July 21, 2009

Summer Salads: Make One

I think it's time to reveal something serious about my family...we're salad eaters. Big ones. Not the kind who smother iceberg lettuce from a bag with French "dressing," but the kind who believe that making salad is an art form.

Need proof? It's a running joke in our family that my mother is physically incapable of making salad for any group smaller than 40...for some reason, no matter how well-intentioned she starts out, the woman always gets carried away and produces a salad that could feed Rhode Island. The sad thing? We always, always finish it by the end of dinner, usually because I grab the salad at the end of dinner and eat whatever's left right out of the bowl.

Need more proof? My father taught me what I consider to be the great truth of human existence: no matter the problem, bacon and crumbled blue cheese (especially in a salad) is the solution. Economic crisis? Bacon and blue cheese. Philandering politicians? Bacon and blue cheese. You get the picture. My father's salads rarely feature any actual "lettuce" (a habit I've also picked up), and are generally a delicious mixture of celery, green pepper, blue cheese, bacon (not much...just enough), and perhaps spinach if he's feeling kooky.

The point here is that salads can be whatever you want them to be--the basics are just a few complementary ingredients, some oil, and something acidic (lemon juice, vinegar, orange juice, etc.). Because greens don't keep very well (especially when one dines alone every night), I tend to treat celery as my "lettuce" base for each salad, and build from there with whatever veggies I have in the fridge. For example, I recently made a salad of celery, brown rice, golden beets, and parmesan.

In search of inspiration for your salad this summer? Mark Bittman is featuring 101 Summer Salad Recipes on the Minimalist, and even included a video on how to make salad dressing. Not a big salad eater? Get with it--in the heat of summer, a well-built salad can stand in for a full, heavy meal while still offering all the nutrients you need.

Trust me, I'm a doctor. (Well...no. I'm not. But it sounds cool.)

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