Read an Excerpt
I am a big salad eater. And by that I mean, I like ’em on the larger side. I can’t tell you how many weeknights I get home from work and find myself craving a hearty salad for dinner. Sometimes I like my salad on the side, but more often than not, I fix one that’s satisfying enough to serve as my main meal. That means adding some favorite proteins and healthy starches to help fill me up.
I don’t eat salads just because they’re good for me. I choose to eat them because they are delicious and the options are limitless. First off, there’s the endless array of salad greens out there on the supermarket shelves. I can choose earthy spinach one day, spicy arugula the next, and crunchy romaine on the third day to keep things interesting. I dress the leaves up with all sorts of goodies: meats, cheeses, fish, veggies, you name it. Take my Niçoise Salad (page 14), for instance. It’s got tuna, olives, and potatoes all nestled among peppery baby arugula leaves. Now if that isn’t a meal, I don’t know what is.
Salads are also a great way of putting your leftovers to good use. And for midweek eating, that sure is handy. I tend to cook a lot over the weekend and stock up my refrigerator with bits and pieces for the week. Dinner prep for a main course salad can consist of quickly foraging through the fridge for ingredients and tossing them all together in a big bowl. That’s how I came up with my Roast Chicken and Bread Salad (page 20). With leftover rotisserie chicken in the fridge and a half-used loaf of bread on the countertop, inspiration struck. Forget about dinner in less than thirty minutes. Try dinner in less than fifteen minutes!
While each of the salads in this chapter can be paired with bottled dressings, I’ve included a homemade dressing recipe with each. I didn’t always make my own dressings. I’d go out to a restaurant, order a salad as my entrée, and feel really good about my choice. But then I realized that the heavy dressings that you find on most restaurant menus are actually packed with fat and calories. Now I tend to stick with my homemade concoctions and the occasional light bottled dressing. It’s made a world of difference.
Salads are a great place to be creative. Even if you are a totally novice cook, you can feel pretty safe about experimenting when it comes to salads. So use these recipes as a jumping-off point to create your own masterpiece. And let your imagination go a little wild. Your body will thank you for it.
Hoppin’ John Salad
This pretty Southern salad is a great place to use any kind of leftover rice. I love meals that make good use of leftovers—they help me be less wasteful and give me a leg up on getting my dinner together quickly. This salad is fresh and zingy and makes for a nice accompaniment to easy grilled fish or chicken. Or for a thoroughly Southern style meal, serve this dish with my Bourbon-Braised Pork Chops (page 99). Serves 6
1 can (15½ ounces) black-eyed peas, rinsed and drained
1½ cups cooked brown or white rice
1 cup chopped yellow bell pepper
1 cup grape tomatoes (about ¼ pound), halved
2 scallions, white and light green parts only, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Pinch of Cajun spice blend
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 In a large bowl, toss together the black-eyed peas, rice, bell pepper, tomatoes, and scallions.
2In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, vinegar, Cajun spice blend, and salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the pea and rice mixture, and toss to combine.
Nutritional count based on 6 servings (does not include salt and black pepper to taste):
148 calories, 3g protein, 3g fat, 28g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 126mg sodium
Hearty Three-Bean Salad
This hearty three-bean salad relies on both red wine vinegar and sherry vinegar for a one-two punch of flavor. Rounded out with fresh parsley and basil, this protein-packed dish is herby, tangy, and super satisfying. Serves 6
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (15½ ounces) cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15½ ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can (15½ ounces) red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
Baby salad greens, for serving
In a large bowl, combine the shallot, garlic, red wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, and salt. Whisk in the oil. Add the cannellini beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans, and season with the pepper. Stir to combine, then sprinkle with the parsley and basil. Serve over the baby greens.
Let It Sit: This is one of those awesome salads that gets better with time. Minus the salad greens, it will keep, covered, in the fridge for about 3 days. I like to make this in the morning before I leave the house for the day so that it’s all set to serve when I come home at night.
Nutritional count based on 6 servings (does not include salad greens for serving):
248 calories, 9g protein, 8g fat, 33g carbohydrate, 8g fiber, 538mg sodium
Deviled Egg Salad
I love a get-together that features deviled eggs on the appetizer lineup. They’re one of my favorite party foods. Since I can’t be at a party every day of the week, I’ve found a way to enjoy the taste of the classic deviled egg by deconstructing it into this clever little salad meal. The dressing features the traditional tangy flavor and creamy texture of the original dish, while the crunchy lettuce, radishes, and bacon bring the meal to new heights by adding texture and color. Serves 4 / Makes ²⁄³ cup dressing
¼ cup light mayonnaise
¼ cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon hot sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper
9 large eggs
1 head romaine lettuce (about 1 pound), torn into bite-size pieces
5 radishes, thinly sliced
3 strips turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
1 To make the dressing: In a medium bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, hot sauce, Worcestershire, lemon juice, oil, salt, and 1 tablespoon of water. Season to taste with black pepper.
