Monday 28 January 2008

Simple Substantial Salads for One

Q. Why did the lettuce blush?
A. Because it saw the salad dressing!

Yes, that is right! I think lettuce and salad dressing are a joke. Well not quite, but they can get in the way of a good salad. Lettuce can swamp a salad and salad dressing can be fiddly to make, full of oil and sits around in my fridge way too long!

Mollie Katzen did a great 'Pep Talk for Wilted Salad Eaters' in The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. This is my pep talk to remind me and any other wilted salad eaters that salads can be both easy and substantial without crowding them with lettuce, rice, pasta or potatoes.

Making simple salads for lunch has been a bit of a project for me this summer. The only disclaimer I make is that I ate these salads straight after preparing them. However, without lettuce, which wilts as soon as you look at it, I think they would probably last a few hours or overnight. But I am yet to try taking such salads to work. I started thinking about salads on a 35 C day after having eaten two breakfasts, and needing something light for lunch. Then I started recording what I ate.

You can probably tell that I am not keen on lettuce. I have never grown to love trendy new lettuces. There are moments when I crave a crisp iceberg but not too often - they go soggy too easily, and I have read that they don’t have much in the way of nutritional value. I started experimenting with these quick and easy salads when I lost quite a bit of weight a few years ago and wanted to lighten my diet. Eating more vegetables helped, and the best way was in a simple side salad. I have periods of being what Jeffrey Steingarten calls a ‘salad glutton’, ie someone who eats salad more than twice a week in winter or four times a week in summer.

So below are records of my salads that I have been eating this summer, plus a few other salad ideas that I enjoyed and jotted down long before I was blogging. I have put lots of different combinations to demonstrate that it doesn’t really matter what you put in. But I realise they are still tailored to my personal taste – for example, I don’t put radish, fennel or bolied eggs in my salads. So you may need to experiment with what makes you happy. I have mostly loved these salads but there was one (not recorded) full of grated raw zucchini that was so awful I had to bin it.

Salad is a great way to use up bits and pieces from your fridge and fruit bowl. I love fruit in my salads for taste and to make sure I am getting enough fruit in my diet, especially on days when I feel less inclined to eat fruit. You can add any raw vegetables, leftover roast vegies, marinated or pickled vegetables (such as sun dried tomatoes or dill cucumbers), herbs, olives, seeds, beans, nuts, fruit, sprouts. For the dressing, it is easy to add a spoonful or two of cottage cheese, yoghurt, fruit juice, vinegar, tahini etc. And all you need is a chopping board, a sharp serrated knife, a bowl and a spoon (with the occasional grater, frypan or small mixing bowl for dressing).

These salads are mostly made to serve one person. Sometimes I eat it with a slice of bread or dry biscuits and dip (and it would be good with rice cakes or rice crackers if you are looking for something gluten free). It makes me feel much better than a sandwich and I feel less guilty having a piece of chocolate cake after such a salad (I never said my diet was perfect!). These salads would also easily serve two people as a side dish to accompany burgers, pizza or nutloaf. For other salad ideas, check out my index near the top of the right hand menu.

Crunchy Summer Salad IMix: 1 inch of cucumber, diced, 1 tomato, diced, 1/3 cup crunchy sprouts, few basil leaves, torn, ½ ripe pear, diced, ½ carrot, grated, juice of ¼ lemon, freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp linseeds (flax seeds)

Crunchy Summer Salad II
Mix: 1 inch of cucumber, diced, ½ tomato, diced, 1 mushroom, diced, 1 nectarine, diced, ¼ red pepper, diced, small handful chopped baby spinach, small handful snowpea sprouts, 1 tbsp toasted sunflower seeds, 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds, juice of ½ lime.

Crunchy Summer Salad III

Mix: 1 diced tomato, 1 diced nectarine, 3 finely chopped stalks of asparagus, 6 sliced snowpeas, small handful of sliced baby spinach, small handful of snowpea sprouts, 1 inch of diced cucumber, 1 tbsp sliced black olives, juice of ¼ lemon, 1 tbsp yoghurt

Crunchy Summer Salad IVMix ½ diced tomato, few leaves basil, 6 sliced snowpeas, handful of sliced baby spinach, small handful snowpea sprouts, 1 inch diced cucumber, ¼ green capsicum diced, ½ large dill pickle diced, ½ carrot grated. Add 1 tsp tahini whisked with the juice of half an orange. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Crunchy Summer Salad V
Mix ¼ green pepper, diced, 1 diced roma tomato, 1 inch cucumber, diced, ½ stalk celery, diced, ¼ avocado, diced, small handful of green seedless grapes, small handful of roughly chopped spinach and rocket, 1 tbsp raspberry vinegar.

