Friday, June 15, 2012

Theme: Salad

I often find myself, lately, talking with people about salads. I eat a salad for lunch  most days, much of the year. For many years, that was a goal, but I never managed to reach it - and my greens would sit limply in the crisper... A few years ago, though, when I was carrying a lunch to work every day, I got a system going, which I think may help other people.

The major shift was to preprep my food. Absolutely, in a perfect world, it is better to wash and prepare lettuce and other salad vegetables immediately before eating them. If you are doing that, and it works for you, by all means continue. But I was running out to work without a lunch, because it would take too long to fix something. And *if* I remembered a salad at dinner, it was plain lettuce, because, at the end of the day, chopping one radish, one scallion, and half a carrot was just too fussy.

I got a good vegetable keeper, though. And I had used Zip-Loc produce bags, which have tiny holes to let air circulate, and keep vegetables surprisingly fresh. And, somehow, I got the bright idea...

Washing lettuce and storing it, carefully dried, was just the first step. I collected little one cup containers, and started washing and cutting up other vegetables. I ended up with a little stack in the refrigerator, with four or five assorted vegetables. Scallions and radishes, sure - but also cut snap peas in spring, and broccoli or zucchini later on,  and whatever other vegetables I want. Without planning it, I find that I often finish one container a day - and it's easy, then, to wash it and refill it with the next vegetable from my refrigerator.

So, that is all I need for a good side salad. But for a meal - I need to add some kind of protein. Again, I preprep. I try to have at least three things on hand, and then choose two, so my salads have some variety over the course of the week. And I often have more than three...

Cheese. I like feta for salads (usually lower fat, and a nice bite - the salt isn't a problem for me.) But others are good, too.
Cooked beans. I add a little vinegar, so they keep well. Sometimes I use a nice salad dressing, instead, to vary the flavor, or add herbs. Or I just make a classic three bean salad, or lentil salad.
Tofu. I know some people just cube it as is - I like to cook it a bit to firm it up - and again, I may add a marinade.
Meat. If I'm cooking chicken for dinner, I may add an extra piece. If I cook ham, I definitely keep some for salads.
Hard cooked eggs.

Again, I have a stack of small containers - though, in this case, they may be of different sizes.

When I want to make my salad, I just take out the bag of washed greens, and the stacks of add ins - and proceed as if I were at a salad bar. Personally, I like to mix one animal protein source  with one vegan source - but that's my taste. You do what works for you. I may also add  olives, or capers, or... a bit of something to fancy it up.

If I'm carrying the meal, I put salad dressing in a smaller leakproof container. I make my own vinaigrette, but I find creamier ones are better for carrying - they're less likely to dribble a bit after you use them, if you don't have facilities to wash your dishes right after use. I'll be experimenting with more salad dressings over time.

I eat  whole grain bread or crackers with it. I may have a topping for them, too - but that's another post.

(Edited to add pictures...)

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