Friday, November 30, 2007

The Salad is Not your Enemy

I'm on a veggie crave at the moment. The Panera Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich is calling my name sweetly from afar. Ah the siren song of cilantro hummus, the sweet strains of tomato-basil bread.....

I've never been a full vegetarian, but I tend to follow my cravings as a guide for eating. Generally if you have a serious craving, it's something your body needs. Of course, everyone has their emotional "trigger" foods as well, but generally it's always better to follow your intuition when it comes to...well just about everything. On the other hand, sometimes I wonder if an aimless "snacky" craving for nothing in particular is really a grazing instinct because I'm craving something I've never tasted before. Maybe my instinct is seeking a bite of some rare Korean flavoring or a drink of some exotic fruit juice.

Well...maybe not, but it's a good excuse to learn all kinds of interesting new dishes :-)

Growing up, we had a saying about my brother. It went "the only green things he likes are grapes and money." He hated most green vegetables, to the point where mom started to find creative ways to hide them in sauces and stuffings. It wasn't until adulthood that he figured out why he hated salads so much. Or rather that he didn't...he just hated bad salads. Generally the salad we grew up with was iceberg lettuce (bitter and nutrient-poor), bland cheese (mozzarella or tasteless commercial colby-jack) and packaged (over-sweet) dressing.

When he got out of the house and into his own kitchen, he started to experiment. In experimenting, he found out two things...he hated iceberg lettuce, and most off-the-shelf dressings are actually pretty gross. The first time I saw him actually sit down and dig into a plate of what they call "rabbit food" with evident enjoyment, I almost had to check him for signs of alien abduction.

He tossed the iceberg (insert rimshot sound here) and started with raw baby spinach and field greens. He chose toppings for taste and quality instead of accepting the traditional (really, does anyone actually like croutons? Unless they're homemade, they're basically stale leftover bread with a little fake butter flavor and decades-old herbs. Yuck.)

Low and behold, he actually found himself liking salad. Low and behold, I followed his example and found that a salad is actually supposed to taste good, not just be bland raw filler material disguised by too much dressing. I found that the cheese to lettuce ratio doesn't have to be anywhere close to equal, if you buy cheese you can actually taste. That's why I like the little import-cheese cooler in the grocery store instead of the standard dairy case. You find cheese that actually tastes like cheese instead of tasting like thick oil or slightly musty butter :-)

So, in honor of the first seriously winter day this year, I present my brother's perfect harvest salad:

Raw baby spinach and/or mixed field greens (I like 1/2 and 1/2 spinach and "spring mix" that uses baby lettuces, endive and mustard greens)

Extra-extra sharp cheddar cheese, (the sharper the better) cubed or crumbled.

roasted sunflower seeds, salted or unsalted according to your taste.

Dried cranberries

Dried Cherries

Grape Tomatoes. I personally hate raw tomatoes, but they work well on this salad for those who like them.

My brother stops there and eats it dry. I like either a fruity vinaigrette (cherry or raspberry) or a really sharp italian dressing to provide a foil against the sweetness of the dried fruit.

Since then, about five years ago, I've re-discovered salad as a good thing, a thing to crave because it tastes good, not an instrument of torture to keep from being too hungry on a "diet".


Rachel said...

I love a good salad, especially one with lots and lots of Bacos (which are vegetarian, oddly enough). I hate that salads have become associated as a diet food; I've received comments upon ordering one from people who just assume I am watching my weight. It's not my weight I'm watching, it's my forkful of Bacos-sprinkled lettuce.

Dee said...

I love salads, but I always order something deep fried when I eat one in public, so that people don't assume I'm dieting.

JoGeek said...

Yeah, the look? The somewhat pitying, somewhat condescending look of "who's she trying to fool" or "oh she's dieting, how pathetically cute" look? That's when I toss a strawberry shortcake onto the order, just because I can :-)

She's A Fatty said...

That sounds really good, I love salad (especially ones with seeds and Italian dressing, don't know what it is.) I rarely get to make my own though.

I will have to make this. Doesn't sound too expensive.