Readers’ Note: This is the 3rd and last segment (STYLE!) of a three-part blog cooking class about making your salad a better place to eat! Click on the red links below to read the other two segments and come chopping with me to make your newest stellar salad! While this class is pretty much do-it-yourself, I welcome comments, emails, photos, etc., to keep us in closer touch — even when we’re all in our own kitchens! Salad on, my friends.
“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”― Laurie Colwin
- Read part 1, SUBSTANCE Ingredients: how and why
- Read part 2, SEASONINGS How to make that salad taste like you want to eat it! Includes info on salt, vinegars, oils, herbs, balance…
3. STYLE! MAKE IT LOOK LIKE YOU WANT TO EAT IT! “Wow, that looks good!”
If it’s tantalizing and vibrant with dewy freshness, jewel-like color, and cheerful, robust variety, it will more than likely taste yummy and then you’ll eat more–which is a good thing. Because… Vegetables = Health. They also cost less than meat and so…. VEGETABLES = Wealth. Eating well is the consequence, so… Vegetables = Happiness. These are all good reasons to take the time to create an eye-popping plate. If at first you have to think about it and that takes an extra minute or dollar, it’s worth it and later on, with practice, it’ll all come more naturally. Everyone deserves a plate that’s easy on the eyes. You do, too.
So how does a salad become beautiful? There are three important components:
- FRESHNESS: We hit freshness in #1, SUBSTANCE, but it’s a critical element for looks. Let’s say you got ready for an 8pm date at 7am, you just wouldn’t look your very best by the time the doorbell rang, would you? Or how about the pizza that sat in the fridge overnight drying the box? Not too appetizing. Same with greens, vegetables, and herbs. The newer, the better, and also the better looking! Any sign of wilt, discoloration, or worn or melted edges takes away from presentation and from taste.
- COLOR: While shopping or planning a garden, think rainbow bright, balance of color, and in season. Royal purple eggplant, green-green grapes, sunshine yellow cherry tomatoes, bright green snap peas, dark green cucumber or zucchini, white cauliflower, shiny red apples, blue cheese. If you devote yourself to always having a varied selection of vegetables and fruits, you’ll have a lot less trouble with STYLE. Your counter and crisper should have plenty from which to choose. Don’t forget cooked and stored vegetables from another meal. Those 2 spears of grilled asparagus from last night can be popped in your mouth for a snack at lunch or, instead, diced and mixed with tiny cubes of sharp cheddar and minced yellow pepper to top a tomato salad for dinner.
- DIFFERENT SIZES/SHAPES/TEXTURES create interest and perhaps symmetry. I love a well-designed chopped salad as much as the next woman, but I also adore one with big CHUNKS of cucumber, WEDGES of celery, SLIMLY-SLICED green beans, MINCED garlic and jalapeño, SHREDDED carrots, CRUMBLES of bacon, CRUNCHY toasted nuts, and a CHIFFONADE of basil. See?
TIP: Next time you spy a great-looking large platter of any shape, grab it. You’ll be thinking about ways to fill it!
LAZY CAPRESE: You can jack up a caprese with nearly anything (and I have), but here I sneak in stovetop grilled zucchini for fun. Recipe.
Other capreses abound on the blog, but here is one post that contains a few in one fell swoop. Or try Grilled Pork Chop Caprese on for size.
above: one lonely leftover loin pork chop had the difficult job of feeding a few people, but she soon teamed up with caprese and greens for the dinner win! recipe–should you need one
SALAD SIDES: Too many of us think of salad itself as a side and, naturally, it can be and often is. But if salad is your main, you’ll occasionally want something to go along with it–even a little bit that provides another texture or bit of nutrition. Bread is the first thing that comes to mind and there’s nothing like a few slices of chewy baguette fresh or grilled with olive oil, salt and pepper. (I keep a small stovetop grill pan just for this purpose, though a little skillet works fine, too.) Though it might feel a travesty to some, I cut big baguettes into 3 or 4 pieces, wrap each in foil, and freeze them for no more than two weeks. Then I just toss them into a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes or so until they’re piping hot. Some bread is better than others for such treatment; you’ll need to experiment. (Day old baguette slices perk up happily when buttered/oiled and grilled.) Homemade muffins, cornbread, scones, or other quick breads are other happy accompaniments and worth working at until they’re just right. When I make Irish soda bread, I often make two, freezing one for a night when dinner is feeling sparse. Yeast bread bakers should practice their great art on a day when salad’s for supper; there might be nothing better unless it’s salty butter on top. Great crackers and cheese — or just cheese — is another idea, especially if your salad isn’t protein heavy. A puréed vegetable soup (see below)–cup or bowl–is another favorite at our house. It warms you up and just makes you feel full. A few pints or quarts of soup in your freezer are a gold mine. Once in a blue moon, a handful of tortilla chips and salsa or guacamole hits the spot if you’ve made a southwestern dish of some kind and feel like a big salty crunch. Try hot tortillas or a quesadilla even. Last, but not least, a lightly caloric and easy to fix dinner indicates it could be a day for dessert—homemade ice cream or scratch chocolate pudding? Maybe even a big batch of your best oatmeal raisin cookies. A pie if you’re flush with time and fruit. Dream on, friends. Try a few different things and see what feels right to you alongside your new salad.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT QUESTIONS:
- What color attracts you the most in food? What shape or size? How do work those into your meals?
