Like most people, I made that obligatory New Year’s resolution to get healthier and to lose weight. First thing on the list, start exercising: Roller derby practice twice a week, check. Eat healthier: less red meats, more fish and greens, small check. I’m a red meat lover, so this one was a little harder to stick to, but the salad is a bit easier commitment.
I love salads. I love making them and especially eating them. But, my salads need substance. I don’t want a bunch of lettuce and a few croutons. I like salads with crunch. Must haves for me are celery, cauliflower, and some sort of nut. My oldest daughter, Sami has teased me more than once about having some lettuce with my salads.
I mastered the art of salad making when I cooked with my parents a lot. For some reason when they had my family to their house for dinner, I was always assigned the salads. So, I started adding things that sounded different. I went from throwing in an apple or pear to adding different cheeses and now I really like to add nuts and bacon.
Salads as a meal should contain enough variety to keep you eating. For example, while I love Caesar salads, they really need more than lettuce, Parmesan cheese and some croutons if I plan on being sated. Some throw grilled chicken into their salads, which is great, but for some reason, I have a hard time wrapping my taste buds around that.
I confess, I’m like most of America. Iceberg lettuce, a few tomatoes, bottled dressing, Viola! We have salad. But, what about tossing it up a bit? Sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun! What about adding some new and “restaurant like ingredients”? Maybe make your own croutons? Or add a piece of fruit? Cheese is always good; but maybe something other than shredded cheddar? Bacon bits from a jar? Cut up a few slices of bacon and make your own, or save a few bits from your breakfast and toss into a salad for dinner or the next day.
The beauty of salads is the possibilities are endless. You can make them with ingredients you like. And, if you really want to have fun, host a salad bar dinner party. Have everyone bring different components to a salad, plus an extra side dish such as potato salad or pasta, and then you all can make the salad you enjoy. Fun and healthy!
The thing about salads is they sometimes don’t travel as well as I would like. I find it very unappetizing if my greens get wimpy or my apples turn brown. So, I often prepare a few things, including the dressing separately and then put it in a small container for my workday lunch.
This week’s disclaimer: I find it perfectly acceptable to use bottled dressings. It’s often easier and sometimes less expensive to buy a bottle for $4.25 than to spend the $35 on ingredients to make your own. However, I do strongly encourage reading the labels. Many bottled dressings have ingredients that one cannot pronounce, let alone would want to eat.
For this recipe, I’ve chosen a salad that travels quite well and has simple, yet sophisticated ingredients. The crisp apples and candied pecans go well with the tangy goat cheese. Throw in the crunch factor of the celery and cauliflower, and it’s a party in your mouth.
This week I present my Simply Sophisticated Salad. I hope it will help you keep any obligatory New Year’s reservations, too.
Until next time…
Eat and enjoy,
2 cups spring mix lettuces
1 red delicious apple, diced
2 tablespoons soft goat cheese
½ cup chopped celery
½ cup chopped cauliflower
¼ cup diced or small tomatoes
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1½ tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
¼ cup candied pecans – recipe below
Combine all ingredients, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil to taste.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup brown sugar
Course sea or kosher salt
Melt butter in med high skillet. Add brown sugar and stir until bubbling mixture. Add nuts and toss gently until all sides are coated. Remove from pan and place on parchment lined baking sheet. Cook on 325 for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Sprinkle salt on before nuts are completely cool so that salt adheres to sticky coating.
Add to salads and other recipes as desired. They’re great snacks on their own.