Spring has finally arrived, which means it’s time to reconnect with Mother Earth. Specifically, I’m referring to the transition from heavy soups and stews to lighter dishes like salads. Often mislabeled as boring “diet food,” salads are one of the healthiest, tastiest, yet most excused meals on the planet.
For example, does the phrase “It’s just a salad…” sound familiar to you? It’s a phrase often uttered by many when describing what they consider to be an uninteresting meal. But it really doesn’t have to be that way, especially when taking it up a notch with homemade dressings and the addition of unusual ingredients with lots of crunch, color and taste.
Full disclosure: I’m not a health freak. My love for pasta and other assorted carbs is well documented, but incorporating at least “something green every day” into my diet has become a priority. This happened after reading an article by a gerontologist listing this simple trick as one of the ways to prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Adding a green salad is not that difficult to do, especially in the evening when the idea of a large meal can often be repulsive. And if it can help – if only a little – to keep disease away from the mind – I’m all for it.
One thing that has made salad prep easier and even more fun is buying a new salad spinner. I splurged on a fancier model than the previous one I owned and let me just say salad prepping has reached a new level. Purchased from the cookware aisle at Kroger, the model* I purchased is the epitome of multi-use.
First, soaking the lettuce and any veggies I plan to add (carrots, celery, peppers, etc.) to remove all traces of dirt and grime is easy thanks to the extra-large acrylic bowl. Then, the built-in strainer makes it easy to drain everything before spinning to remove excess water. Cooling the vegetables in the colander is the last step before creating a great salad.
And finally, putting leftover lettuce and veggies back into the large bowl with a built-in lid ensures tomorrow’s salad will be crisp and fresh, saving you the hassle of finding another storage bowl.
OK, now that we’ve mastered how to make a healthy salad, what’s the best way to dress it up a bit? I was shocked to learn that my favorite brand name Italian dressing is loaded with sodium, so it was imperative to find one that delivered the same zesty flavor without the additives. I tweaked a homemade salad dressing recipe to include more of my favorite ingredients, resulting in a healthier substitute for the brand name option. If you want the recipe, email me and I’ll send it to you.
Finally, I don’t want to leave the impression that a green salad is the only option in this food category. Spring meals also call for lighter side dishes. Nothing beats salads made with pasta, potatoes, chopped vegetables like corn and tomatoes with a light dressing, to name a few.
Here’s a recipe for an old-school New York deli that has stood the test of time — more specifically, 100 years or more since the family-run deli opened its doors. It can be prepared with or without meat, but however you serve it, it will be the star of your spring table.
Kara Kimbrough is a food and travel writer from Mississippi. Email him at [email protected]
Correction: Bread recipe posted March 17, 2022 should read “1 ½ tsp. hot water (104 degrees)” instead of “2½ c”.
Deli German Potato Salad
• ½ tsp. apple cider vinegar
• 2 tables. sugar
• ½ tsp. salt
• 1 ch. the water
• ½ lb of meat: corned beef, ham, cooked bacon or salami (or your favorite)
• Vegetable oil
• Pepper to taste
• 2 tables. yellow mustard
• ½ tsp. chopped pickles (can substitute chopped lettuce or cabbage)
• 3 books. cooked, peeled and sliced red potatoes
• Prepare a vinegar base by heating the vinegar in a small saucepan over medium heat with the sugar and salt. When the sugar is dissolved, add the water. Put aside.
• Put the meat in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade and chop or grind the meat.
• Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart saucepan with a little vegetable oil and a pinch or two of black pepper.
• Add mustard, chopped pickles and potatoes. Then add the vinegar base.
• Refrigerate before serving.
• My favorite salad spinner is an OXO Good Grips 5-quart acrylic model.
• The dressing can be doubled or tripled if you prefer a fluffier salad.