Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The perfect salad

The one glorious summer I lived in New York City, I would eat a chopped salad nearly every day for lunch.  This is when and where my salad addiction started.

My internship was in midtown, and if you're familiar with this part of the city then you would agree that quick and delightful lunch spots are heavily sprinkled down 6th, 7th and Broadway between 34th and Times Square. Thus when it came time each day to hop into the elevator and wander the streets to pick up a bite for lunch {in the sweltering heat} I would often head over to Chop't to order my salad of the day.

The special thing about this heavily trafficked lunchtime locale is when they say "do you want it chopped?" And that, my friends, makes all the difference in the world.  There is nothing I mean, NOTHNG worse than a salad which features lettuce leaves the size of your fist. I mean really, how are you supposed to eat that like a lady? It completely detracts from the salad experience, not to mention your table manners.

So how, you ask, do you make this perfect chopped salad at home?

Well, I hate to say it, but if you follow my instructions your salad will look nothing like this.  It's pretty and all, but how are you supposed to eat it? One ingredient at a time?

My secrets and tips for the most satisfying salad

It's all about the perfect combination of textures chopped it into bite-sized pieces.

something crunchy... I usually combine two kinds of greens for the perfect amount of crunch. My favorite combo is chopped romaine hearts and spinach. Mixing in corn will add crunch to otherwise un-crunchy greens (like arugula or baby spinach). I also like to shred carrots with a vegetable peeler to sneak in this healthy veggie without it being too overbearing.
something creamy... avocado and/or cheese. At the moment I've been on a feta and avocado kick. Even though avocado is high in fat, it has so many benefits that make it totally worth the splurge. To balance it out I'll only include a tablespoon or so of feta. 
something salty... olives! just a few and chopped into tiny pieces adds a ton of flavor.
something sweet... I love grape tomatoes OK really any kind of tomato or mandarin oranges.
lean protein... I've been on a turkey lunchmeat kick lately, but equally as delicious are black beans, chickpeas, rotisserie chicken or a hard boiled egg.
salt and pepper... what? yes! it's the most important part of any salad because it brings out all the yummy flavors.
tangy dressing... the salad dressing aisle is your oyster. or just make your own.

Combine all of your chopped ingredients in a large bowl, pour your favorite dressing over the top, then toss, mix and stir with a fork until every morsel is coated. {What's worse than a non-chopped salad? A salad with dressing on top and dry ingredients on the bottom. It's just wrong.}

Which brings me back to my story...

Since those few precious months in NYC, every summer, like clockwork, I crave salads like crazy.  Just ask Ross how many times between May and September I say "let's have a big salad for dinner." If you ask me, I'd say at least three times a week (which is of course in addition to eating "a big salad" for lunch). If you ask him he'd say "EVERY damn DAY!" {What can I say, he loves it.} Truth be told Ross doesn't mind having "a big salad" every few nights as long as it's extremely filling and satisfying.  And I'll be frank with you guys, I do two things very well: cooking Mexican rice and tossing together "big" salads. The latter just happens to be what's on the menu as of late.

{However, I am thinking this recipe will make a come back the moment I feel even the slightest chill in the air.}

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