Improving our eating habits is a step-by-step process and, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t have to be a complicated one. We can start off by making simple changes like adding a salad to our daily diet. Whether you want to reap more benefits from your vegetables or cut down on calories, salads have been known to go a long way.
Add to that, it’s definitely one of the easiest things to make in your kitchen. However, what most Nepalis need to realize is that we don’t always have to stick to regular toppings like tomato or cucumber. These often lead to unappetizing and boring salads.
Choose to be a little more adventurous by adding chicken breast, fruits, nuts, cheese; the options are aplenty. If you still don’t know where to start though, here are some ideas to spruce up your greens. The Week brings you some really good salad recipes along with some handy tips.
CHICKPEA, AVOCADO SALAD
This will take you about five to seven minutes to prepare (we tried it) and makes for the perfect quick bite.
• Half a bowl of chickpeas
• 1-2 ripe avocado (depending on your liking of avocado)
• Shredded cabbage
• A few pitted olive
• Chopped spring onions
• Fresh, chopped parsley
• Half teaspoon of salt, extra virgin olive oil, dressing of your choice (some prefer lime juice as well).
(Serves four people)
Tip to dress the salad right
There are some home cooks who skip the dressing in their salads but most chefs would recommend you to invest in it. It is the thing that ties all the ingredients together and adds more dimension to the flavor. You can either buy dressings at the supermarket or invest the time to make it yourself. Further while buying your dressing, a little research wouldn’t go amiss. This is because the dressing needs to match your greens. For example, since arugula leaves are delicate, creamy Caesar dressing would be a bad match as it will easily overpower the salad. On the other hand, light balsamic vinaigrette dressing won’t be flavorful enough for Kale leaves. Thus try to strike the perfect balance of dressing and salad.
Using too much dressing is also a no-no. Drowning your salad in too much dressing makes it a soggy mess. In fact, instead of pouring the dressing on top of the salads, drizzle your dressing along the walls of your bowl then lightly toss your greens until the dressing is evenly distributed.
APPLE CHICKEN SALAD
Let’s take it a step further and be more creative with our salad. Here with apples, chicken and all the greens, this salad can actually be a good substitute for your afternoon snack. It makes for a great packed lunch.
• A small portion of baked chicken (142 grams will serve two people. Also cut them in cubes).
• A handful of chopped apples
• Couple of thinly sliced celery
• Raisins, walnuts, brown sugar, and your favorite dressing (Italian dressing is recommended).
Tip to cook the chicken
It really depends on the texture you are looking for in your finished product. If you want a chunky chicken salad then bake your chicken breasts. You can choose to season them with salt and pepper, that’s up to you. Then cut the chicken breast in cubes.
If you want more texture to your chicken, you can pan grill the breasts to the point of a little char. After heating the pan, simply add some olive oil or butter. After they are cooked, you can easily dice the pieces.
Some also believe that if you boil or put your chicken in a slow cooker, cook them flavorless, then it will help the chicken soak up more flavor later on from the mix that you will be putting in your salad. It all really comes down to how you like to eat your chicken salad.
This is clearly one of the more popular salads. They are available in many restaurants around town but it can also be easily prepared in your home too. It’s healthy, it’s light, crisp and gives you plenty of opportunity to play with the toppings as well.
• Chopped lettuce
• 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
• Small portion of tomatoes
• A couple of olives
• Goat cheese, crumbled
• Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• The dressing of choice for Greek Salads is lemon vinaigrette (To make the vinaigrette, you can whisk olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice together, then add a little sugar in a small bowl).
Tip to maintain the salad’s crunch
After washing your salad, it is important to dry the leaves meticulously. Wet salad leaves repel dressing so this is one step you don’t want to miss. Most professional kitchens even have a salad spinner for the purpose but if you don’t have that facility, dish towels work just as well. Shake water off of lettuce leaves and lay them in a single layer on a clean dishtowel. You can gently pat them with your hand as well. Soggy salads are a sad sight so the effort is worth it.
Another common mistake people make is using utensils to mix their salads. Use your hands. Forget salad tongs and such and handle it with a gentle touch. Also it is best to leave some ingredients out until the last moment. Mix your dressing with the salads beforehand but leave the extra toppings be it tomatoes, peas, or nuts for later.