Years ago my father and I took a few cooking classes together. He and I are the cooks in the family and it was a nice way to have some time for ourselves to spend together, away form all the people we take care of. So, when I was picking classes I chose fancy classes with elaborate ingredients. All About Duck and posh stuff like that. What did my dad choose? He chose a salads class.

I'm going to be honest, I was a little disappointed with his choices. What the hell. I'm getting a sitter and taking time away from the kids so I can go to a salads class. Whatever. It was fine.

So now, a little time has passed. Guess how much I use the techniques I learned in the duck class? Yeah, not so often. Now, guess how often I use the insights I learned about salads? That's right! Every single week of my life. When I'm wrong I admit it. So here goes: I'm sorry I judged you harshly for your cooking class choice, Daddy-O. You clearly know more than I do and you probably always will. How's that?

OK, so getting back to salads. I love them. My whole family loves them. My kids too. They are long time salad eaters. (Which calls to mind the saying that my girlfriends and I had when we were in high school to judge the perfect tiny little girls who hardly ate anything and wore size 2 jeans [now called size zero] and had tanning booths installed IN THEIR HOMES - they were the "Salad Eating Bitches." And we were not like them in any way and would never think to order a salad as an entree on a fancy date. But I digress, as usual.)

Salads have become a respectable meal choice. My kids are accustomed to salads with meats, fruits, nuts, cheeses, crispy and crunchy things, and dressings as diverse as the ingredients. And I'm not sure if they have ever had Good Seasons Italian dressing. Which is the only dressing I ever had until I was in my teens. (OK, Pops, that was another dig and I'm sorry. But really - come on! Day after day. Year after year. I'm not sayin'. I'm just sayin'.)

So here are some of the things I learned:

Salad can have any ingredient. There are no limits.
Good salads tend to have 3 or 4 of the following flavors: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, pungent
Good salads often have a balance of textures: crisp, crunchy, creamy, chewy, smooth, meaty (which does not have to come from meat, see tofu and mushrooms)
Good salads have a point of focus: If your salad has duck confit, it should not also have seared tuna
Good salads sometimes have a regional theme: Asian with soy and sesame, Greek with feta and cukes, Mexican with beans and corn, you get the gist
Good salads do not have to have greens: Don't forget pasta salads, grain salads, fruit salads and the undeniably delicious bread salad
Good salads can be adventurous or simple. The fresher the better.

Here are a couple of my favorites. Please enjoy.

The Salad That Was a Hit With the Neighbors:
2 avocados
2 baskets blackberries
sprinkling of thinly sliced shallots
1/4 cup crumbled chevre
1/4 cup spicy pecans, chopped
Toss salad with dressing, below:

Champagne vinaigrette with shallots and chevre
1 cup mild olive oil
1/4 cup champagne vinegar
1/2 cup champagne
2 Tbsp. chopped shallots
salt and fresh ground black pepper
pinch sugar, to taste

This salad is such a great fall salad. The toasted hazelnuts make this dish.

My Favorite Side Salad (from a restaurant I worked at 14 years ago):
mixed greens
red onions, thinly sliced
crumbled Gorgonzola
toasted hazelnuts, rough chopped

Cider Tarragon Vinaigrette:
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1/8 cup cider vinegar
1/8 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon (or 2 tsp. chopped fresh)
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together and slowly drizzle in:
1/4 cup olive oil

This salad is big and meaty and very Italian. Perfect for a crowd or as a main dish for your family.

Italian Salumi Chef Salad
Lots of crisp Romaine lettuce, torn (at least 2 heads)
1 head radicchio, torn small
2 ribs celery, thin sliced
2 carrots, sliced into thin rings
1/4 cup Sopressata, chopped
1/4 cup Italian Ham, chopped
1/4 cup Smoked Turkey, chopped
1/4 cup Fontina cheese, in small cubes
1/4 cup Gorgonzola, crumbled
1/4 cup shaved Parmigiano (shaved with a vegetable peeler)
1 jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and rough chopped
1/2 cup Italian olives - your preference
1/2 cup Sweet Cherry Peppers, drained and rough chopped
Toss together. Dress with your favorite balsamic vinaigrette.

Serve with crusty bread.

So many choices! And God knows we don't have shortage of meals to think about.

Other salad recipe resources:


Jen of A2eatwrite said...

I LOVE salads! Here's one of my faves:

arugala (gads... how do I spell that?)
2 pts. olive oil
1 pt. strawberry balsamic vinegar
montreal steak seasoning to taste (I kid you not!)

This is always my spring salad when all these things are fresh

Erica said...

YUM! I can't wait!

Momo Fali said...

Mmmmmmm! Thanks for sharing!!

Dapoppins said...

Your teaser tittle on Create Buzz made me come and check out just what you were talking about. And I am so glad I did...although, some of those ingredients are things I have never heard of. Just sayin'

Dapoppins said...

why does that arugala...sp, go so well with fruit?