A work-friend of Gus’s is moving out on their own, and we’re making a little cookbook for them as a moving present. It’s mostly going to be recipes printed from the internet/copied from books, but Gus also asked me to share my principles for making salad/making vinaigrette, and if I’m going to type all of that up, I might as well share it with you too.
SO LET’S TALK ABOUT SALAD
I am a ridiculous person who will happily eat a big pile of greens with dressing on them, but Gus is anti-leaf, so I’ve gotten pretty good at making more elaborate salads. I do it all by instinct, it’s very experimental. The key is that if you only put in ingredients you enjoy it’ll be good! Just pick things you like that you think should go well together.
first step: BASE SALAD — this is your canvas for everything else. you can’t go wrong with a nice spring mix from a bag, or an herb mix if you want to be fancy. I think plain iceberg is sad, a bunch of romaine is alright but nothing special. some leafs require a bit more planning. I really only like a spinach salad if you’ve got some good fruit going on too, arugula has its own kind of spicy flavor so be careful with that. if you’re doing raw kale you want to treat it right — cut out the stems, and then massage it with your vinaigrette to start breaking it down. just pour the dressing on and then rub it into the leafs. this is fun! kind of slow, but it’s worth it.
PICK YOUR ADD INs: you’ve got all kind of categories. the key is that it should be something that tastes good, and is also nice to eat with your leafs. you don’t want something that’s hard to pick up on your fork. you can’t just throw in a whole chunk of raw carrot, but some carrot shreds add some fun color. you should also think about how it looks! pick things that will pop! create a feast for the eyes!
It’s up to you how many add-ons you toss in. I generally pick something from other veg/fruit, something nut/other crunch, and then maybe some cheese, but there are no rules. play around with thing!
other veggie: I love adding sprouts to salad. shredded carrots, little slices of bell peppers. lil tomatoes, either whole or halved depending on your mood. thin slices of cucumber. this is a really great way to use up spare vegetables that you have lying around the house from other recipes. I don’t usually cook vegetables to put them in a cold salad, but if you have leftover sweet potato cubes that’d be nice. or you can use some jar ingredients like sun-dried tomatoes or black olives.
Fruit: I keep craisins around, for salad emergencies, but you’ve got all kind of options. fresh berries are good. little pieces of apple, orange segments.
Nuts: you can any kind of nut, but you want something that’s fork-able. this is why I’m not convinced by almonds in salads, they often sink to the bottom and are hard to stab. lighter/bigger nuts like walnuts or pecans are great. candied nuts are very fun, but you don’t want to make a dessert salad (unless you do, which could be fun). slivered almonds are good. little things like sunflower seeds and pepitas are good!
other crunch: I don’t buy croutons, but I enjoy croutons, so maybe I should. homemade breadcrumbs can work, or semi-crushed tortilla chips. you don’t need a lot, this is not a major component, you just want to add some textural variety.
cheese: again, the main thing is that you want it to be light and fork-able, something that’s able to become part of the larger salad. if you’re doing a hard cheese shred it — love some shredded parm, or some shredded cheddar. or do a nice crumbly cheese like feta or goat’s cheese. I can’t remember ever making a salad with torn up pieces of fresh mozzarella but I bet it would be great.
MAKE YOUR SALAD A MEAL: nuts and cheese both add protein, which is great, but you can keep going to make your salad more substantial. cook up some pieces of chicken, throw them in. Or any meat really. throw some bacon on top! or crispy fried tofu pieces! put an egg on it!
there aren’t any ratios for add ons. just start with a little bit, mix it up, and see how it looks. it’s always easier to add more than take things out. (although if you have more leafs you can add more leafs, and I have done this before!)
this has been a lot. I’ll write about vinaigrettes tomorrow.
PICTURE OF THE CAT
he tried to climb into a box of bubble wrap, which was not a good idea, so I rescued him.
WHAT I WATCHED YESTERDAY
Blank Check’s new miniseries is on Elaine May, so in preparation for that I watched her first film, A New Leaf. It’s a fun little movie about a wealthy bachelor who loses all of his money and has to find a rich wife in 6 weeks because the only thing he knows how to do is be rich. It’s very light, and fun, and I had a nice time. Elaine May is more captivating as an actress in this, as an awkward heiress/botanist whose huge glasses keep on falling off her place. It’s nice to hang out with her, even when the film isn’t much to look at, and the script seems insubstantial.
SONG OF THE DAY
There are some songs I grew up listening to my parents playing in nursing homes that I’m startled to realize that other people don’t know. I introduced this song to Gus today because I was singing a variation of it to our cat. The version my parents play is more of a nice time to go song, and not so much about the Great Depression, or at least in my memory. That’s the great things about folk music — it’s adaptable. You can make it about an environmental catastrophe, you can make it about your cat, you can use it to tell the old people that the show is over and they have to go back to their rooms.