Friday, July 10, 2009

What Makes A Good Salad

I had lunch at Walter Payton's Roundhouse today and had a very good steak salad. It had the perfect amount of ingredients and they all worked well together. Most people think that salads are easy to make and you can just whip one up. But that is not really true if you want a good one.

Of course most salads have greens but after you make that decision, you have to 'top' your salad. But too many ingredients on a salad is exactly like to many toppings on a good New York pizza; it will suck. As the saying goes: there can be too much of a good thing.

I like a lot of the basic vegetables in my salad (tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions), usually with steak or chicken for some protein. After that I usually will allow 1 or 2 odd items to add a different flavor or texture - like avocado, cranberries, mandarin oranges, pecans, pine nuts. But again, too many flavors or textures will ruin the pot.

So you have a salad. Done, right? Wrong. This is the point where everything can go horribly, horribly wrong for some people and restaurants. I personally do not like heavy dressings like ranch or blue cheese with cheese added to the salad - and if you are going to add one, the salad doesn't need to be drowning in the dressing. Heavy dressings turn the greens into something that rivals that quarter pounder and large fries in terms of health benefits and is almost as heavy. I lean towards vinaigrettes and, if I'm going to top my salad with cheese, I prefer a goat cheese or crumbled blue cheese. They work well with the vinaigrettes and I like that they stick to the lettuce and other ingredients like glue. So as you stick your fork in you are able to get lots of the ingredients at once do to the cheese acting like a glue. Shredded mozzarella and cheddar don't achieve that effect.

Lastly make sure you mix it all up before serving it. Who wants a salad with the meat and cheese on top and the dressing on the bottom with the lettuce?


  1. This is brilliant! I'm incredibly picky about my salads, and that says a lot because I'm definitely bot a picky eater. I prefer spinich salads, myself. They're thick and a great green color. I agree with you 100% about a good vinegrette. They don't take away from the other ingredients but, rather, enhance them. Goat/blue cheese works nicely, but I'm also a feta cheese kind of girl.
    Another point I'd like to make: I love a good salad with grilled steak and/or chicken, but I don't like my meat served cold. It's just not right, especially if it's grilled. Granted, there are a few exceptions, but I'm just sayin'.

  2. I have to agree with you on this one. Salads are supposed to be refreshing as well as healthy. Too many ingredients and the salad is just as bad as a taco salad; not refreshing or healthy.

    Salads are fun, they truly are because this is the where colors POP OUT! Each bite is a crunch and digging your fork into that perfect bite is awesome...

    I'm traveling through Europe tasting many foods and salads are different everywhere. For example: In Spain the salad is part of your last course, which helps digest the meal. It consist of a few but delicious ingredients. Basil, Water Crest, Baby Tomatoes, Your choice of nuts, Olive Oil and Red Wine Vinegar. Its cool, refreshing and super healthy...

    Greece is the mother ship of salads... If this was my personal blog, I'd go on-and-on!

  3. Hey Mark - nice ideas - Salads are definately overlooked. Fresh from the farm ingredients always a plus. I remember my wife and I sailing the southern carib. islands on a small vessel and the chef not planning the meals until pulling into port and visiting the local farm stands - talk about fresh and exciting ! I see you've read kitchen confidential - a book I reccommend to everyone who wants to know about the industry... Anyway if you want to try something different for a salad try what I like to call Philly Cheese Steak Salad. Take your basic greens (whatever you like) and top with tomatoes, cucumber onion salad, favorite dressing (non fruit based) then cook cheese steak meat with peppers and onions (thin sliced fresh raw prime rib) season with a little s&p - place on greens and finish with whiz (yellow cheese whiz) My wife enjoys this anytime I make it. Bon Appetit. Oh yea - looking forward to the new music...

  4. I agree with everyones comments.

    I love Greek Salads and also like putting feta cheese in my salads.

    Another dressing that I forgot to mention that I like is an Asian Ginger. It goes really well if you are going to do a steak salad and has a nice bite to it.