whole-meal composed salads . . .

a classic nicoise salad (courtesy of Pinterest)

a classic nicoise salad (courtesy of Pinterest)

For a long time, I’ve been trying to transition my cooking/meal preparation habits from the standard baby-boomer generation meal of protein, potatoes/grains, vegetables and perhaps a salad on the side. I haven’t been very successful up to now until I was introduced to the concept of a whole-meal chopped salad such as those popular in California and elsewhere. It also offered a new outlook to combine a number of green vegetables like kale and romaine together rather than just one or the other in a salad. Old food habits die hard, I guess.

Anyhow, the leap-frog to the idea of a whole meal composed salad occurred when I came upon some new salad dressings and garnishes that made eating raw greens as the main feature of dinner both palatable and also interesting to prepare.

So, I’m sharing some of these ideas in case you’d like to experiment with them yourselves:

SELECT GREENS from: fresh kale, romaine, napa cabbage, fresh spinach, arugula, lettuces. De-stem, roll leaves together and slice thinly. Kale and romaine are especially good together.

GARNISHES (choose from):  chopped scallion, chopped chives, maple salad walnuts, honey toasted salad almonds, golden raisins soaked in warm orange juice, craisins, fresh orange segments, pomegranate seeds

Toss the greens with the garnishes and set on a dinner plate as the composed salad base. Then, choose from various veggie and protein choices that complement the salad on the plate.

VEGGIE CONDIMENTS: sliced avocado, cherry tomatoes, sliced hard-boiled eggs, boiled creamer potatoes sliced in half, boiled green or yellow string beans, caramelized sliced brussels sprouts etc.

PROTEIN CONDIMENTS (to choose from): seared fresh tuna dipped in sesame seeds and sliced thinly; teriyaki salmon, shrimp scampi, marinated beef ribeye cut into strips; chicken tenders, prosciutto ham

(We’ve been surprised by how little salmon we need to buy to make one piece grilled in a pan with teriyaki sauce and divide it into servings on top of two salad dinners.)

But the real linchpin for me that makes this whole meal salad thing work is a salad dressing that is delicious enough to eat often and that harmonizes with the cornucopia of ingredients at our disposal as suggested above. Even better, these dressings are made ahead of time and are ready to use when composing the salads.

I’ve found two that we enjoy; both of them are derived from the Hillstone Restaurant chain to which I was introduced in a Bon Appetit review article (http://www.bonappetit.com/restaurants-travel/article/hillstone.)

One is a fresh-basil vinaigrette with fresh lemon juice from the Napa Grille Restaurant (http://www.popsugar.com/food/Kale-Chopped-Salad-From-Napa-Valley-Grille-Recipe-Video-30110625)

and the other is a buttermilk garlic dressing from Houston’s (http://www.food.com/recipe/houstons-buttermilk-garlic-salad-dressing-80631.)

With this shift in emphasis, our refrigerator is a bounty of washed greens and dressings that are ready to serve; our pantry yields tasty, crunchy and appetizing garnishes; and a small fresh serving of protein can be whipped up in a very short time just before serving dinner.

Hope you might also enjoy experimenting with this way of eating: prioritizing fresh greens and de-emphasizing large servings of protein.

It’s healthier, it’s a lot more economical and now, we’ve found it to be even more delicious!