Can you find the steak in this picture? I'll save the jokes about Fred Flintstone, but I think anyone who knows him would allow me to take some credit for the fact that the colors orange and green appear on the plate. Which is to say I've gotten him to start eating his vegetables.
He, on the other hand, would probably say that he has always loved steamed spinach, and that he has also always cubed sweet potatoes, tossed them with butter and garlic, the roasted them at high heat until they have a nice crust on one side and are tender and crazy delicious inside.
But never mind. The point is the vegetables are there.
Although, and I really don't want to belabor any of this, but I just cannot help it: I can't get over the fact that last night while we were having dinner out (at La Madia, a really good pizza place in Chicago), he said to me, as he folded some green leaves into his pie-hole: "I have always enjoyed salads."
Ha-ha-ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha -ha.
That's hilarious. It's true only if a slab of pork tenderloin on a Kaiser roll with barbecue sauce and fat white onion slices qualifies as a salad. On the other hand, maybe he did not mean "leafy green salad," specifically.
Perhaps he knows, the way everyone should, both things that I want to say about Salad.
1. A salad doesn't always have to look like lawn clippings.
2. You're crazy if you buy salad dressing.
I love leafy greens, dark and pale--I do--but I don't make a ton of leaf-based salads here, actually, because we always waste the leftovers and I hate washing greens but don't trust "prewashed."; I have a big bag of arugula in the fridge; I just put half of it in lentil soup because I forgot to buy spinach. It was really good. Guilt gone.
But I do like to make a refreshing melange of vegetables, or vegetables and fruit, or grains or beans served with a homemade main course. Although, like anyone with people to feed on a regular basis, I've been known to cook dinner and serve nothing with it at all, especially if it's pasta. A kind of eat-it-and-shut-up entree as opposed to how-do-you-like-this-dish-I-created-for-your-dinner-I-really-want-your-opinion.
Which is to say: a salad is civilized. And they can be so easy.
You should never buy salad dressing, unless you just really really like bottled dressings and have money to spare. There is one I do like very much but I haven't bought it in years. I just tried to find it on Amazon, which confirmed my feelings: a search for "salad dressing" turned up, among several other unsavory bottles, a "blue cheese, pecan balsamic vinaigrette," which not only sounds like something you should eat on jumbo Fritos but no longer seems to be a vinaigrette per se, and another that I originally read as "Taliban Lime Ginger Vinaigrette" but turned out to be "Tahitian Lime Ginger Vinaigrette," thank God.
A salad can be anything. I know you know this, but it's good to remind yourself every once in a while that you do not have to submit to the necessary tyranny of washing and drying greens. My mom used to serve canned grapefruit sections with avocado and red onion, dressed with red wine vinegar and oil. I loved it--and I loved canned asparagus back then, too--and later adapted it to be the modern-lady lifestyle that I live today: fresh grapefruit sections, some thinly sliced red onion, avocado, and soft red-leaf or Boston lettuce with arugula. I tend to use pretty much the same salad dressing on everything, because I have always thought that it goes with everything (my mustard vinaigrette).
But I recently served a salad that was so simple it barely deserves this long-winded entry and made me realize that I should think a little bit harder about dressing. My mustard vinaigrette has sort of become like khaki pants: it has grown tedious in its splendid utility. And so often is completely inappropriate.
So my salad: super-sweet seedless oranges (they're everywhere, and we should eat them while we can) cut into thick slices, with a scattering of pomegranate seeds, some diced shallots, and a dressing made with o.j, molasses, a little balsamic vinegar, a bit of olive oil. If you serve this with a non-spicy dish, you can throw in a pinch of cayenne, or a half-teaspoon of red pepper flakes.
I served it with another dish that I love to serve for guests but is perfect for a Friday night family supper, Green-Chile Chicken Thighs with Arugula Salad and Creamy Grits, a dreamy recipe my sister sent to me from Food and Wine a few years ago. I've given you the link to click. Make the dish; trust me.
My salad was just the thing. Refreshing, sweet and sparky--the perfect antidote to the rich and spicy chicken and creamy grits.
Emily's Easy Orange Salad
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
- 2 tablespoons molasses (I've also used Maple syrup)
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- pinch of cayenne or 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (this is semi-optional; if you make it to accompany the Green Chile Chicken Thighs, leave it out)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
- 2 shallots, very thinly sliced, separated into rings
- 3 large seedless oranges, peeled and cut into 1/3 inch slices (click to see how)
- 1 cup pomegranate seeds (I got mine at Trader Joes, already liberated; diced strawberry would be pretty, too)
- Slice the shallots thinly and separate into rings.
- In a jar, place olive oil, orange juice, molasses, vinegar, cayenne, salt, pepper. Screw on lid and shake until well emulsified.
- In a small bowl, pour some of the dressing over shallot slices to cover. You can let this sit at room while you're making the rest of your dinner, the longer the better.
- When you are ready to serve your salad (and I like to serve this right along with the chicken thighs or after, because it is refreshing, and I am uncouth), divide orange slices artistically among 4 salad plates, topped with 1/4 of the "pickled" shallots, and sprinkle prettily with the pomegranate seeds. Drizzle each plate with some of the dressing.