Pile Up Salad with Honey Dijon Vinaigrette
I LOVE salad. I adore the crunch, and the texture, and all the fresh flavour surprises in my mouth. Sometimes I like to toss my salad (but not my cookies), and sometimes I like to pile it all up in an artfully displayed, elegant Salade Composee as they say en francais). When you put a salad on a platter and lay out all of the ingredients fancy-like, people get very impressed and think that you put a lot of effort into their dinner (when in fact, you put no more effort than if you put everything in a bowl.)
I’m sure you already knew this, but appearances really ARE everything.
You can put whatever you want in and on a Pile-Up salad. I’m pretty loosy-goosy in general, but I would make a few recommendations:
- Use colour!! Monochromatic is NOT the way to go (green lettuce, green beans, green peppers, green olives, artichokes).
- Use a big enough platter or plate so that when people take, it doesnt end up all over the table and the floor. Because then you’ll have to invoke the 3 second rule or start eating off the table and things will just disintegrate.
- Make sure the different flavours and textures go together (bean sprouts and pickled Italian antipasto? With asian dressing?) If you’re unsure, check out this completely cool and entertaininly pretentious book, The Flavor Thesaurus, that my sister got me for my birthday.
- Add some extra texture & crunch-croutons, sunflower seeds, nuts, chinese noodles, wonton strips. These additions will make sure your salad is a party in your mouth.
- If you’re clean eating or watching what you eat, keep an eye on what you’re putting in. A salad is only as heathy as what you put on it. Gorgonzola is delicioso but very fattening (a little goes a long way). Anything fried (like the delicious tortilla strips in my previous point) will add tons of calories. Same goes for the dressing (but you know that).
- Please! Don’t add too much dressing. You’re not eating a bowl of Ranch, you’re eating a salad. The dressing should enhance your delicious fresh ingredients, not mask them.
- Add sliced chicken breast, shrimp, fish, grilled tofu, or even leftover steak to make the pile-up a complete meal.
Today’s Pile-Up: baby spinach and romaine lettuce with diced red and yellow bell peppers, sliced fennel, and quartered marinated artichokes, leftover grilled corn* that was sliced off the cobb. It’s topped it with a nutty salad blend that I get at my local grocer (sunflower seeds, soya nuts, pepitas, cashews, and I’m not even sure what else) and home-made honey dijon vinaigrette.
I mostly make my own dressings. I have yet to find a bottled dressing that tastes as good as homemade, but that’s probably because I prefer vinaigrette-style to mayonnaise or cream-based. Here’s one of my favorites.
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed**
1 tbsp grainy dijon mustard (or any interesting mustard)
1 tbsp good quality honey
1/3 cup white balsamic
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2/3 cup olive oil (I like my dressing a bit tangy. If you like it less so, add more oil)
Freshly ground black pepper & salt, to taste
What You’ll Do:
Place all the ingredients in a magic bullet or blender and blend until emulsified. Taste and adjust seasonings. Enjoy!
*To grill corn: shuck the corn and rinse. If you want, season with a little lemon herb seasoning and a dab of butter or olive oil. Wrap each cob individually in tinfoil, and place on a hot grill. Grill about 12 minutes, turning frequently. Take foil off, and either eat off the cob, or, slice off the cob by holding vertically and slicing it off with a sharp knife.
** To peel & smash a garlic clove: lay your garlic on a cutting board. place the flat of your chopping knife on top of the cloves and, holding the knife handle with one hand, make a vertical fist with the other. BAM. Smash down on the knife. It’s not as dangerous as it sounds, and when you lift the knife, you’ll see peeled and smashed garlic.