Don’t apologize for enjoying salads, especially one made with a 100-year-old recipe
By Kara Kimbrough
Spring is finally here, which means it’s time to get back in touch with Mother Earth. More specifically, I’m referring to the transition from heavy soups and stews to lighter fare like salads. Often mischaracterized as boring “diet food,” salads are one of the healthiest, tastiest and yet most apologized-for meals on the planet.
For example, does the phrase, “It’s just a salad…” sound familiar? It’s an often-uttered sentence many give when describing what they consider an uninteresting meal. But it really doesn’t have to be like that, especially when you take things up a notch with homemade dressings and the addition of unusual ingredients with plenty of crunch, color and taste.
Full disclosure: I’m not a health nut. My love for pasta and other assorted carbs is well documented but incorporating at least “something green daily” in my diet has become a priority. This occurred after I read an article from a gerontologist listing this simple tip as one of the ways to prevent Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Adding a green salad is not that hard to do, especially in the evening when the thought of a heavy meal can be oft putting. And if it will help – even a little – to ward off diseases on the mind – I’m all in.
One thing that has made salad-making easier and even more fun is purchasing a new salad spinner. I splurged on a fancier model than the previous one I owned and let me just say, it’s taken salad-making to a new level. Purchased in the kitchen tools aisle at Kroger, the *model I purchased is the epitome of multi-purpose.
First, soaking the lettuce and whatever vegetables I plan to add (carrots, celery, peppers, etc.) to remove all traces of dirt and grime is easy courtesy of the extra-large acrylic bowl. Next, the built-in strainer makes it easy to drain everything before spinning to remove excess water. Letting the vegetables chill in the strainer is the last step before creating a large salad.
And last, tossing leftover lettuce and vegetables back into the large bowl with a built-in lid ensures that tomorrow’s salad with be crisp and fresh, alleviating the necessity of finding another storage bowl.
OK, now that we’ve mastered how to prepare a healthy salad, what’s the best way to dress it up a little? I was shocked to learn my favorite name-brand Italian dressing is packed with sodium, so finding one that offered the same tangy flavor without the additives was imperative. I tweaked a homemade dressing recipe to include more of my favorite ingredients, resulting in a healthier substitute to the name-brand option. If you’d like the recipe, drop me an email and I’ll send it to you.
Last, I don’t want to leave the impression that a green salad is the only option in this food category. Spring meals require lighter side dishes as well. Nothing’s better than salads made with pasta, potatoes, chopped vegetables like corn and tomatoes with a light dressing, to name just a few.
Here’s a recipe for an old-school New York deli favorite that’s withstood the test of time – specifically, 100 years or more since the family-owned delicatessen opened its doors. It can be prepared with or without meat, but any way you serve it, it'll be the star of your spring table.
Delicatessen-Style German Potato Salad
½ cup apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoons salt
1 cup water
½ pound meat: corned beef, ham, cooked bacon or salami (or your favorite)
Pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1/2 cup chopped pickles (can substitute chopped lettuce or cabbage)
3 pounds cooked red potatoes, peeled and sliced
Make a vinegar base by heating the vinegar in a small pan over medium heat with the sugar and salt. When the sugar is dissolved, add the water. Set aside.
Put the meat in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and chop or grind the meat. Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart pan with a little vegetable oil and a pinch or two of black pepper. Add the mustard, chopped pickles and potatoes. Then stir in the vinegar base. Dressing can be doubled or tripled if you prefer a moister salad.
Refrigerate before serving.
*My favorite salad spinner is a 5-quart OXO Good Grips Acrylic model.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.