Posts Tagged ‘salad’

Surprise! Lunch tastes good

May 7, 2013

15 mintues before I have to leave for work… do I have time to make a salad? Do I have anything good to make a salad with?

Cucumber Seaweed Salad

Cucumber Seaweed Salad with tofu, turnips, and a spicy citrus soy sauce dressing

Given this typical morning routine and my general aversion to salads (lettuce), I’ve been resorting to rice with a vegetable on top recently. But I need to fill up on vegetables. Need to learn to like salads. Well that’s not true, I really enjoy a large salad at restaurants. So why don’t I like ones that I make? Why don’t I like making salads?

Two reasons are the dressing and washing lettuce. Dressing is fat (which tastes pretty darn good!) but pouring that much oil on top of vegetables seems to defeat the purpose of having a pile of vegetables. And washing lettuce? And storing it just long enough that it doesn’t go bad and you don’t have to buy it every other day? What a pain! So I generally avoid salads.

Today, however, I surprised myself! Threw a salad together with just a few ingredients and it even tasted good. The key to this one was the dressing which amazingly contained no oil. As with most salads, this is a very flexible recipe and includes what just happened to be in my fridge. It reminds me of the classic cucumber salad which consists of cucumbers covered with vinegar but influenced by a Malaysian dipping sauce and Japanese ingredients.

Cucumber Seaweed Salad

created on-the-fly by Sarah Johnson

  • lettuce
  • cucumber
  • turnip (chopped)
  • tofu (diced)
  • scallions
  • seaweed (dried and shredded)
  • ¼c sweet soy sauce
  • 2T lime juice
  • ½t sriracha
  1. Clean and chop all the vegetables and tofu to your liking.
  2. Layer the ingredients in a dish: lettuce, tofu, cucumbers, turnips.
  3. Sprinkle seaweed and scallions over the salad.
  4. Combine the soy sauce, lime juice, and sriracha and mix well.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad and enjoy!

Notes and Variations

The variations are endless. I just grabbed things from the fridge that were already chopped to make my life easy. I think most things will go well with this. I stopped myself from adding sesame seeds (I add them to everything!) and mushrooms because I had another dish for lunch that had them in it.

The most significant part of these instructions is the lack of measurements. It is entirely up to your tastes, preferences, and what’s available. Only have radishes? Great! Pickled radishes? That sounds delicious! Making salad for 10 people? Pile the veggies on and quadruple the dressing amounts. Don’t like spice? Leave out the sriracha. Like spice? Add more sriracha! Red pepper flakes work well in this dressing too, but you should let it sit overnight for the flavors to blend properly.

I’m interested to hear what experimentations and combinations work well.


I hate lettuce.

January 11, 2011

It’s taken a few years of experimentation, procrastination, and wilted salads for me to realize that I simply do not like lettuce*.

watercress salad

The green stuff is not lettuce - I hate lettuce!

I have never been a huge fan of salads. Occasionally I’ll order one at a restaurant and I always eat them, but I have vague childhood recollections of plowing through a plate of salad just so I can get on with eating the good stuff. At home, I hate making them. Cleaning lettuce is tedious, even with a salad spinner. The ingredients don’t blend together well and there’s not much you can do to a salad besides arrange it. The pièce de résistance of the salad is the dressing which is only good because fat tastes good.

Last Winter I looked to a new cookbook for inspiration which helped, but did not solve the problem of not liking lettuce. This Winter I am continuing my quest for salads I actually enjoy. My most recent solution came from Cooks Illustrated: Fall Entertaining 2010. Page 46 had an article about “Warm Winter Salads” with three recipes and not a single mention of lettuce! After my shock, amazement, and excitement subsided and I read the article over and over to make sure I was not missing the L-word, I tried one of the recipes with success and, of course, some substitutions.

