Salad. A bowl of minimally nutritious iceberg lettuce perfectly hidden under a variety of preservative-laden lunch meats, the finest store-brand cheddar cheese a budgeting mom can find, a couple of hard boiled eggs, a few spoonfuls of imitation bacon chips and big ol' garlicky croutons. OH! Don't forget the salad dressing! Yep, a healthy pour of French dressing (Kraft please).
As a kid, THAT is exactly what salad meant to me. If any of the aforementioned elements were missing, it just wasn't a salad worth eating. But, as I have blossomed into a food-aware adult, my salad cravings have shifted a great deal as luscious veggies (almost) always take center stage; the cheese is often something crumbly (and sometimes stinky); imitation bacon stuff has been traded for turkey bacon; and the salad dressing of choice is NOT French...well, not typically.
When I think back on my early salad-lovin' days and compare it to what I enjoy now, I can't say I wouldn't step back in time (every rainbow-colored moon) to enjoy a smattering of that French dressing on my salad, BUT, it's SO FUN to explore other flavor combinations.
Here’s a peek at some of the salads that have been tickling our taste buds in recent weeks.
Asian-style Cobb Salad
This beauty was inspired by what was labeled Asian-style Cobb Salad. I deviated a bit from the recipe, opting for sautéed chicken seasoned with Chinese 5-Spice Powder, Garlic Powder, Salt & Pepper. I chose fresh minneola oranges over canned mandarins. And I skipped the avocado altogether.
Chinese 5-Spiced Chicken Salad w/ Toasted Cashews
Don't judge me, but this Spicy Peanut Dressing may be my new French dressing. In addition to being great on this chicken & cashew salad, it's great as a dip for Spring Rolls. I've even used it as a sauce for a random meal of Ziti, chicken breast & edamame.
Kale Caesar with Grilled Chicken and Stuffed, Roasted Roma Tomatoes
Caesar salad is yummy, but I have a mental aversion to using mayonnaise and raw egg...so I just don't. The dressing was made with a mix of greek yogurt, lemon, roasted garlic, salt, fresh-ground pepper, Worcestershire sauce and anchovy paste. And those croutons were made with a leftover piece of ciabatta bread that I diced up and seasoned with salt, fresh-ground black pepper, dried oregano and olive oil. Toast in the oven until golden brown and VOILA!
This one was TONS of fun because I had always wanted to try a panzanella salad but never bit the bullet...until that one day when I did! Woohoo!!! I saw this recipe and was convinced the 1/2 loaf of tomato-basil bread in the freezer would be the perfect addition! Instead of sautéing the bread, I drizzled with a smidge of olive oil and let the oven do the toasting. And much to our surprise, it was even better the next day!
Roasted Veggie Salad
One of the things I love about Spring and Summer is the presence of Farmers' markets. I love seeing what local farmers have to share with the community. And, on a Summer Sunday, when you've spent a good bit of the day running errands, to include picking up fresh goodies from the local farmers' market, preparing an elaborate meal is NOT on the list of priorities. Enter the roasted veggie (asparagus, beets, cherry tomato and radish), beautifully finished with a roasted garlic vinaigrette. Mmm...
Broccolini and Cherry Tomato Salad
Oh yeah, just because it's called a salad does not mean lettuce is included. It could be a fun mix of veggies prepared with love, like this Broccolini and Cherry Tomato Salad, to go alongside a lovely piece of fish or chicken. I know what you're thinking, "Did she use mayonnaise for the dressing?" NOPE! Not at all! This was actually a mix of greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper and dill weed. We topped the salad off with toasted sunflower seeds and a sprinkling of hemp seeds. Soooo good!
When it's all said and done, a great salad is really just an amalgam of delicious, colorful goodies that speak to YOUR individual taste buds. And when you experiment with flavor combinations, you often end up creating something that tastes like M-A-G-I-C!