Thursday, 24 May 2007

Where have all the vegetarian salads gone?

Once upon a time salads were made of vegetables. At a café or a barbecue a vegetarian knew they could always have some salad even if it was some limp lettuce leaves, tomato and cucumber.

But this is changing. Salads are suddenly fashionable. Salads are more often the main attraction rather than a sideshow. Salads have become substantial and …[frown]… meaty. Packing the salad menu with meat dishes, seems a recent trend in cafe menus. How disappointing as a vegetarian to be excluded from even the salads. E (who likes a bit of chicken) pointed out to to me that meat salads would't satisfy either carnivores or vegetarians.

When I first went vegetarian, much of the vegetarian literature I read pointed out how many vegetables there are compared to the types of meat we eat. Furthermore, a vegetarian diet has prompted many of us to think a bit more creatively about what we eat.

Dressing up every salad by adding chunks of meat seems to show a lack of imagination – or perhaps an inability to value the bounty of vegetables available to us. OK, have your meat salad (if you must), but it would be nice to see more interesting vegetarian salads alongside these. I confess I will sometimes judge a restaurant or café by the salads they serve – if they have lots of meat salads and no vegetarian salads (or just one wilted green salad) I usually want to walk away.

So for anyone who wants to see just how appealing salads can be, I have listed some links to a few salads that inspire me – and don’t need meat to make them desirable. In my dreams I would love some of the café owners in question to see these and give us something more interesting but I know I am probably preaching to the converted. However I list them to comfort us – next time you see a café full of meaty salads, remember this list and think of how good it can be:

- Warm Spiced Pumpkin and Lentil Salad with Pears, Almonds and Goat Cheese from traveler’s lunchbox
- Roasted Tenderstem® Broccoli, Grilled Halloumi and Cherry Tomato Salad from the Vegetarian Society UK
- Sushi Salad at fat free vegan
- Fennel Salad with Grapes, Olives and Dried Figs from Mollie Katzen
- Green Bean Salad with Hearts of Palm, Olives, Red Pepper, and Feta at Kalyn’s Kitchen
- Dr Fuhrman’s Russian Corn Salad at
- Raspberry, Feta, Walnut Salad from PCC
- Mixed Vegetable Salad a la Grecque from Delia Online

NB: Why do my thoughts turn to salads as winter in Melbourne is fast approaching? Because this despatch is from sun drenched Darwin where I miss my kitchen and crave a good salad full of interesting vegetables.


  1. Good post! I have not noticed that so much here yet, but I am sure it will come! I am having salad tonight. Watercress, potato, egg and aspargus with a lemony dressing topped with parmesan. (Well, that is if Graham can get hold of some asparagus on the way home from work. Fingers crossed!)

  2. It's pretty funny (and disappointing!) to have to sift through a bunch of Asian-stye beef and chicken Ceasar salads on a menu, isn't it? Then there's the 'garden' or Greek salad tacked on the end.

    I'm bookmarking this page for salad inspiration when the weather eventually warms up. Soak up a bit of extra sun for all of us Melbourne dwellers. :-)

  3. I know what you mean! And it’s even more difficult to find a vegan salad…! Although generally when I go out to eat the last thing I want is a salad…I want something that I wouldn’t usually make at home!

  4. You're right, so right.

    What does proscuitto really do to a salad anyway? It adds salt and maybe a bit of crunch - surely a judiciously seasoned dressing and some thin toasted croutons would be better, and far less lazy! A salad should tempt your tastebuds and leave you feeling light, not heavy.

    Some of those salads look really good - that raspberry and walnut one in particular.

  5. hi holler, I really liked your idea of linking to other recipes for vegetarian week - which was a good option for me when on dial-up in Darwin - thanks for the idea and hope your salad tasted as good as it sounded - there are some great variations on potato salad!

    cindy - getting back to melbourne's cold has made me less inclined to make salads but I hope to make a few of these at some stage, too.

    Scottish vegan - I am sure vegan salads are hard to find - I was noticing in my list that lots of the yummy salads had cheese in them! I think quite of few of them would be as good without it but it is harder in a cafe - although I have been known to ask to have the meat taken out. I think I like the idea of a nice salad when eating out because often so much of the other veg options are so heavy.

    Lucy - I agree salads should be light and tasty. Croutons - or even nuts - give great texture without weighing it down too much.

  6. Even though I'm not a vegetarian, I definitely agree that you don't need meat at all to make an interesting salad. Love the idea of the salad with grilled halloumi and cherry tomatoes. Thanks for including my green bean salad. It was definitely a keeper for me. Those thin French beans are my latest obsession!

  7. Excellent point. These recipes are so inspiring.

    Here in the States, the grilled chicken salad is as ubiquitous as popcorn at the movies. I judge restaurants all the time by their menus. The chains serve dreadful quality in massive portions, and the "fine" hip establishments have this jaded, insatiable need to offer ever more "exotic" animal dishes. Both lack real creativity and leave me cold.

  8. thanks for sharing your great salad ideas Kalyn!

    thanks Susan - I love eating out but it does seem some days that I get better food at home.


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