Food

6 Steps to an awesome salad.

7:45 PM

Salads are awesome, they really are! As a kid I usually loved when my mom took us to eat to the department store cafeteria, solely because they had an amazing salad bar where you could build your own salad.
As I grew up, I even had my few favourite department stores eateries in mind, all ranked by the amazingness of their "Make your own salad" section.
As a singleton (and happy to be) my favourite way to spend a Saturday was to head downtown to walk around in the commercial streets, day dream in bookstores and have lunch in one of these cafeterias, alone, or with a friend.

That is how big on salad I am. I know, they aren't so popular in India. The main misconception regarding them is that it can't possibly be filling or nutritious.

WRONG!

Believe it or not, they are BOTH filling and HIGHLY nutritious, and with urban dwellers getting increasingly sendentary and the "lifestyle diseases" being on the rise, a salad meal might just be what the doctor ordered.

I know my dietetitian 100% approve on it, which makes my medical weight loss plan that much easier to follow since I already love them.

A salad meal is very different from a side salad. Mostly because there is more on the plate, and because it is NEVER just leaves.

a salad isn't just all leaves and no fun, and yes, it can make for a very nutritious and filling meal.


The perfect salad has 6 steps you must follow in order to get something truly awesome

Care to learn how to pull a salad that will keep you full and nourished? 
Let's dive in!

Step 1: Pick a green, or not so green base

This is your foundation, the ingredient upon which you will build your awesome salad. If you are making a green salad, that base will be obviously a lettuce or another leafy green stuff such as raw spinach, fenugreek, and amaranth leaves. 

That doesn't mean ALL salads need to have a leafy base. It can be grain based. Take your pick from cold pasta, cold rice, couscous grains, quinoa, or bulgur wheat (dalia in Hindi).

couscous grains make for a great non-leafy salad base.


Step 2: A splash of colour

Sprinkle your base with a generous amount of brightly coloured veggies : raw carrots (grated or diced), boiled and cooled corn kernels, tomato chunks or slices, cucumbers, olives. 
Pick as many of them as you want, the sky's the limit

Step 3: A protein

And by that, I mean ANY protein, it doesn't have to be meat, there are vegetarian options you can pick from as well. 

Non vegetarian proteins that do great in a salad are
cooked and cooled chicken breast chunks, prawns, ham, bacon, tuna, cold salmon chunks, eggs, salami, grilled fish. 

Vegetarian proteins: 
Paneer (cold uncooked), feta cheese, cooked tofu, chickpeas, cubes of cheddar, cooked mushrooms and sprouts are all great proteins to add to your salad meal. 

Proteins are what will keep you full longer in a salad, so sprinkle a regular serving of said protein on top of your base. 

Step 4: A fruit

Yes, you read that right! I am asking you to add one fruit to your salad. Most fruits will taste great in one. I have used many over the year but the one that really taste the best are these : 

Apple chunks, strawberries, pomegranate seeds, oranges, tangerines, mango and grapes. In a pinch, you can even use raisins and sultanas (black and yellow kismis in Hindi). 

One of the 6 steps to the perfect salad is to add something crunchy or nutty to it.

Step 5: Something crunchy

If you used an apple as your fruit and don't feel like adding more, it's fine, but trust me, you can still take your salad to the next level of awesomeness by simply adding a handful of nuts. 

Which one? It doesn't matter, all nuts are great : peanuts, pistachio, walnuts, almonds, cashew, pine nuts...take your pick.

If you aren't so nut about nuts, toss in a few croutons which is French for little cube of crunchy toasted bread. 

Your salad is only going to get as good as your salad dressing. Homemade is the best way to go with a dressing.

Step 6: Your favourite dressing

A salad dressing is usually an oil medium with an acidic note to which you add aromatic herbs and elements. 
The standard ratio for a salad dressing is 3 parts oil for one part vinegar plus the seasoning ingredients. 

There are countless recipes for salad dressing you can try. 

One of my favourite homemade dressing is an "Asian style" vinaigrette that I make in bulk and store in the fridge: 

1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup sesame oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup light soy sauce
2 grated cloves of garlic
half a thumb of freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp brown sugar

I blend all the ingredients in a blender and transfer to a glass bottle. It keeps fresh in the fridge for weeks, thanks to the vinegar and oil which are both great preservatives. 

