Friday, May 24, 2013

Salad Un-Recipes

You really don't need a recipe for most salads. You just need a general idea of what to put in and a vague notion of proportions. Does it matter if a recipe calls for half a cup of shredded carrots and you got three-fourths of a cup from yours? Or if it calls for six hard-boiled eggs and you only have five? Of it calls for diced chicken and you have leftover shredded chicken, or even pork? Usually not. You mostly just put in what you have and what your family will eat. Does the recipe call for pickled beets and you know no one in your family will touch them with a ten foot pole? Then leave them out. It seldom matters.

So, with that philosophy in mind, here are some un-recipes for salads. They're good as written, but they're flexible enough that you can play with them without hurting them. Who knows - they may even turn out better!

Turn coleslaw or cabbage salad into a whole meal salad by adding some chopped hard boiled eggs and some bacon and/or cheese. Or some sausage cut into small bits. Some sunflower seeds are good, too. I usually shred the cabbage for a whole meal salad instead of chopping it. It somehow makes it seem more substantial. I have this a lot in the summer when I don’t want to cook, but it’s good any time of year.

Combine raw cauliflower, a bit of celery (optional), chopped hard boiled eggs, ranch dressing and sunflower seeds (optional) for another main dish salad. Use lots of eggs, since this will be the protein for the meal.

Add a chopped hard-boiled egg to a can of tuna when you make tuna salad. It stretches the tuna. It works with chicken, too. Or ham.

Make a Cobb salad, with lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado, egg, and blue cheese. Or any combination of these. I seldom use all of them at once, though they’re all part of an official Cobb salad.

Make a chef salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumber, egg, cheese, and leftover meat. Add some olives if you like them.

Make a spinach salad with spinach, bacon, egg, onion, mushrooms, and hot bacon dressing or a sweet dressing.

Peel hard-boiled eggs and throw them whole into a jar of pickle juice for pickled eggs. Or into the juice from canned pickled beets. Or add the juice from a can of beets to some pickle juice and add the eggs to that.

Make a “layered” salad. In a big bowl (glass if you have it, so you can show off the layers), put some chopped or torn lettuce. Then a layer of frozen peas, a layer of hard boiled eggs, another layer of lettuce, a thin layer of sliced green onions, a layer of halved cherry tomatoes (sliced regular tomatoes get too juicy), a layer of crumbled cooked bacon and a layer of grated cheddar. Mix some mayo with some salt and pepper and a couple of teaspoons of sugar and spread it over the top, sealing it all the way to the edges. Refrigerate overnight. You’re supposed to serve it from the glass bowl, but I find it works best to show it off, then mix it all up myself. Otherwise some folks get just lettuce and others get the good stuff. It’s a really flexible recipe. Sometimes it calls for broccoli or cauliflower, sometimes for sliced water chestnuts. I like to put some sunflower seeds in it, and some people use chopped or whole peanuts. Basically, just use whatever you have. You could mix some ranch dressing with the mayo for the topping, too, if you wanted to.

There are lots of simple tomato salads. I cut them into bite-sized pieces and add a bit of mayo. Or some ranch dressing. Or a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. A medium tomato with any of these would make a good sized serving. They’ll dress up the plate more if you serve them on a lettuce leaf.

Sliced cucumber in ranch dressing is good. Or in sour cream, with or without dill. Or sliced cucumbers and onion in a dressing of equal parts vinegar and oil, plus some salt and pepper.

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