components. This is your lettuce in the classic idea of a salad but it could also be a grain, root vegetables like beets, pasta, tuna and much more. This will give volume and substance to your salad. It will also define how substantial and dense your salad is. If you are cooking something for your salad, prepare it with that in mind. Don't cook or undercook your pasta but do wash it, dry the lettuce all the way, prewash your grains so they don't clump together, wash any canned items such as beans to remove the canning liquid. This is going to be the majority of the salad so lets make sure it is good and not mess it up.
The garnish is what we all think of as what makes the salad. It is all the toppings. It is probably the most forgiving place to be creative in, with two exceptions. This is the only place you can add different textures and protein to a salad . That is why croutons are so important to the Caesar salad. Without the croutons it is not amusing to eat. Novel textures come in soft forms too, such as avocado or cooked sweet potato chunks. I also recommend raiding your leftovers for inspiration in this department too. Easy and high quality items to keep around that work as great garnish are slivered/chopped nuts, dried fruit, olives, and pickled vegetables.
The dressing is often the part that is store bought in a squeezy plastic bottle. It is priced lower than ketchup and we treat our instant ramen noodles with more respect (which make great garnish by the way). The dressing is what ties it all together. It isn't complicated to make yourself in largeish batches so you wont keep making it over and over again. You can make and store it in a repurposed disposable water bottle for convenience. Dressings are notoriously full of fat, salt and sugar and to make a scrumptious one they usually are. Here are some strategies to make some dressings for your salads that have a smaller footprint.
The vinaigrette is the classic salad dressing. It is now called ‘ITALIAN DRESSING’. It is a base of vinegar that is flavored that can mix temporarily with oil due to the use of mustard. Mustard is the emulsifier that helps a vinaigrette do its thing. This will the regular fat version but feel free to reduce some of the oil.
Simply epic vinaigrette
1 cup white vinegar
2 tsp dry garlic
2 tsp oregano flake
1 tsp black pepper
1.5 tsp dry mustard
2 tsp salt (more to taste)
1.5 cup Salad oil
Classic assembly is to mix everything in a bowl except the oil and drizzle in the oil while whisking vigorously. There are some other ways to achieve this too. The first and is my preferred method is to do a similar thing but use an immersion blender. This makes everything come together in under 20 seconds instead of a dead arm. An even simpler way is to pour all the ingredients into a bottle, tighten the cap and shake vigorously. Make sure there is room in the bottle for things to move around.
Oil choice is an important thing when it comes to making your salad dressing. This is the perfect place to use your high quality olive oil, flaxseed oil and sensitive nut oils. Something commonly done is to mix robustly flavorful and expensive oil with a less costly one in your dressing.
Add 1 cup berries and ½ cup sugar, remove the garlic and oregano, Blender method is required
Add 1 small can flat anchovies or 2 tbs anchovy paste, 1 egg yolk(mix with vinegar and let sit for 30+min), add extra 1 tsp black pepper and 3 cloves fresh garlic, Blender method is required
Soy sesame dressing
Remove oregano and salt, add ¼ cup soy sauce, 1-2 tbs roasted sesame oil, ½ cup sugar
Light and creamy dairy dressing
My favorite light dressing is based on dairy. A dressing needs to have a slightly thick texture. The traditional way to achieve that is by adding enough oil that the liquid thickens. Use a thick and sour dairy product instead to make a lower fat yet full flavor alternative.
Classic tzatziki dressing
1 1/4 cup full fat yogurt (4-5% fat is much lower than other salad dressings)
1/2 cup shredded cucumber
2 cloves fresh garlic, minced or 2 tsp dry garlic
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tbs Extra virgin olive oil
Mix it all together and enjoy. This dressing needs to be refrigerated and used quickly because it uses fresh cucumbers.
Use peppers or celery instead of cucumber
Incorporate the variations from the vinaigrette section into the yogurt base
Add some vinegar for a bigger acid bite to your dressing.
Everyone I know falls into one of two camps. The political climate in our country is being destroyed by factions that demand either sweet or salty slaw. Which camp do you fall in? Here is a lighter recipe to your creamy cabbage salad solution.
1/4 cup vinegar
1 cup mayonnaise
¼-½ cup dill pickle juice
1 tsp dry garlic
1-2 tsp Salt
pepper to taste
For sweet slaw add 1/2 -¾ cup sugar.
Blend fresh jalapeno peppers with the seeds and membrane removed for mild jalapeno slaw
Soy sesame slaw
Remove pickle juice, increase vinegar to ½ cup add ¼ cup soy sauce, 1-2 tbs roasted sesame oil, ½ cup sugar
Reduce mayonnaise to ½ cup, remove pickle juice, add ½ cup citrus juice of your choice increase salt to 2.5 tsp