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How to Eat More Salad

New Year's Salad

Happy New Year, friends! Yancey keeps saying 2013 is going to be The Year. For me, I'm willing it to be The Year my back stops hurting, The Year I get stronger and run a race, The Year I stop being afraid of success, The Year I try some things that scare me, and the Year of Salads. (My apologies to those of you that couldn't give a #$* about resolutions. December 31 rolls around and my resolution engine gets fired up. I wish I could shut it down sometimes.)

Clearly, the salad resolution is easier than the others. If you know some tricks, that is. One thing I'm proud of is that my friends and family report their salads have gotten progressively tastier and more interesting as a result of being around me. A girl has to leave some sort of legacy, right? That's mine.

Now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I guess I have a lot of opinions and tips when it comes to salad. Are you ready for this? 

You don't need lettuce to make a salad. The one pictured here is curly kale and a couple huge handfuls of sprouts (which I'm really into right now and am growing on my kitchen counter.) No lettuce. In the winter, cabbage is often the base of my salads. It's cheap, lasts FOREVER in the fridge, and delivers a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.  

Purchased salad dressing is a racket. A big one. Loaded with calories, expensive, and usually not very tasty. Often, I don't mix up a salad dressing. I just toss my whole salad with a big squeeze of lemon (or lime or vinegar), coarse salt and pepper, and a glug of olive oil. Just pour them right in the bowl and mix gently and well with your hands. If you're going to make dressing, the general rule is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, plus salt (and pepper if you're a pepper person.) Of course you can endlessly variate this--honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Cilantro, sesame and vegetable oil, miso paste, and soy sauce. Find a favorite combo, make a big batch, and use it all week.

A little bit of fat or protein goes a long way, especially if you make a "chopped salad" (as opposed to layered or composed.)  Some finely chopped almonds, a little bit of salami,ham turkey, bacon, or tuna, 1/2 a hard-boiled egg, a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese, a handful of canned chickpeas, or a couple minced olives or anchovies are all you need to make your salad feel like a substantial meal. You can, of course, leave these things out, but I like finding those little nuggets in the tangle of veggies.

Make your salad components uniform in size. There's nothing worse than negotiating a giant chuck of carrot right next to some delicate greens. If you want chunky, make everything chunky (think Greek salad or Salad Nicoise.) A chopped salad (my favorite lately) means you can get a bite of almost everything in one forkful. It also means you're likely to eat more vegetables since they are hospitably cut.

Veggie prep on the weekends makes salad-eating a lot more likely. Otherwise, you'll end up eating cheese and crackers all week. When I'm being good, I wash a few different kinds of greens and wrap them up in paper towels. Then whatever else is cheap and relatively in-season, washed and ready to go. In the winter, it's broccoli, cauliflower, red onions, green onions, radishes, hothouse cucumbers, cilantro, parsley, avocados.

Nuts. And other pantry luxuries. Almost everything is a salad possibility. I'm currently into smoked almonds. When you finely chop them (you just need a few) they taste like bacon in your salad. Some other favorites: olives, pepperocini, capers, raw sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, any kind of canned beans. Be careful with fruit--canned, dried, fresh. Often it's delicious in salads, but you have to be a little more judicious with your combos. I wouldn't advise grapefruit with kidney beans, for instance. Oranges, walnuts, and red onions are a favorite combo. Or blue cheese with apples or pears and dried cherries or cranberries.

Cooked grains will make you feel so proud of yourself. At the beginning of the week, cook something up--brown rice, quinoa, farro, bulgur. Drain, toss with a bit of olive oil, and refrigerate. The possibilities are endless, including tossing cold grains with whatever salad you're making. 

Don't limit salads to a side dish. Eat them as main dishes, and make them just for yourself. I don't mind a plate of celery or carrot sticks, but you're likely to eat a lot more vegetables if you make them interesting. 

What are your favorite combos? What are you planning to do in 2013 that will make you stronger and healthier? 


Reader Comments (10)

We're currently finishing a fun salad that serendipitously ended up full of farro, kale in small pieces, cubed roasted butternut squash and red bell pepper, shiitake mushroom slices, sunflower seeds, and a white balsamic/olive oil dressing. Have to admit I nibbled on it between meals, it was that tasty a combination. I'm going to try to remember it, since it grew like Topsy. But things like this taste so good in the winter! Thanks for your focus. Even though this wasn't your "recipe", I credit you in part for the emphasis, and not just with the beginning of 2013. And I didn't try to create my own dressings, pre-IPOL! Happy New Year and THANK YOU!
January 10, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLynn M
All great tips! But I particularly loved seeing "Nuts. And other pantry luxuries." :-) The idea that something packs a lot of flavor in a small package is one I've picked up from Tamar Adler, I can't remember where I saw the article though... I remember kalamata olives as the easiest go-to ingredient for that.
January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret
Very inspirational! I was about to eat cereal for lunch until I read your post. Instead I pulled together some things that were about to be thrown out and feel much better. I was able to use up some arugula, yellow pepper, cherry tomatoes, avocado, feta and almonds. Delicious!
January 11, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenny Haferbecker
I totally and completely agree and my new year's res is also to eat more fresh, raw salads! I love your blog. I'm in Seattle too.
Thanks for these tips. I'm going to share this on my facebook "leftovers lady" page.
Hi Sarah, Eating more raw foods and growing sprouts are two things I want to add into 2013. By the way, tell Yancey I'm with him on the 2013 is THE YEAR kick. I've been tooting that horn for 2 months straight. Back to sprouts, would you care to explain how you sprout them? Love to you, Jenn
January 14, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJenn Gallucci
Jenn, I bought a 4-tier sprouter that's self-draining. On Amazon. It works great. It says you don't have to soak the seeds, but I do. I buy my seeds at the co-op. Miss you :)

Lynn, you are such a lovely, faithful reader. Love thinking of you, Gary, and your family eating iPol-inspired food!

And Jenny, what are you doing commenting?! Love it.
January 14, 2013 | Registered CommenterSarah MK
I love you site's name "inpraiseofleftovers". Just like what other said, this post is very inspirational. GREAT!
January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterFilipino Food
I LOVE this post! It is a good kick in the pants to remind me that I shouldn't be lazy and to just make a salad out of what I have - likely, there are enough ingredients in my pantry and fridge to make one! Love the suggestion that lettuce isn't necessary (though I adore baby spinach and arugula). Do you treat your cabbages or kale any special way (I've heard you can rub salt on kale to soften it, but have never done it)? Or do you go for crunch?
Also, these remind me of Heidi Swanson's salads; I love her ideas, too.
January 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKatherine
I posted last week and somehow I must not have hit enter.......darn.

Anyway, I loved this post. I have personally benefited tremendously as a cook (and human being) in the years I got to share your kitchen Sarah. We are always making salads full of surprises in our home. Ours almost always include: beans (black, pinto, garbanzo or some combination), nuts, small amounts of cheese, large amounts of any vegetables around and almost always, some hard boiled eggs. Whatever culinary abilities I have, they stem from you Sarah! Thank you for the past and present! Much love.
January 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterJackie
I love this post, Sarah! I'm such a salad lover, and often give people very similar tips to make salads more tasty.When I met my husband he was a burger fanatic, and now when I ask him to list his favorite meals, at least a few of the top 5 are salads we make at home.

This one with sprouts looks fantastic!
January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

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