Wednesday, August 18, 2010

UnRecipe: The Salad Days of Summer

Weather can affect everything, even what you feel like eating and cooking. Or not cooking when it comes to the case of the odd summer days of sweaty heat. I'll go through periodic salad binges, usually when it's too hot to turn on the stove and when it's too busy to think about what the heck to make for dinner. A produce shopping spree resulted in bags of fresh greens, a multitude of vegetables, and a few different options for salads, leading to the satisfying result that yes, a salad can indeed be a meal.

Fancy chop-chop salad, Wasabi style - Photo by Wasabi Prime

One of my favorite salads to order is a chopped salad. I know it seems like a weird thing to call "a favorite." It's literally random bits of cold cuts, veggies, maybe some garbanzo beans, and romaine lettuce, Slap-Chopped into oblivion and served up at the price of an entree. I'm fairly sure restaurants would just call that "leftovers," but hey, it's tasty. I think I mostly like it because it's a mix of favorite flavors and textures - salty, fatty, creamy, with a nice crunch. It's also pretty easy to prepare at home, as all you basically need is a giant crisper full of random veggies and some lunchmeat. For this at-home version, I put an extra ooh-la-lah on it by roasing some roma tomatoes and stuffing with herbed goat cheese. I had some extra pesto made from our surplus of garden herbs -- always a nice plus -- and just mixed it with some goat cheese. Stuffed in halved/seeded roma tomatoes, they roasted nicely and made the chopped salad a bit more hefty.

Because this is an UnRecipe post, for the Wasabi Chopped Salad special, the ingredients that got chopped up included: romaine lettuce, cucumbers, salami, ham, Asiago cheese, red peppers, tomatoes, pepperocini, kalamata olives (sometimes), and a hefty sprinkle of garbanzo beans. For something this flavorful, I just drizzle the bottom of a metal bowl with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, some salt and pepper, and whisk it before tossing all the ingredients in to fully toss and coat. The roasted goat cheese-stuffed tomataoes are of course optional, but it's a nice way to dress up a salad to make it more of a full meal.

A cobb-ish salad for dinner - Photo by Wasabi Prime

Another meal-sized salad that uses most of the same ingredients is a cobb salad. I have my own Wasabi-style that may or may not include avocado, depending on whether or not I have it handy. I think the only thing that really makes my at-home salad somewhat cobb-ish is the boiled egg and some crumbled blue cheese. For this UnRecipe cobb salad, it tends to include chopped romaine, English cucumber (I hate seeding/peeling), ham, turkey, Provolone, chopped tomatoes, boiled egg, blue cheese and crumbles of bacon. For this salad, I tend to use my kitchen shortcuts, which is to say I boil the eggs ahead of time, usually four or five at a time, and instead of cooking the bacon in a skillet, I lay a couple of slices between paper towels and microwave them till crisp -- usually about four minutes in our microwave. The quickie dressing I use is a honey mustard vinaigrette, which has a squeeze of honey, salt and pepper, a dollop of dijon mustard, a splash of vinegar, and whisked with some olive oil to emulsify the whole bit. I do this in a large metal bowl first, trying to coat the sides before all the chopped ingredients go in, so it helps distribute the dressing better.

Overall, salads for dinner are a nice way to have a big meal without feeling stupid full afterwards. My eyes are often bigger than my stomach, but at least with a giant pile of chopped veggies and some protein, it works out nicely for dinner, my doctor is happy I get my roughage, and I have the indulgence of having a bit of bacon or cured meats for dinner. I know it sounds like a lot of ingredients to have on-hand and chop for a single salad, but to save on time, you can slice up things like the meat or cheese ahead of time and keep in a container. Chopped cucumber and bell peppers can be pre-chopped and stay fresh for maybe a couple of days. For the most part, it's a relatively quick preparation for an all-in-one meal, and it's a relief to not have to turn on the stove on a hot summer day.

Salads make for happy meals - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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  1. I too am a big fan of salads for meals! It's about the only thing I bother to make for myself when Eric's not around to feed me. :) Beecher's flagship is my fav addition to any salad. By the way - it was REALLY great to meet you the other day!

  2. Oh man this looks delicious! And your photographs are beautiful! Everything here looks great!
    I recently launched my own blog, I'd love for you to check it out and let me know what you think! :) Thanks!


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