Fun With Salad / by Anne

salad.pasta I read recently that your dinner plate is "supposed" to contain only 1/4 meat, 1/4 starchy stuff and then all the rest is vegetables.  Or something like that.  Maybe it was exactly one bite of meat followed by three pounds of vegetables.

At any rate, the ratio was interesting to consider, since many of the meals I make for my family are usually super meat-happy.  Michael has passionate carnivorous tendencies, and Rosalie is no stranger to the meats, either.  I am somehow less so.  Not to say that I'm a bunny--although I was a semi-vegetarian for a few years.  I'm definitely an omnivore with all the delights that go with it, but after awhile, I feel like I need a break from the meaty side of life.     Also, with all the food experimenting I like to do (especially lately with chocolate), it's easy to start feeling gross from all the richness. 

Salad is one of my favorite dishes.  It's a pretty broad category, so there's no shortage of possibilities there.  Especially when you do the weird thing that I've been doing lately with my salads.  Basically I make a dinner for Michael and Rosalie that would make them happy, then I mix a small serving of whatever is for dinner into a huge, crunchy, colorful salad. 

Here's the deal.   A vast expanse of plants on my plate can be fun for awhile, but it can become tedious, especially when the rich part of the meal (the enchilada, the baked potato, the pasta, the pizza) can just ruin the fun of salad by hanging out there being intense and delicious. I don't want salad to ever become a chore. 

So. If I'm going to eat the healthy salad and the alluring rich food all in the same meal anyway, why not make a salad with vegetables that are harmonious with the main dish, then dump that dish right on my salad?

For example: Pizza?  Cut it into cubes and you have pizza croutons.  How about chili? Just think "taco salad" and include veggies that work in that context, such as bell pepper, avocado, onion, crisp lettuce, and tomatoes.  All manner of meats thrive in a salad when cut up small enough, and the sauces just add some complexity to the vinaigrette. 

Tonight I transformed a bowl of soup into a salad by cutting up only chunky veggies rather than leafy ones, then pouring the soup over them (without most of the broth).  What broth there was broadened the flavor of the simple olive oil and vinegar.

At first I started doing this just because it was fun and it tasted good.  Now I'm considering it a challenge.  How many dinners or lunches can become salads?  When does it go too far?  Indian curries or Thai food?  I think not, especially if it's a heavily spinachy salad.  Seriously. Is there a single homestyle meal you can think of that absolutely would not work on top of a big old salad? I can't think of one yet.