2To prepare the salad: In a medium saucepan, cover the eggs by 1 inch with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Remove from the heat and let sit, covered, for 9 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a medium bowl with ice water. When the eggs are done, drain them, transfer to the ice water, and let sit for 5 minutes, or until cool. Peel the eggs and halve them crosswise. Pop the yolks out and discard them (or reserve them for another use), and then slice the halves into ¼-inch-thick rounds.
3Divide the lettuce, radishes, and sliced egg whites evenly among four plates. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with the bacon, scallions, and more black pepper if you like. Serve immediately.
No Yoke: While I discard the yolks in this recipe, you should feel free to keep them in the mix if you really like them. Just be aware that you’ll be adding a fair bit of fat and calories into the dish. Or if you like, compromise: Keep half the yolks and discard the rest.
Nutritional count based on 4 servings (does not include black pepper to taste):
202 calories, 12g protein, 15g fat, 7g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 518mg sodium
French Bistro Salad
My wife, Claudia, really loves this salad. So when it’s date night, it’s a pretty good bet I’ll be in the kitchen putting this dish together. Don’t get too hung up on the fancy lettuce the recipe calls for. It works well with any type of green you might have on hand, or even a mix of a few different types. What really makes this salad special is the smoky, bacon-y warm vinaigrette that coats the delicate lettuce leaves. If you enjoy a runny yolk, do as I do and give the poached egg a tap with your fork as you sit down to eat. The yolk will break over your salad and mingle with the vinaigrette, delivering a burst of deep flavor to the greens. Serves 4
3 strips turkey bacon, thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
8 cups frisée, curly endive, or baby spinach
4 large eggs
Snipped fresh chives, for serving
1In a deep, medium nonstick skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until it is beginning to crisp, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper-towel-lined plate to drain. Remove the skillet from the heat and, stirring constantly, add the red wine vinegar, mustard, and oil. Immediately pour the vinaigrette into a small heatproof bowl and season with the salt and pepper. Clean out the skillet with a paper towel so you can cook the eggs in it.
2Fill the cleaned-out skillet with 2 inches of water, add the white vinegar, and bring to a boil over high heat.
3Meanwhile, evenly distribute the frisée, curly endive, or baby spinach among four individual plates.
4When the water in the skillet comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer. Break one of the eggs into a small cup and then slide the egg into the water, stirring the water very gently with a spoon. Repeat immediately with the other eggs, and cook until the whites are firm, about 3 minutes. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels.
5Transfer one egg to each bed of greens, and drizzle with the warm vinaigrette. Garnish with the bacon, black pepper to taste, and the snipped chives, and serve.
Nutritional count based on 4 servings (does not include black pepper or chives for serving):
232 calories, 14g protein, 18g fat, 5g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 732mg sodium
Shrimp Taco Salad
This salad has pretty much everything I love in a meal. It’s got plump and juicy shrimp paired up with velvety Boston lettuce, creamy avocado, crunchy, spicy red radishes, and fiesta-worthy Southwest flavors. When I feel like splurging a little, I add some low-fat Cheddar cheese to the mix and spoon a dollop of Greek yogurt right there on top. It doesn’t get much better than this, folks. Serves 4
1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1½ teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Juice of 1 lime
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon salt
3 small (4-inch diameter) corn tortillas
1 large head Boston lettuce (about ¾ pound), cored and chopped
1 large avocado, pitted, peeled, and chopped
5 radishes, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Jarred salsa, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving
1 Preheat the oven to 400°F.
2In a medium bowl, combine the shrimp, 1 teaspoon of the oil, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, lime juice, honey, and ¼ teaspoon of the salt. Cover and let the shrimp marinate in the fridge while you prepare the tortillas.
3Stack the tortillas on top of each other, slice them in half, and then slice them crosswise into thin strips. In a bowl, toss the tortilla strips with the remaining ½ teaspoon oil and the remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Spread them on a rimmed baking sheet, and bake until they are crisp and beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Halfway through the tortilla baking time, scrape the shrimp onto another rimmed baking sheet and add it to the oven. Bake the shrimp until opaque, about 8 minutes.
4Evenly divide the lettuce, avocado, radishes, red onion, and shrimp among four plates. Sprinkle the baked tortilla strips and chopped cilantro over each plate. Serve with the salsa and lime wedges.
No Cook: You can make this dish even easier by buying precooked shrimp and baked tortilla chips from the supermarket. Add flavor to the shrimp by tossing it in the marinade and letting it sit for about 15 minutes or so. I like this option on a hot summer day when I just can’t think about turning on my oven.
Nutritional count based on 4 servings (does not include salsa and lime for serving):
265 calories, 26g protein, 10g fat, 20g carbohydrate, 5g fiber, 213mg sodium