Radicchio and Watercress Salad with Warm Fennel and Walnut Dressing

recipe from Cooks Illustrated: Fall Entertaining 2010, p46

  • 1 large garlic clove, minced or pressed (~1½ t)
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 2 T sherry or white wine vinegar
  • ¼ t table salt
  • ⅛ t ground black pepper
  • ⅓ c and 1 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 c walnuts, chopped
  • 1 medium fennel bulb (~10 oz)
  • 2-3 anchovy filets (~1 T chopped)
  • 3 large bunches watercress (~6½ c)
  • 1 medium head radicchio (~2½ c)
  • 1½ oz Parmesan cheese, shaved
  1. Cut the fennel bulb (minus the stem) into thin slices.
  2. Whisk garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.
  3. Gradually whisk in ⅓ c oil until the dressing is smooth and emulsified.
  4. Heat the walnuts in 1 T oil in a (nonstick) skillet over medium heat, stirring until lightly toasted (3 minutes).
  5. Add fennel to the skillet and cook until it begins to soften and is very lightly golden (3 minutes).
  6. Stir in anchovies and cook until fragrant (30 seconds).
  7. Whisk dressing to blend and add to the skillet. Remove from the heat.
  8. Toss the greens and dressing.
  9. Shave cheese over each portion and serve immediately.

Watercress is a pain to clean and trim. I love kale but limit my consumption of it because of the effort involved in properly cleaning fresh curly kale. That being said, cleaning and trimming watercress made me want to clean kale. That’s saying a lot.
The recipe says it serves 6. I usually find that recipes say they serve 4 and I wonder what petite tasters they had. Not for this recipe! I ate watercress and fennel for about a week (lunch and dinner!) and it still wasn’t gone. Fortunately it was so good I didn’t mind a week of watercress salad!

As always, my recipe would not be complete without substitutions. I tried desperately to follow the magazine’s recipe exactly since they present their recipes with such precision and dediated research. I even went to a produce stand that imports nearly everything, rather than the local selection at the Fair Food Farmstand. However, radicchio was simply impossible to find 30 minutes before closing just after the holidays. So I used red cabbage and crossed my fingers. It was a bit tougher than radicchio so make sure you slice it very thin if you use it, but the flavor was fine. I also was not going to buy 2-3 anchovy filets to add a pungent flavor. Fortunately, I always keep anchovy paste on hand. A tablespoon did the trick.

*Full disclosure: there are many varieties of lettuce. I actually discovered one this summer that I cannot pass up – Butter Lettuce. I don’t know if it’s the way it looks, or its nearly velvety texture, or simply the fact that I usually pair it with shrimp, but I really like it. So this post should read that I hate all lettuce except for butter lettuce, excluding other types of lettuce that I have not tried.</span

A Difficult Decision

August 20, 2010

One of the hardest decision for me happens daily but is exasperated when going to a potluck dinner:

what should I cook?

The reason this decision is so difficult is because there are nearly endless possibilities. I’ve found the best tactic is to go to the market and pick out a starting ingredient. Most recently I went to the market only 3 hours before the potluck dinner. While this assured that the food would be fresh, it left me with very little time to actually cook. What I settled on was a medley of fresh vegetables grilled and chopped up into a salad. Luckily it turned out great and even prompted request for the recipe! Because really, how can you go wrong with fresh vegetables?

Summer Quinoa Salad

created on-the-fly by Sarah Johnson


  • ½ c quinoa
  • 3 ears corn
  • 2 poblano pepper
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ c lime juice
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T chili powder
  1. Bring quinoa and 1 cup of water to a boil then simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove silk from corn but leave the husks on.
  3. Soak corn for 10-15 minutes, drain, and broil or grill about 15 minutes turning to prevent burning.
  4. Remove kernels from cob.
  5. Dice pepper.
  6. Slice red onion into rings.
  7. Coat onion with olive oil then broil or grill for 5-10 minutes turning to prevent burning.
  8. Dice onion.
  9. Cut tomatoes into halves or quarters depending on size.
  10. Combine lime juice and olive oil.
  11. Combine all vegetables and quinoa and mix with chili powder.
  12. Cover mixture with juice and stir salad to combine.

Endless! The beauty of a simple salad such as this is that you can use any vegetables and any spices. Use different types of peppers, add roasted garlic, add fresh cilantro, use lemon juice instead of lime juice. Have fun and use your taste to make it delicious and your own.