Monday, March 7, 2011

Deconstructed salad

Clockwise from top: pita chips, hummus,
cucumber sticks, grape tomatoes, Caesar dip, baby carrots
One of my cooking idiosyncracies is that I absolutely loathe cutting salad. I’m not really sure why; it could just be that I’m impatient. Or it could be that people always throw salad in to recipe and menu discussions as an afterthought, as if it’s a snap—you know, all that “serve with a tossed salad”; “all you need alongside is a salad”; etc.—when cutting and making dressing for a tossed salad involving more than one ingredient can take up a pretty good-sized chunk of time. It’s not hard, but it is fiddly, and not my first choice of activity when I’m trying to get dinner on the table for the hungry hordes, or for that matter, lunch on the table for my hungry self. I don’t find “knife work” (that’s cheffyspeak for “cutting up things”) soothing at the best of times, and right before I want to eat is definitely not the best of times.

So today, I decided to let my mouth do the chopping instead. And I actually find this much more satisfying and interesting to eat than throwing it all in a single bowl, dousing it with dressing, and mixing it up. It’s like eating a bunch of different things, instead of one thing.

Try it and see—make yourself up a plate.

Deconstructed salad
Can be made with any combination of the items listed below that sounds good and is available to you.

No-chopping vegetables
baby carrots
grape tomatoes
snow peas

A little chopping vegetables
cucumber sticks
celery sticks
red or yellow pepper strips

Crunchy things
pita chips
toasted bread, any kind

Dressing/dippy things
warm artichoke-asiago dip
feta salsa dip
garlicky sundried tomato spread
slapdash ranch dressing

Caesar-flavored dip
6 oz/180 g plain Greek yogurt
2 oz/60 g mayonnaise
1 tsp/5 ml soy sauce
1 clove garlic
2-3 Tbsp pecorino romano cheese
1 anchovy
1 tsp/5 ml lemon juice
Black pepper to taste

Put all ingredients in a small food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with any or all of the above.

Makes about 1 cup. Can be made ahead of time and refrigerated to let the flavors meld. The garlic flavor gets stronger the longer you let it meld.


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