Secrets to Super Sexy Salad

I could eat salad every day....and do, actually.  I'm pretty sure Gray and I eat a small farm's worth of greens every week.  Sometimes when I think about all the cabbage, red leaf, green leaf, butter lettuce, arugula, radishes and fresh herbs I ingest, I really do wonder, "Where does it all go?"  And after a quick "thank you" to my body for digesting it all, I dive right back in.  With my love of raw vegetable combinations you might think I'm one of those ladies who orders salad when lunching with her other lady friends.  This, I can assure you, never happens!  (The salad part, not the ladies lunching part.)  Honestly, I rarely order salads out because I value my salad experience far too much.  Most salads are dry, flat, flavorless disasters to which you must add a ton of thin, uninteresting dressing just to make it passable.  I shouldn't be so tough on those little leaves. It's not their fault they are forced into plastic bags, their juiciness being sucked away moment by moment as they ride in a truck on the way to your local Trader Joes or Safeway.  Granted, there are locally-focused restaurants that have beautiful salads, but more often than not you are presented with a sad state of salad affairs that you obligingly eat because you should "eat your greens".

I'm sure you are thinking, "Jamie sounds like a raving lunatic.  It's only salad, for goodness sake!"  And yes, you are right.  However good salad, really, truly amazing salad is a rarity for which I would happily forgo any rich meaty dish or even, dare I say it, dessert.  Whenever invited to a dinner party I always bring salad, and without fail I am asked, "How did you make this?  This is the best salad I have ever had!"  I smile and say, "It's not me, its the ingredients."  So, are you ready to learn how to make a brilliant salad that will make you and your guests cry for joy?  Alright then, let's go!

Secrets For Super Sexy Salad

(And if you are wondering what makes any salad sexy, I'll tell you.  Any time something delicious and juicy hits your tongue and you allow yourself to sit and savor it, you are transported to a seriously pleasurable and dare I say, sexy place.  Yes, salad can be just as sensuous as lamb stew or chocolate fondue.  You just need to give the good stuff a try!)

#1-  Buy whole heads of lettuce-  This keeps you away from the dry, mealy stuff and opens up an entirely new world of plump leaves that beg to be eaten.  Leaves and stems should be firm, not floppy, and feel moist to the touch but not soggy.

#2-  Mix it up-  Experiment with multiple types of lettuce rather than sticking to boring ole' romaine.   Red leaf, green leaf, arugula, escarole, chicories, red butter, and green butter are all different varieties of lettuce that entice the palate and keep you interested.  I love mixing different lettuces in my salad to create varying colors and textures.  (The gorgeous maroon-colored lettuce below is what I picked up at today's Farmer's Market.  Talk about mixin' it up!)

Batavian Lettuce

#3-  Texturize-   There are countless reasons why most salads are flat, however a big one is lack of texture.  Just eating lettuce with a spinkle of Parmesan is a one note experience and as you know, you want eating to be a symphony. (Like how I did that?)   You want wet, dry, crunchy, and creamy co-mingling and gettin' comfy on the salad plate.  Red and watermelon radishes, red/green cabbage, avocado, goat cheese, blue cheese, jicama, and even pickled cauliflower provide texture and taste that impart life to your salad.

#4-  Go nuts- For me, salad does not hit that divine place until it is topped with some kind of nut or seed.  Nuts and seeds add crunchy, fatty awesomeness that take a good salad to great.  I recommend toasting your nuts/seeds before using them as heat brings our their richness and flavor.  And please do not get sucked into only using almonds.  (I know you!)  Try sunflower seeds, pumpkins seeds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and hazelnuts.  Each has a unique offering so experiment and see which you like best.

#5- Touch of sweetness-  This is a husband request as my man is more of a sweety while I'm a salty dawg.  However, I will admit that many times a touch of fruit is exactly what the doctor ordered.  Adding fruit to your salad should change with the seasons which helps keep you from getting stuck in an apple rut.  In the Spring add strawberries.  In the Summer, a plum, peach, nectarine or pluot.  I adore pears in salad in the fall and for winter, toss in a few orange segments, grapefruit or persimmon.  Remember, this is not a "fruit salad" but rather using a touch of fruit for balance of flavor.  For a salad for 2, I use 1/2 a piece of fruit.

#6-  Dress it up-  This is where most people get it wrong.   Repeat after me:  "I will no longer outsource my salad dressings!"  Most people grab bottled salad dressings because they believe homemade versions are too hard.  Oh, how wrong you are.  First know, almost every salad I make gets dressed in the same way.  Unfiltered, cold pressed olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sea salt and pepper.  DONE!  Sometimes I work in a bit of Dijon mustard, Parmesan cheese, and lemon juice but that really is about it.  I prefer my dressing to be light rather than rich & creamy so as to get the vegetables' tasty story.  Think of dressing as an enhancer, the finishing bow on an already beautiful present.

There you have it.  The secrets to super sexy salad every time!  Please experiment with these tips and let me know what you come up with.  Of course, with all this salad talk it would be down right wrong to leave you without recipe to try.  I made this salad for our 20 person New Year's Eve party and truth be told, it was more popular than the champagne. The sweet and crunch of the cabbage played perfectly against the spicy nature of the arugula and onion.

It is also the perfect salad for a romantic Valentine's dinner.  Pair with a glass of jammy Zinfandel and dark chocolate and honestly, you can let gettin' it on be the main course.   Enjoy!

Arugula and Cabbage Salad with Onion, Lemon and Parmesan

You will notice here that I've broken rule #4 as there are no nuts or seeds to be seen in this recipe.  The beauty of rules is they are made to broken and so I took the liberty of making this salad sans-nuts.  However toasted hazelnuts, if you felt so inclined, would be delicious on this.

Serves 4

1/2 a small red onion

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon organic honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and pepper to taste

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 cups green cabbage, finely sliced

2 handfuls arugula

1/2 cup raw Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Soak the sliced onions in a small bowl of cold water for 20 minutes while prepping the rest of the salad.  In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, honey, mustard, and a touch of salt and pepper.  Whisk in the olive oil until the dressing is well combined.  Set aside.

Cut the cabbage in half and then one of the halves, into quarters.  With a sharp knife, slice two of the quarters of the cabbage into thin strips and place the second cabbage half in the fridge for later use.  This should be about 2 cups.   Place the cabbage in a bowl with the arugula, the drained onions and the dressing.  Fold in the Parmesan cheese, taste and adjust the seasonings if necessary.


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