How I learned – well, am learning – to love salad

Salad is a smart lo-co choice: lettuce offers important cholesterol-lowering fiber and it can be topped with fresh vegetables and topped off with the crunch of cholesterol-lowering almonds.

The problem is – I have never liked salad.

But I’m warming to it.

The reasons I dislike(d) salad are many.  First and most important, as I’ve posted before, I like my meals hot – and no matter what you do to salad, hot it’s not. Though, topping a salad with strips of hot grilled chicken – or fish – does make it a tad more enticing as a meal.  So, I’ve warmed to salad (pun intended, sorry) as a meal – as long as it’s topped with a hot, low-cholesterol protein.

But how often do you have a nice piece of grilled chicken or arctic char handy? Or you want salad for lunch and are not firing up the grill for that. Easily solved, you answer: just toss in some of those pre-packaged, pre-grilled chicken strips. Well, I’ve tried – many different brands – but I find the packaged chicken strips (and rotisserie chickens) dry and sad, so that option is off the table for me.

I’ve tackled that problem with a new meal-planning habit.  The idea’s not rocket science and yet I wasn’t doing this regularly until recently.  Now I (ok, my husband) grills up a double portion of fish or chicken for dinner and I store it in the refrigerator and make it the key ingredient for lunch  salads.  Just 30 seconds in the micro and now my lunch salad’s warm and happy – and healthy.

With my double-grilling ‘habit’ more of a sometimes than a true weekly habit, I do find myself protein-less when staring down the lunch question.  So, I tried the same concept with grilled vegetables.  I nearly always have leftover roasted asparagus or string beans or brussels sprouts hanging out in the fridge – and warming them up does nearly the same job as warming up chicken or fish in making the cold salad more palatable.

So I made progress – big progress – with warmed protein and veggies. But even with warm protein and/or veggies, salad was still not something I had a hankering for. Ever.

The big breakthrough was salad dressing.

Now my foodie friends frequently make their own salad dressing, but that always seemed too much work to me.

It’s not, people!

And homemade salad dressing makes a HUGE difference. I  don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that I didn’t really like any of the (very many) salad dressings I had in my refrigerator.  But I didn’t, really.

So when I read David Tanis’ City Kitchen article, “For a great salad pretend you are French“, I cut it out and tried both salad dressings.  His Classic Leeks Vinagrette recipe is very good, but I found I preferred the Frisee aux Lardons recipe – even though I hate frisee.  In fact, I don’t actually make EITHER of the salads written about in this article – just the salad dressings.  And they’re easy and quick to make – I now make a TRIPLE recipe of the Frisee aux Lardons vinaigrette recipe every week and store it in a cruet in my refrigerator.

Here’s how easy it is to make this vinaigrette:

“For the vinaigrette, whisk together mustard, vinegar and garlic. Whisk in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.”

For a triple recipe, all you need is: 2 Tablespoons dijon mustard, 6 Tablespoons sherry vinegar, some finely grated garlic (I use 2 cloves – the recipe asks for 1 1/2 teaspoons) and 9 Tablespooons EVOO.  And salt and pepper to taste.

My salad consumption has gone through the roof by adding this vinaigrette recipe to my lo-co culinary toolkit.  If you don’t love salad but want to eat more greens daily, find a salad dressing you love and while you may not jones for salad for a meal, you might actually desire it. At least sometimes.

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