Saturday, January 12, 2013

salad days.

I guess it's no surprise; in January, there are a lot of people switching to salads after the excesses of the holidays. Actually, I switched to salads during the excesses of the holidays, as my dad and his ladyfriend were in no shape to cook large dinners while battling seasonal bugs. Their deliciousness and simplicity delighted me- look! It's a meal in a bowl! (A healthy meal, at that.) And so, when I got home again, I started making more salads, and actually enjoying them. Here are some helpful hints for making a salad you'll actually enjoy:
  • Choose a green that you like the taste of. I really want to like raw spinach, and I don't dislike it exactly, but I've finally realized that I don't love it. I quite like mixed greens, especially the mixes that come with some herbs, like dill, but right now what's really rocking my world are Romaine hearts. (Thanks, Dad.) Yes I know they're not as healthy as mixed wild greens, but I'm adding a lot of other veggies to my salads so it's not the end of the world. Romaine lettuce hearts are crunchy, sweet, and sturdy enough to sit at the bottom of the salad bowl and put up with whatever I put on top of them. 
  • The more, the merrier. For me, at least, greens are just the jumping-off point in a salad. If I just have greens I'm gonna overload on dressing and the salad will be boring and unhealthy. It's all in the extras: add as many veggies (and fruits! Don't forget the fruits!) as you want. Carrots. Beets. Radishes. Apple. Pear. Celery. Cucumber. Fennel or Anise root (a lovely cross between celery and licorice). Not to mention the real reason we eat salad: so we can feel self-righteous while eating fun things like cheese, meat and nuts. Right now I'm loving my salad topped with pear, a sprinkling of blue cheese, and veggies like radish, carrot and beet. Mmmmm. 
  • If you get creative enough with the toppings, dressing don't mean a thang. Salads used to be a vehicle for dressings when I (infrequently) ate them, and let me tell ya: I haven't found many dressings that I liked. But now, I usually just squeeze a little lemon on top of my salad, pour a tiny bit of olive oil over things to moisten them up a bit, sprinkle a little coarse salt and pepper, and Bob's your uncle. If I want to get really crazy I add a touch of apple cider vinegar.
  • Get a mandoline. My dad gave me a cast-off one this Christmas and I promptly julienned my thumbnail with it because I reached into my backpack and... ow. But now it's home and I'm realizing just why people will risk losing parts of their digits to slice things with them. Anyway, mine has a safety thingy that you stick the veggies on so you can't cut yourself and believe me, use that safety thingy, because mandolines are wicked sharp. Here's the thing, though: they make your veggies look so lovely (either sliced paper-thin or julienned, depending on the blade you use) that you will hardly want to eat your salad because it's such a thing of beauty. And it's not just aesthetic- thinly sliced things are light, and that means that they will mix nicely with your greens rather than sullenly hanging out at the bottom of the bowl while you dutifully chomp your way through the boring stuff.
  • They are a great way to eat a lot of healthy stuff in one sitting. I know,  I used to look at the Canada  Food Guide and go "7-8 servings a day? Really?!" But since I got my juicer and started eating salads, this may actually become a reality. 
  • And finally, because a picture says a thousand words:
Couldn't you fall in love with one of these?

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