Opposites Attract: Salads Are Hot to Trot
By Deborah Salomon
Cool greens topped with hot meat or fish: A fire-and-ice salad served in a wide, shallow bowl can be a complete early summer meal that looks sensational while minimizing the meat and maximizing the veggies.
If the meat comes hot off the barbecue, so much the better.
Now it's official: Maxie's Grill and Tap Room in Pinehurst offers a tequila lime chicken salad as well as one topped with grilled steak and cheddar.
Whispering Woods Cafe in Whispering Pines follows with ribeye and raspberry chicken salads. For the timorous cook, Kraft markets Sizzlin' Salad Dinner Kits, which contain cooking sauce for the meat and dressing for the salad. You provide the rest.
California birthed this idea, sometimes with an Asian twist. The South signed on with fried chicken salad - essentially, an American Cobb made with cheese, hard-cooked egg and fried chicken.
WARNING: Do not settle for ready-made chicken nuggets. How hard can it be to dredge boneless breasts or thighs in seasoned flour/bread crumbs and fry in a tiny bit of oil?
Slice the hot, crispy chicken diagonally and arrange on chopped romaine, shredded carrot, shaved radish, tomato wedges, green onions and chopped parsley.
Dress with another American classic: chili sauce mixed with low-fat mayo - maybe a spoonful of sweet pickle relish.
With salads, one idea is worth a hundred recipes. Consider these:
n For a Korean combo, choose dark, peppery greens like arugula and watercress mixed with baby spinach leaves, scallions, endive (for color), a few bean sprouts and grated daikon radish.
Marinate a London broil in ginger or sesame sauce spiked with garlic and hot sauce. Broil steak over coals or near oven element until crusty on top, medium-rare inside.
Let rest for five minutes, slice thinly against the grain and serve over greens which have been tossed with sesame oil and rice or white wine vinegar.
If using chicken or pork, slice into strips while raw, marinate and stir-fry over high heat until crisp.
n Restaurants have caught onto crab cake salads. At home, these are fine made with frozen -premium crab cakes; be prepared to pay about three dollars apiece. Crab burgers won't do. Cook as directed in a skillet until tops and -bottoms are brown and firm.
Hot crab cakes look beautiful on red curly lettuce mixed with shaved yellow and orange bell pepper, red onion and finely chopped celery heart (tiny, pale core ribs with leaves). For the dressing, thin bottled horseradish sauce with buttermilk until pourable.
n A Southwestern meat salad demands spicy packaged sausages (use lower-fat chicken) grilled or broiled until skin is blackened and sliced on the diagonal before arranging over a bed of shredded iceberg, sliced ripe tomato, sweet onion, rinsed and drained black beans, chopped cilantro leaves.
For dressing, combine spicy salsa with low-fat mayo or ranch dressing.
n A Greek salad needs a skinless salmon filet (thick tilapia in a pinch) brushed with olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and black pepper before and after grilling.
Besides the greens of choice, the salad must have oil-cured black olives, ripe Roma tomato wedges, peeled and chopped cucumbers, red onion slices, plenty of fresh basil leaves and crumbled feta. Drizzle more olive oil, lemon juice and a pressed garlic clove over all.
n Strips of peppery roast pork loin suit tangy homemade cole slaw: Grate a carrot into angel hair cabbage from a bag. Add finely chopped parsley and green onions. Dissolve 1 tablespoon sugar in ? cup hot vinegar. Whisk in 2 tablespoons vegetable oil and one or more pressed garlic cloves. Toss with cabbage mixture and refrigerate several hours, stirring often.
n Kids can be coaxed into a healthier meal with hamburger salad: a small-but-juicy lean burger straight off the barbecue and onto a bowl of chopped iceberg, chopped tomatoes and grated carrot moistened with low-fat Italian dressing. Vegetarians love crispy fried sweet potato pancakes (made with grated potatoes and Vidalia onion bound with bread crumbs and egg) on rosy radicchio leaves dressed in blue cheese.
n Mustn't forget grilled shrimp brushed with Cajun sauce over cold, crisp-tender asparagus spears laid on a long romaine leaf. Even simpler: two sunnyside-up eggs on a plate of cool spinach leaves, topped with hot crumbled bacon and shredded Swiss cheese.
The bowl sets the stage: shallow and wide, ice on the bottom, fire on top. Coarse artisanal bread is essential for sopping up the juices.
Now, go whip up something original because hunger, not Kraft, is the true mother of invention.
Contact Deborah Salomon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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