As Homer Simpson famously said “You don’t win friends with salad”. I wholeheartedly agree.
I don’t like salads much. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I detest them, but they’re not a favourite. I eat salad because its healthy, has plenty of nutrients my body needs and because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do when you’re overweight.
Having said that, there are a few salads I do enjoy. Think crispy green lettuce (and it must be green, none of that pale yellow core stuff), wedges of tomato, slices of cucumber, grated carrot, chunks of feta, slices of parmesan, hunks of bread made into crudités, pieces of chicken or egg.
I want textured salads.
What exactly are textured salads?
Nope, no TVP (textured vegetable protein) in sight!
I strongly believe in fresh foods, foods that I know what’s in the recipe and not some store bought concoction, which could be translated as a store bought potion to send you straight to the hospital.
So, I make my own salads and I make sure they are textured. You know how in a salsa each piece of veg or fruit is exactly the same size and shape? Well, for me that’s not a textured salad. Textured salads are where each piece of vegetable or fruit is of a different size, shape and most importantly colour.
You have to, beyond anything else, have a colourful salad. Amazing presentation on top of a colourful salad and all else will be forgiven. Half your battle is won! You’re going to have everyone going crazy for the salad.
Make strategic decisions about which vegetables and fruits will be which sizes. I don’t like much capsicum or cucumber, but I do eat them. To stop them from overpowering my salad, I chop them into small sticks or cubes, or thin slices of the cucumber. Or the opposite, I make long sticks that stick out a mile which my husband loves and I can easily detect and add to his burgeoning plate.
Grate some of the vegetables too. If you have fresh beetroot, grate them for a change. Grated carrot is so common, try peeling it into strips for a change and grate the zucchini instead. I also have 2 different size graters so I can grate the carrot big and the zucchini small and again I have a different type of texture.
Layer the colour and the textures to make the presentation easy, and then you don’t need to toss the salad. The salad will stay looking really fresh and vibrant if you don’t add the dressing. I make the dressing on the side so each person can add their own on their plate. I try to put the largest item down the bottom of the salad, or put the lettuce leaves on the bottom to mark the boundary of the salad. If your salad doesn’t have lettuce or another type of green leaf in it, you can use one or two of the larger cos lettuce leaves to line the bowl for decoration (and my husband will usually eat these as well).
A tin of canned brown lentils, some fruit (such as pineapple pieces, slices of pear or apple and halved grapes) as well as crudités are an enlightening experience for the salad. You’ve taken your ‘I’ve-made-this-salad-a-million-times-before’ salad to a whole new level. Ever tried sun-dried tomatoes in place of fresh? A-maz-ing!
To help, here are a few combinations I’ve tried recently.
You really can’t go wrong with a salad. Be creative!
Lentil, Beetroot and Feta salad
Small brown round (puy) lentils, with thinly sliced and cubed pieces of beetroot (pat dry first if using the canned variety as it minimises bleeding), with crumbled feta (use your fingers to crumble as it creates the non-uniform shapes) added to some cos lettuce cut lengthwise into strips and a cubed avocado on top. The dressing is up to you.
Moroccan White Bean Salad
A handful or two of some cooked but cooled white beans with another handful of the beige and uniquely shaped chickpeas created the base of this salad. Merge together with loads of brightly coloured orange grated carrot and a teaspoon of raj al hanout (Moroccan spice mix) and a dash of olive oil. It creates a wonderful spicy contrast to the plain boring white beans.
Roughly shred deep green cos lettuce (I tore it using my hands), with some bright yellow tinned corn kernels, some tinned maroon red kidney beans (always thoroughly rinse tinned foods like these to remove the extra salt), rich red diced tomatoes, bright orange grated carrot, tiny chunks of while cucumber. Sprinkle it all with some blonde grated parmesan cheese. Looks totally delish. For dressing sprinkle over a dash of pomegranate molasses or the ol’ combined lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper stand-by.
Red and Green Salad
Wedges of bright red fresh tomato, thinly sliced straws of deep ruby sun-dried tomato combined with the fresh watery crescents of cucumber and the torn squares of nourishingly good green lettuce created this mouth watering salad. I used some of the sun-dried tomato oil for the dressing, saving money and time by already having the speedy flavoured oil ready at my beck and call.