Food & DrinkLiving

Improvisations on a salad theme

Dodi Newman

with Patricia Newman

Last winter, when I was looking for fresher, less carb-heavy, and yes, healthier alternatives to comfort food, I found salads. Salad making was new to me, but my daughter Patricia is an old hand. With her encouragement, experimenting became fun and I found that salads make delicious, infinitely variable meals. I now make one for lunch every day, and it’s always an adventure.

There are no rules or standard recipes. Everything depends on what you have on hand, and what your appetite and senses tell you when you look in your veggie drawer. One day, you might have a dense coleslaw-like salad with earthy flavours and a lot of crunchy texture, the next day it’s leafy greens and delicate, shaved fennel. Salads are a great way to use up leftovers. Roasted sweet potatoes go beautifully with black beans and a vinaigrette, for example.

One tip: Make it simple. Stock the fridge with a week’s worth of food that you can throw together quickly. I often cook several days’ worth of legumes, and store portions in the fridge and/or freezer. If you’re strapped for time, you can wash things in advance.

It’s helpful to think of salads in terms of these somewhat overlapping categories:

Volume: Leafy greens, root vegetables, cabbages, tomatoes.

Texture and crunch: Nuts, seeds, cucumbers, celery stalks, radishes, apples.

Flavourful accents: Fresh herbs, shaved fennel, Parmesan, feta, olives, capers, berries, flowers.

Protein and substance: Chickpeas, lentils, edamame and other beans, eggs, tofu; complementary whole grains like quinoa, corn, wild or brown rice, wheat berries.

Holding it all together: vinaigrettes made of olive oil and red wine vinegar, or canola oil and cider vinegar, with or without Dijon mustard; a miso or tahini dressing found online.

For any salad, select as many items as appeal from each category. By all means, add your own favourites that aren’t on the list. Here, just to get you going, are some ideas:

Red and green leaf lettuce, chickpeas, chopped tomatoes, shaved fennel, coarsely chopped parsley, red onion, feta cheese, and finished with a red wine, olive oil, and Dijon mustard dressing.

Red and green oak leaf lettuce, black beans, roasted sweet potato, raw cauliflower florets, goat and sheep milk feta, sliced scallions, pumpkin seeds, and drizzled with a red wine and olive oil dressing.

Chickpeas, thinly sliced raw Napa cabbage, celery stalks and radishes; cubed Lebanese cucumbers, chopped walnuts, chopped dill, topped with a canola oil, cider vinegar, and Dijon mustard dressing.