Fragrant Potato Salad
Dice and cook two medium potatoes. Mix with ½ red capsicum chopped, ½ green capsicum chopped, ¼ cup chopped sundried tomatoes (drained of oil), 1 tbsp chopped chives, 1 tbsp chopped mint, finely grated lemon zest of ½ a small lemon, 1-2 tsp of wholegrain mustard, 2 tbsp yoghurt.

My Rabbity Salad (adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook)
Mix ½ carrot grated, ½ cup crunchy sprouts, ½ capsicum, diced, 1 small nectarine, diced, ¼ - ½ tsp capers, ½ large dill pickle, diced, ¼ cup cottage cheese, 1 tsp poppy seeds, juice of ¼ lemon, seasoning, few drops Tabasco sauce.

Blushing Rabbit Salad
Mix 1 beetroot, peeled and grated, 1 orange, peeled and finely chopped, 1 spring onion, finely sliced, 100ml cottage cheese, 1 tbsp hazelnuts, roughly chopped (or other nuts such as walnuts or pecans), 1 tbsp sultanas, 1 tsp pomegranate molasses (or balsamic vinegar). On top, place a handful each of snowpea sprouts and chopped baby spinach squeezed with lemon juice.

Other Good Salad Combinations:

- Tomato, nectarines, grated carrot, cucumber, snowpeas, shredded baby spinach, dill pickle, balsamic vinegar
- Mushroom sundried tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, snowpeas, shredded baby spinach, lemon juice
- Beans, tomato, cucumber, corn, shredded baby spinach, fetta, parsley, lemon juice
- Roast pumpkin, spinach, olives, capsicum, lemon, yoghurt, tahini
- Potato salad – potato, asparagus, olives, sundried tomatoes, baby spinach, lemon juice, yoghurt, garlic
- tomato, green capsicum, grated carrot, brown lentils, chopped smoked almonds

On the Stereo:Rough Trade post punk vol 1: various artists


  1. What a fantastic list! Now I do not need to pull out the salad books for awhile. As far as fruit goes, I think we need more in our diets so I add fruit to my salads also, but lately I have been making "just fruit" salads to get more fiber in my diet. At the beginning of the year I told myself I was going to eat 2-3 pieces of fruit a day. Well, just picking up an apple all the time can get kind of boring. Now I buy 1 apple, 1 pear, 1 orange, 1 bananna, 1 mango, etc. I vary the fruit. The salad lasts me 2 days. I also add some type of nuts to it to get even more crunch and taste variety. I guess I am being a bit chatty here, but I loved your post on salads! Thanks!

  2. Wow, what a great collection of salad recipes! Thanks Johanna.

  3. Thanks WineDeb - I think fruit salads are a great idea too but I am just not good at putting my energies into desserts but on the rare occasion I do it I love it! (feel free to be chatty - that is fine!)

    Thanks Lisa - glad you enjoyed the collection!

  4. This list looks terrific--so many great ideas, and I'd be happy to eat all of them! My problem is that I hate preparing the salads, so I guess I'd only do it if someone else washed, chopped, and peeled for me. I tend to buy the big "boxes" of organic baby greens and use those most of the time. Like you, I usually avoid the fussy dressings most of the time, too--just a squirt of lemon juice usually does fine.

  5. thanks Ricki - I know what you mean about chopping vegetables - but for these small amounts it doesn't seem too onerous for me - and much preferable to a bowl of greens! But if you enjoy your greens I am sure that is a good thing :-)

  6. Your salad combinations sound amazing. I may have to steal a few! :)

  7. Just discovered your blog and love it! Made a salad for my four year old tonight inspired by your concoctions and we both devoured it! Here's to many more basil, nectarine, lime and everything salads.


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