A mother-daughter conversation on food and cooking (mostly)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Dumb Salads

I can't remember the last time I had a good salad in a restaurant. I tried this Tuscan Chopped Salad when my office went out for lunch last week, and it was lame. It tasted of things dumped from cans -- garbanzo beans, artichokes, California black olives -- and bland raw mushrooms. Also there was feta, raw onion, and some diced bland tomatoes and bell peppers. I could have made it at home in three minutes, and the lettuce would have been better.

The restaurant was nice enough that I was expecting better. My shrimp bisque was excellent. Even the bread was nicely done -- usually the first item to show marks of inattention. So why the crummy salad?

I eat lettuce-based salads at home about once a week. More often, though, I just eat other vegetables. I would eat salads more if I wasn't so basically bummed out about them of late. I'm bored with the simple vinaigrettes I make, with the Annie's dressings I buy, with Earthbound Farms.

Maybe the salad arena needs some redefinition. Maybe the definition should be broadened again. "Salad" once could mean something containing gelatin or or crushed pineapple and now means only something with mixed baby greens or iceberg lettuce. Surely there are new salad frontiers to visit -- or old ones to resurrect. I just want something new and delicious.

1 comment:

Kris said...

I want to invent a lima bean salad. The only recipes I can find are similar to one Rima made for us, with sour cream and dill. It was good, but I want something zestier.

I think of lettuce salad as just one category--others being vegetable salads, bean salads, etc. My mind assigns all cold foods to the salad column. But I'm a cold food freak: there's nothing more satisfying than cold potato slices, for instance(which I had for breakfast this morning), or cold sausage, etc.

I used to make this wonderful lunch in Alaska when our lettuce crop was way out of control. I would start with a plateful of fresh salad greens. Next there was a layer of garbanzo beans, olives, bell pepper slices, blue cheese, or absolutely anything in the house from tuna to cooked green beans. Then I would make skillet of fresh croutons fried in olive oil with garlic and herbs and dump it over the top. A little vinaigrette was optional. I think I ate the same thing for lunch all summer long.