Before I lived in America I was never really a “salad person”. Even through my years in Michigan, salads were not a go-to meal for me. New York changed it all – salads are basically the one thing everyone eats for lunch when you work at a large investment bank like I did. I tried it out – Just Salad, Chop’t, Sweet Green, you name it. At fancy work dinners too, there was always a salad course – eventually I learned to appreciate salad and realized the elements that make a good one.
To me, a good salad needs: leaves with flavor, a creamy (but not overbearing) dressing and crunch! In terms of salad leaves, my personal favorites are kale and arugula (rocket) but you can’t go wrong with a mix either. For dressings, olive oil is the perfect base to work from. Greek yogurt is also a neutral creamy low-fat base. Avocado works very well if you’re lucky enough to find a good one in India (for some reason they just don’t ripen well and don’t taste the same here). Depending on the flavor you’re going for, you can add mustard, garlic, balsamic vinegar, the list goes on. Crunch is so key! The best healthiest way to add crunch is chopped nuts. Another great alternative is pita chips. If you want to keep it simple, some vegetables like mixed peppers and asparagus are fairly crunchy on their own.
My mom and I experiment with salads as a side for lunch. We enjoy incorporating seasonal fruits as well – cherries, strawberries, pears, etc. They add a great flavor when balanced with something flavorful and pungent like mustard, or rich balsamic vinegar. The best part is that now we have access to good quality greens in India. The nouveau grocery stores in India like Foodhall and Nature’s Basket stock them but you also get them at your local market.
I’ll share a recipe for a salad we put together a few days ago. My mom found the perfect avocado; we had some fresh asparagus and arugula at home. Since avocado is already so creamy, I added just a drizzle of olive and a sprinkle of sea salt while mixing. I topped it with fresh pepper and pistachios and it was the perfect green salad – crunchy, peppery from the flavor of the leaves and the black pepper, creamy avocado… my perfect salad!
- 2 packed cups arugula/rocket leaves
- 1 avocado, scooped and sliced
- 6-8 asparagus, blanched
- 2 tbsp pistachios
- 1 tsp olive oil
- Salt and black pepper, to taste
- Toss together the salad leaves, avocado, olive oil, salt and asparagus until the leaves are coated. Top with pistachios and black pepper. Serve immediately.