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Dinner Salads – A Guide

Something that Jeremy and I like to do every once in a while is having what we call Entree Salads for dinner. These are fairly large salads with a few different types of ingredients to make a satisfying meal.

Our dinner salads always start with a lettuce base.  We prefer to use Boston Bibb or butter lettuce but this picture actually features a mix of green leaf and oak leaf lettuces.  Our local grocery store didn’t have any whole heads of Bibb on this particular visit, so we got the live mix of heads of lettuces.  We always buy the whole heads that are still on the root.  Pre-cut lettuces, while convenient, usually are more expensive than just buying the whole head.
In regards to toppings there are four categories:  vegetable, protein, starch and dressing.
We’ll take a close look at each:

Vegetables:

Typically includes, at minimum, tomatoes and cucumbers.  You may have read one of my last posts about cucumber and tomato salad. I typically start my entree salads with that cucumber and tomato mix.  The crunchiness of the cucumber and the lovely acidity of the tomato make for a great vegetable layer on the lettuce.  I usually also include thinly sliced green onion tops in the salad as well.  I love green onions and the flavor they impart on dishes.  You can add any vegetables that you like but these three are my favorites so I typically stop here.  I haven’t used hearts of palm in this salad but it would work nicely.  Some sliced avocado would also go well with this mix. And on this particular salad, I included sliced celery, because I had some in the fridge and it adds another “crunchy” dynamic to the salad.

Protein:

Eggs:

Sometimes I use diced up boiled egg and sometimes I use over easy eggs.  It really just depends how much time I have.  The boiled eggs take just a little longer but sometimes I’m just more in the mood for them too.  The picture above features boiled eggs.  Typically when I use over easy eggs, I keep the salad a little more simple – lettuce, dressing, and a rendered meat product.

Meat:

Ah, so speaking of rendered meats, my favorite one to use is diced up Poche’s Chaurice sausage.  My rendering method involves melting butter in skillet and then slowly cooking the meat until it is a bit dried out and cripsy.  Kinda like little meat croutons!  Although they’re probably more akin to bacon bits.  But meat croutons sounds sooooo tasty, don’t ya think?  Some other acceptable meats to render would be pancetta, prosciutto, or bacon.  The sky’s the limit. Most cured or smoked meats can be rendered fairly easily.

Cheese:

Of course cheese is an integral part of this.  For this salad I used sharp Cheddar because it is what I had on hand. But you could use any cheese you like.  I typically either use Cheddar, Feta or sometimes a Havarti if I have it on hand.  I like rich cheeses on this salad.  It helps to make the whole salad more satisfying.

Starch:

Jeremy isn’t really a fan of croutons but I do like them.  However, if I do use croutons I make my own.  So when I am rendering the meats that I refer to above, I always make sure there’s lots of butter in the pan.  Along with the oils that come from rendering, this butter acts as the coating for the bread for coutons.  I like to use the heels of a loaf of Whole Foods’s Snappy Sour Dough bread.  I cut them up into little squares and once the meat is rendered where I’d like it to be, I add in the bread cubes to soak up the excess butter/fat mixture. It usually takes a couple of minutes to crisp up the bread to the point where it can be a crouton.  Another great thing about making croutons this way is that the flavor from the Chaurice is also infused into the croutons.

Dressing:

My favorite dressing for this salad is my Sherry Vinaigrette.  Making dressings at home is very easy and much more healthy than store bought dressings (which are usually laden with sugar and all kinds of unpronounceable additives).  In my Cucumber and Tomato salad post, I gave my Sherry vinaigrette recipe but I will re-include it here for convenience’s sake.
Addie’s Sherry Vinaigrette
1 part sherry vinegar
3 parts olive oil (something extra virgin or very light will work just fine)
To taste:  Dijon Mustard, dill, salt and cayenne pepper

Method:  

  1. Add all ingredients to a small squirt bottle (you can get them at Sally Beauty Supply for like a dollar and they have the proportion marks on them.  Win!) and then shake.  Simple.
  2. Also, right before each use, shake again to emulsify.  Will keep in the fridge for a couple months.

 

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