Saturday, September 19, 2009

- Salad Days

The phrase “salad days” has been rattling around in my head all week and during lunch today I wondered out loud if I was right in recalling that it meant good times. Afterwards, I went to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary website at www.m-w.com to check my assumption, finding:

     Main Entry: salad days
     Function: noun plural
     Date: 1606
     : time of youthful inexperience or indiscretion
     “my salad days when I was green in judgment” — Shakespeare
     also : an early flourishing period : heyday

So, not exactly “good times,” although I certainly have fond memories from way back when. I guess what I need is an ancillary definition to cover our recent lunch-time fare, which is replete with salads, no two exactly alike and all good.

We've avoided the “lettuce, tomato and cucumber” rut by taking a cue from the old Chinese menus of the past, which prompted choosing “one from column a, one from column b” etc.  In composing your own salads, try to use as many categories as possible without using too many ingredients from any one category. And if you read this and wonder, “How could she have forgotten (fill in the blank)?” please send a comment ... I'll happily add to the lists.

Greens
Lettuces - Romaine, spinach, arugula, leaf lettuce (either “baby” or mature, blends or single variety)
Cabbage and other cruciferous vegetables
Herbs - chives, basil, cilantro
Vegetables – Avocado, cucumber, celery, carrots, beets (I know, they're not all green)

Fruits
Tomatoes – grape, Roma, cherry, beefsteak
Strawberries, grapes (red seedless)
Oranges, apples, pears, peaches

Nuts and seeds
Tree nuts - walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, almonds
Legumes - peanuts, peas, beans
Seeds – pumpkin, sunflower, sesame

Cheeses
Soft cheese – fresh mozzarella, feta, blue
Grated cheese – parmesan, asiago, cotija

Proteins (leftovers are often an inspiration here)
Meat – chicken, pork, beef
Seafood – shrimp, crab, lobster
Eggs – hardboiled, fried

Starches
Potatoes – boiled, fried
Rice – wild, white, blend
Pasta – orzo, shells, linguine
Added crunch – croutons, wontons, corn chips

Garnishes (for want of a better term)
Onions – scallion, red onion, shallot, chives
Olives – Kalamata, green (please, not canned black olives)
Peppers – bell, hot, pickled
Cured meat – bacon, prosciutto, sausage, ham

Dressings
Oils – safflower, olive, peanut, sesame
Citrus juices (fresh squeezed) – lemon, lime, orange
Vinegars – cider, red wine, rice wine, balsamic
Seasonings – salt, pepper, mustard, soy sauce, garlic, anchovy paste

Nota Bene: please avoid bottled dressings … it's so easy to whisk up your own! As a rule of thumb, for two people combine approximately 2-3 Tbs. of citrus juice and/or vinegar with 2-3 Tbs. oil and season to taste. After a while, you’ll find that you can just eye-ball the quantities. Additions such as mustard, garlic and anchovy paste will tend to help the emulsification process along, but just whisking and immediately dressing the salad should suffice.

Here are some tried and true salad combinations, but don’t feel bound by them. Experiment and make note of those that please you.

Greek
Baby spinach and romaine, cucumber, tomato, feta, Kalamata olives, red onions, with a wine vinegar and olive oil dressing.

Italian
Romaine, tomato, pine nuts, prosciutto, olives, shredded asiago, dressed with balsamic and olive oil

Caesar-style
Romaine hearts, croutons, parmesan, seafood (crab, shrimp), dressed with wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, anchovy paste and garlic … please, no tomatoes!

Asian Inspired
Baby greens, bok choy or cabbage, carrot shreds, orange, almonds, shredded pork, scallion, sesame seeds, fried wontons, dressed with peanut and sesame oils, rice wine vinegar, soy and brown sugar

Williamsburg Trellis Style
Baby greens, toasted pecans, scallions, strawberries, boiled potatoesgrilled chicken, bacon, dressed with safflower oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard

BLT
Baby greens, tomato, bacon, walnuts, fresh mozzarella, croutons, dressed with safflower oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard

Arugula
Arugula, tomato, blue cheese, walnuts, avocado, dressed with lemon juice and olive oil

Mexican
Grilled skirt steak or chicken, cotija cheese, blue corn chips or fresh flour tortillas, salsa of red onion, avocado, tomato, jalapeno, and cilantro dressed with lime juice and salt

Breakfast Salad
Baby greens, bacon or ham, fried potatoes, fried eggs, dressed with a touch of balsamic vinegar

Refrigerator Salad
Baby greens, leftover meat, leftover veggies, leftover pasta or rice, nuts and/or cheese, vinaigrette (like this one with baby spinach, leftover chicken, oven-roasted beets, fresh mozzarella and balsamic vinaigrette ... which would have been even better with some pine nuts)

Last, but far from least … do you have a favorite salad combo? If so, please leave a comment and share it with the rest of us!