- What color is the most difficult to work into a dish?
- Where do you locate or obtain fresher, in season ingredients in your town? Do they deliver?!
- With all these salad sighs and thoughts, how are you motivated? What might you make soon?
As we draw near the end of our three-part salad class, let’s look closely at the salad below featuring salmon and see what we now think about SUBSTANCE, SEASONINGS, AND STYLE!
Lentil + Salmon Salad on Tomatoes: What happens if the tomatoes are pale, not crimson ripe? The carrots minced instead of diced? What if the lentils were overdone and falling apart? How about if the sprigs of thyme are gone? The blue fish dish–how does it figure in? Overdone and dry salmon instead of tender, glistening pieces of fish? Take away the chopped celery and or minced red onion and____________? Think about what’s the BIG flavor pop on this plate? Not necessarily the main flavor, but what do you think makes your mouth sing? What might you serve along side — or would you? For healthful ingredients, taste, satisfaction, and beauty, all things must come together.
TIP: Wild salmon is a precious, often expensive commodity. One way to utilize it without breaking the bank is to buy canned salmon. It’s an accommodating, shelf-stable ingredient to keep in your cupboard (salmon instead of tuna salad, salmon patties, stuffed salmon omelettes, salmon spreads or dips….) and will work here, too. Another option: our local King Soopers (Kroger) often sells a frozen side of wild salmon at a much-lower price than fresh. Given our location in Colorado, much of our fish in the markets have been frozen anyway, so… … …why not?
THANKS SO MUCH FOR JOINING ME FOR THIS THREE-PART SALAD CLASS! Come back and visit the blog for lots more cooking ideas. Friend me on facebook for nearly daily seasonal More Time recipes or follow me on Twitter or Instagram, though I post less frequently on those platforms.
Salad on, friends! I hope you enjoyed reading the three segments as much as I enjoyed writing them and will let me know what you’re chopping up next. It’s bound to be crisp and captivating or tender and chewy or rainbow-bright and piquant…or all of them together. If you’d like, you can take one of the salads in the series out for a trial run–just to get a feel for what we’ve been talking about and to get your feet wet trying something new. Many of them have printable recipes in their own posts. If you email me a photo or a question, you know I’ll respond. Can’t wait to hear and see what you’ll do.
Need more ideas? more main dish salads here
LIFE GOES ON…and I’ve got egg on my face.
Our neighbor, Rachel, is raising hens and making a little egg money while she’s at it! My breakfast from yesterday is above; the eggs were to die for. THANKS, RACHEL!!! Here’s to many more glorious mornings. Love all the urban farming going on around us, but will leave the chickens to Rachel and her family.
THE BREAKFAST: I like to grill my toast in the pan with my eggs so everything comes out hot together. Here’s how: Heat pan over medium flame for a minute or two. Add oil, spray, or butter and wait a minute. Meanwhile, butter your bread on both sides. Add the buttered bread to the pan and let brown; turn over. Crack two eggs into the pan around the bread. Season with salt and pepper. Flick a tiny bit of water into the pan, cover, reduce heat, and cook til eggs and toast are done to your liking. TIP: The flick of water will ensure done whites and runny yolks.
Miss cooking classes??? SANTA FE COOKING SCHOOL offers virtual cooking classes at $20. Once you buy a class, it’s yours to keep and watch as many times as you’d like. Their website also contains southwestern recipes you might like to cook this summer.