There’s a story my mother loves to tell me about a time when I was a little girl. My mom was in the kitchen, getting dinner ready per usual, when I bopped in and asked her what was for dinner. “Cobb salad” my mother replied matter-of-factly. My mother goes on to describe what can only be defined as a full blown melt down. Not a normal 3 year old’s temper tantrum, more like a complete and utter shattering of a little girls soul. Incredulous I screamed “SALAD! THAT’S NOT DINNER!!!”
My mother tried to explain all the delicious and substantial ingredients that went into a cobb salad but I wasn’t hearing it. I may have been little, but I was firm in my stance that a salad does not make for a dinner. My mom made dinner for us every single night and it was always delicious, chicken piccatta, black bean soup, tortellini, you name it. She prepared dinner thoughtfully every night, there was never a “just slap something on a plate” mentally to her meals. That being said, I have no doubt that it was the best cobb salad I’ve ever had. Good enough, I’m guessing, to explain why I am a true salad-for-dinner convert in my adulthood. It is one of my favorite things to make for dinner. Why? Let me count the ways.
- Salad is a great way to ensure I’m eating my veggies. I’m not just talking about some weak iceberg lettuce here. I often use spinach, kale, radicchio, and other mixed leaves for the greens. I almost always add peas to my salad. Peas in everything. They add a nice brightness and texture. Green beans also have a perfect place in a salad. Sometimes I roast cauliflower or mushrooms and throw that in too. Delicious and nutritious.
- Is there anything better in this world than croutons? I think we’ve established by now how much I love carbs, and a good crusty bread. When I make a salad for dinner I always make the croutons myself. I tear big pieces from a loaf of bread (seasame is my loaf of choice), toss the torn bits in olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake until they are crispy, but not hard as rocks. Then, before I dress the salad, I always lightly toss the croutons in the dressing separately. With every crispy bite of crouton, you also get a nice burst of tangy dressing. It’s heavenly.
- It’s a break from the norm. I was recently talking with a friend about how people eat in the Midwest, with a big hunk of meat on the plate, potatoes and then a side veggie. That’s the classic dinner for Ohioan and their neighboring states. But dinner doesn’t have to look like that. A salad is still substantial without filling you up, or loading you down. My husband has a hefty appetite, so it’s not like there’s any shortage of protein on our plates, but not every dinner has to come with a heaping side of mashed potatoes. Salad for dinner breaks up the monotony of your typical dinner.
- Salad is easy to portion. Most days, I’m only making dinner for me and the hubs, but about once a week I am cooking for my whole family. For this reason, I love making salad. It’s super easy to portion out the right amount without their being heaps and heaps of leftovers that often times, will never get touched. There’s nothing I hate more than seeing food go to waste, and salad for dinner nearly ensures that doesn’t happen!
Last night for dinner I made spicy Caesar salads with whole wheat croutons and served it with flat iron steak. But my favorite salad to make this autumn season is my oldest sister’s favorite salad, so I call it Liddy’s salad. Here’s the sort of kind of recipe below. Did I mention another great thing about salads….you just throw shit in a bowl so you don’t really need a recipe!
- Kale, Spinach and/or any other time of green you’d like
- Blue Cheese
- Dijon Dressing (I always make my own!)
- Chicken thighs
- Brush chicken thighs with thin layer of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes at 375.
- Cook quinoa until light and fluffy, set aside to cool slightly
- Cut or tear bread into small cubes, toss in olive oil, salt and pepper. Lay out on baking sheet and put in oven for 8-12 minutes, depending on preferred level of crispness
- Before adding croutons to salad, lightly toss in salad dressing.
- In large bowl combine cooled quinoa, greens, finely chopped bacon, blue cheese crumbles, pears cut into small cubes, and croutons. Pour dressing on top and toss using a pair of tongs.
- Top with chicken, garnish with additional pears or blue cheese crumbles, and serve.