Drizzle a little of the dressing on your salad taking care not to drown it. A typical dinning plate size of salad will need about 1 and a half table spoon of dressing...NO MORE!

Voila! Your salad is ready

If you follow those 6 steps and filled your plate with it, I can GUARANTEE you that you will stay full for a couple of hours.
Keep in mind though that if your salad is grain based rather than leaves based, you might want to load it with more veggies from Step 2 in order to keep the grain serving small and healthy. Grains are still carbs and you don't need a huge amount of these if you aren't going to workout to burn it up. 

In the case of a leafy salad, make sure your leaves cover and entire dinning plate before adding the topping elements. 

If you carry your salad to work, DO NOT add the dressing to your salad when you pack it, the vinegar in the dressing will cook the leaves and make them mushy by lunch time. ALWAYS add your dressing to a salad at the last minute, right before eating it. 

14 comments

  1. Anonymous12:04 PM

    Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to you and family,

    Awesome salad with all the right ingredients, fruits, vegetables and nuts. This could be a complete meal in itself. I have often found that fruits are actually more heavier than grains, specially when you fast and then have fruits. A combination of fruits and vegetables is formidable.

    I remember after my mother's demise, I had to remain on a fruit diet and one grain meal during the day as per the ritual, for ten days. The grains were boiled with vegetables, with slight butter and rock salt. Less grain and more fruits/vegetables during the day. I found that my body felt light but somewhat weak, malnourished. The fulfilling feeling was not there.

    Even my sweat had sweet smell. It was a very different experience. Though it was a sad time, I felt light. It was definitely a detoxifying experience, but ironically it took place in an hour of grief.

    In Indian physiology when you deny yourself grains, and resort to fruits, you have made a great sacrifice, which means a religious day, funerals ritual etc, when they should be part of everyday diet anyway. A healthy diet is an aberration.

    Apple

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    Replies
    1. Thank you :-) Wishing you the same.

      Fruits and vegetables are low calories, high fiber and water food stuff. So to have that sensation of feeling "full" you need to have big servings. This is why in the case of a salad meal you need to add a protein element. Proteins keep you full the longest, even longer than grain.

      The misconception being that a protein has to be meat, which is not true, paneer, cheese, and tofu are proteins that keeps you full as long as chicken, fish or red meat.

      If you go on a diet that is less grain, and more fruits and vegetable based without much in way of proteins, you need to increase the frequency of your meals (5-6 meals a day).

      Fruits and vegetables should definitely be part of an everyday diet and not something reserved for fasts and rituals. They are the most nutrient dense food stuff out there, grains are in comparison an extremely empty food that does the job at filling one up, adding calories, but very little in ways of vitamins, minerals, and proteins which are the building blocs of a strong body.

      In Europe, the salad is either a full meal of the type I wrote in this blog post. Or it is a side-salad.
      Side salads are usually just leaves with a dressing and sits in a small bowl on the side of the plate. It acts as a filler on the side of a main course so that the serving of starch or grains remains small.

      In India the concept of salad usually means a few slices of tomato, onions and cucumber but the amount is way less significant than in a continental side salad, as a result it doesn't really fill one up enough to cut down on the rice and roti. I found though that doubling the serving of dal and dahi does the trick, and that is usually how I manage to keep my carbs intake and blood sugar under control :-)

      Delete
    2. Anonymous6:25 PM

      It is true, the fixation with grain meant that you find substitutes during fast days which resemble rice/flour. So, Kuttu Atta and Vrat ke Chawal or Barnyard millet are used in place of flour and rice which gives the impression that you are not deviating from your usual diet of roti/rice etc. People invented a way out.

      Raw vegetables and fruits are associated with austerity. Seasonal fruits were definitely eaten. If you are on that diet, it means that you are doing it for some special purpose (fasting, mourning for death your house, pooja, penance), a departure from you regular diet and life. There is a sense of morality about it. You are leaving the colour, taste and smell of normal food behind in your quest for spiritual bliss.

      Among Bengalis, after the mandatory period of mourning is over, the family gathers and fish is cooked. This is symbolic of you reverting back to your normal diet. Your fruit diet was a self imposed restriction in honour of the departed soul. Of course, among Bengalis, if your have turned vegetarian, it means that all is not well in your life. You perhaps want to renounce the world.

      This explains our somewhat complicated relationship with fruits and vegetables. Then there is ofcourse the veg non veg problem. These are not faced by other nationalities/religions. They eat almost everything anytime. We have created our own hang ups about food to our own disadvantage.

