How to Make the Big Salad (hint: a dinner salad)
Article by Karsten Moran for The New York Times
Full article at https://cooking.nytimes.com/guides/43-how-to-make-salad?em_pos=large&emc=edit_ck_20170515&nl=cooking&nlid=78169914
For the ideal big salad, there’s no one recipe, but there are some rules. Start with sturdier greens: soft lettuces tend to get squashed in a big salad. Next, add one or two elements each from the three major categories: fruits and vegetables, proteins and starches. We’ll go into more detail below. You can use whatever is on hand, or aim for an artistic mix of textures, colors, shapes and tastes; either way, what you make is likely to be good. Six to eight total ingredients, before toppings, is the right number: Too few, and your palate will get bored before you’re done eating; too many, and the bowl gets crowded and confusing. Look for a substantial dressing — one with a creamy element like avocado, cheese, tahini or yogurt — to bind it all together. Toss gently to avoid crushing soft ingredients.
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES When composing a big salad, fruits and vegetables add heft, but, more important, they provide an appealing jumble of colors and flavors. Once you’ve chosen your greens, you’ll want to choose one or two from this category and add them before dressing your salad. How you prepare and slice them will affect the consistency. Apples, avocados, bell peppers, celery, carrots, cucumbers, fennel, mushrooms, onions, pears, radishes, snap peas, snow peas, summer squash like zucchini, and tomatoes (drained on paper towels, if watery) are best raw and thinly sliced or julienned (peeled, if necessary). Figs, grapes, nectarines, melons, mangoes, peaches and small tomatoes are benefit being raw, and cut into bite-size pieces. Asparagus, beets, broccoli, cauliflower, corn, edamame, peas and string beans should be cooked until tender, and cut into bite-size pieces.
PROTEIN Protein is optional, but it adds another level of satiation; use one item from this category or, at most, two. If using soft ingredients like salmon or tofu, add them at the very end, after tossing, so they don’t fall apart in the bowl. Use a cured meat, like prosciutto, jamón serrano or country ham, in very thin slices. Similarly, thinly sliced saucisson sec, aged chorizo, salami, bacon or pancetta can add a salty bite along with protein. Or try fish, like grilled or canned tuna, salmon or another meaty fish; smoked trout, salmon, mackerel or whitefish; and shrimp or squid that’s been poached, roasted or grilled. There’s also always tried-and-true chicken (poached, roasted or grilled) or steak, cut into small pieces. For meatless options, try cubed or sliced tofu, cheese in small cubes or crumbled, eggs (hard-boiled and quartered, soft-boiled and halved, or poached and left whole).
STARCHES If that’s not enough substance, starches (whether grains or vegetables) make the salad filling and satisfying. Consider beans and legumes (white, cranberry, cannellini, black, chickpeas, lentils); grains, like quinoa, farro, bulgur wheat and barley; roasted or boiled potatoes; and roasted sweet potatoes or winter squash. They can all add much needed heft to your big salad. But make sure these ingredients are well cooked: Underdone beans or hard squash will not absorb dressing or combine nicely.
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