Inga's Indulgence

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Salads that Satisfy

People really underestimate how difficult it is to make a good salad. When I say good, I mean a salad that tastes and feels good, one that leaves you feeling satisfied but not full and regretful about consuming empty calories. If you think about it, just like with any other food, a great salad has to achieve the perfect harmony of flavors and textures.
There’s nothing I hate more than a plate of mushy greens drenched in a bad dressing. A dressing has to dress the salad like an accessory, adding to the salad’s components rather than overpowering them. It’s all too often that you order a salad in a restaurant and it comes soaked in a cloyingly sweet dressing that makes you think you would  have consumed less sugar just having dessert.
 It’s taken me long enough, but I think I’ve finally pinpointed what I want in a salad.

 Here are my top 5 requirements:
  1. It has to have the perfect balance of salty, sweet, and acidic.
  2. The greens have to be crisp and fresh, not wilted and soggy.
  3. The textures of the salad components should contrast (i.e.: creamy, crunchy, meaty, juicy, etc.)
  4. The consistency of the dressing should NOT be thicker than ketchup, and there shouldn’t be a puddle of dressing at the bottom of your plate (just enough to lightly coat everything)
  5. The flavors of your salad ingredients should NOT conflict with those of your dressing (it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to use a raspberry vinaigrette in a salad with things like anchovies or olives).
Here's one that did it for me the other day...
                          Hearty Arugula Basil Salad  
(White Beans, Pecorino Romano, Poached Egg & Pomegranate Vinaigrette)
The sharpness of arugula and Pecorino was complimented by the tang and slight sweetness of the vinaigrette. The acidity of the vinaigrette also cut the richness of the poached egg and beans. But perhaps the best part of the whole thing was breaking into that perfectly poached egg, letting it ooze all over the place, and then mopping everything up with some crispy whole grain toast. Mmmm...salad nirvana.
                                              yield: 4 servings
                                         Pomegranate Vinaigrette 
                                                 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
                                                 1/2 oz red wine vinegar
                                                 1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
                                                 1/4 cup canola oil
                                                 salt & pepper, to taste

                                                 6 cups water
                                                 1 tbsp white vinegar
                                                 4 eggs
                                                 4 cups baby arugula
                                                 1/2 cup basil leaves, torn
                                                 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
                                                 3 plum tomatoes, halved & sliced
                                                 1/2 cup canned cannelini beans, drained & rinsed
                                                 1/2 cup shaved Pecorino Romano cheese

1. Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl, whisk together first 3 ingredients. Continue to whisk as you slowly drizzle in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside. 
2. Poach the eggs: Bring water to a small simmer in a saucepan. Add the vinegar. (Make sure that the water is not at a rolling boil when you add the eggs) Working with one egg at a time, crack an egg into a small bowl or ramekin. 

Gently lower the ramekin into the simmering water, introducing some of the water into the ramekin before releasing egg into water. Repeat with remaining eggs. 

 Allow a few seconds for the eggs to set, and skim off any loose whites that float to the top with a slotted spoon.


Simmer eggs for about 3 minutes, or until whites are fully cooked and the yolks are still soft to the touch. Remove eggs from pan with a slotted spoon, and allow excess water to drip off.
 3. Assemble salad:  In a large bowl, toss arugula, basil, red onions, tomatoes, and cannelini beans with reserved vinaigrette. Top with poached eggs and shaved Pecorino Romano. Serve with whole grain toast.

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