      Apple

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    3. This is funny because in Europe we consider grains a mark of austerity. It's the stuff that carries us through Winters, but the instant fresh fruits and vegetables are back in season people used to rejoice. Now it has changed with import export. But once upon a time, oranges were considered a treat and luxury in the Winter, which explains why they are often associated with Christmas and Winter Solstice celebration.

      There are vegetarians in Europe, mostly for ethical reasons rather than religious. What is different though is that the contiental vegetarian diet is protein rich still, the lack of meat hasn't been replaced by just more grains.

      Mushroom, cheese, lentils and tofu usually replace the meat protein and the serving of vegetables increases a little while the grain serving stays the same.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous1:15 PM

      I think India because of its agricultural roots, grain along with cattle was considered wealth. That is why "Dhan and Dhanya" (wealth and grain) were often referred too in the same breath as symbols of prosperity. Good food is rich and colourful and has sharp taste.

      It was believed that food invokes good and bad feelings in your body. So food was divided into two categories, Satvic (Good), Tamasic (Evil). You become what you eat. So, Satvic food was vegetarian, representing good value, while Tamasic food was non vegetarian, represented the worldly pleasures that lead you astray. The more simple the food is, it keeps your senses active. Not quiet true, but still a belief.

      Apple

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    5. I think India had the luxury to think that way because crops pretty much grow year round, if it isn't one crop it is another. It makes it easier to rely on grain more.

      In most of Europe, at the exception of the Mediterranean area, the climate is too cold to grow anything or much of anything nearly 6 months a year. This meant if one wanted to survive, they had to rely on just about any preserving technique and tap into any food source possible.

      The Himalayan States face the same situation and have a diet that has a wider range of food sources as a result.

      The danger if the mostly grain based diet is that grains are calorie dense and carbs heavy. It's fine as long as one is going to be doing a lot of physical activity to burn it off. Not so great with the typical urban sedentary lifestyle most people have these days.

      In the end, Kuttu atta which is a fasting food would actually be a much healthier and nutritious choice to include in an everyday diet.

      I'll have to share my buckwheat crepe recipe one day :-)

      Delete
  2. Anonymous2:18 PM

    Most certainly you should share your recipe of buckwheat crepe. BTW buckwheat sounds so stylish. So is bulgur wheat compared to the drab Dalia. Compare "I had bulgur wheat today" to "I had Dalia today". Bulgur wheat sounds like some exotic French food LOL.

    Apple

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    Replies
    1. Buckwheat is the English word for Kuttu :-) In French it translates as "Sarasin" roughly pronounced "sa-ra-zuh".

      Bulgur wheat is really just broken wheat :-) but it indeed sounds fancier, nobody likes their food to be described as "broken"

      Delete
    2. Anonymous3:30 PM

      I have been thinking of asking you, what does ":-)" mean? I understand it means smiling.

      Apple

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    3. You understood well, it does mean "smiling"

      Delete
  3. Oh I miss my daily salads in my native California. Nicoise, Caesar chicken, and the famous California Cobb salads were my favorite lunches.
    Due to poor sanitation I wouldn't dare eat a leafy green anything up here in Nepal without pressure cooking the blazes out of it. ( I've had amoebiasis enough times to know.) I do make Greek style salads with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, onions, bell peppers, olive oil, red wine vinegar, cracked black pepper, and feta cheese or haloumi if I can find it. Or a little canned tuna. There was an Aussie vet who tried to start a goat dairy here, the feta cheese he made was AWESOME! But the Nepalis weren't to fond of feta or goat's milk so it flopped.

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    Replies
    1. I haven't seen any domestic goat cheese in India yet, I am sure it must exist somewhere but I am yet to find it in our area. We are stuck with ridiculously over-priced imported feta that I refuse to buy. I miss greek salads as a result.

      I think the smell of goat cheese would simply be too much for a lot of Indians who are already not too fond of cheese (real cheese that is, this Amul crap doesn't count)

      Delete
    2. Anonymous5:25 PM

      It is said that Mahatma Gandhi drank goat milk. Goat milk and fruits were his staple food. May be goat milk spurred him to do, do what he did.

      Apple

      Delete
    3. Anonymous2:22 PM

      What does this post have to do with mahatma Gandhi?

      Delete

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