Salad Days

Sure, it’s healthy, but don’t think of salad as an ascetic’s dish. It’s raw, crunchy, briny, energizing and yes, sexy.

Since raw vegetables dressed in vinegar and oil first appeared on dining tables in ancient Greece and Rome, the salad has signified a dish of self-abnegation. Hippocrates of Cos (known as the father of medicine) recommended beginning a meal with salad because it was easily digested and unobtrusive. In 17th Century France, Louis XIV was a prodigious salad eater, and believed that raw greens helped promote sleep, control the appetite and “temper the Ardors of Venus.” The first book on salad to appear in the English language was John Evelyn’s Acetaria in 1699. His recipes included roots, leaves, herbs and flower buds tossed with olive oil and lemon rinds.

Around the same time, Shakespeare made a most compelling reference to the cold green dish in one of his plays. In a speech at the end of the first act in Antony and Cleopatra, when our heroine is reminiscing about her youthful indiscretions with Julius Caesar, she says “My salad days, when I was green in judgment, cold in blood…” Thus, in modern etymology, “salad days” refers to an era marked not by calculated decision, but by passionate desire. Hmmm. So maybe we shouldn’t think of salads as just a diet food or something you order on a first date because you’re too shy to get a burger. Maybe salads can be lusty and carefree. In the Cleopatran spirit, salad isn’t a dish for the pietist. It’s raw, crunchy, briny, energizing, and dare I say, sexy.

As we learned in the iconic film Mean Girls (which is now a Broadway show!), the first step in rehabilitating an image is a style makeover. So when it comes to outfitting your salad, discard the old plastic bowls and upgrade to something sleek and elegant like the Nambé Yaro salad bowl, carved of acacia hardwood, accompanied by matching metal-handled utensils. The serving bowl’s pedestal shape makes easy work of tossing greens, and the Nambé Yaro set of four small bowls are the perfect size for portioning out individual servings.

Nambé
Yaro Salad Bowl & Servers
$155, macys.com


Nambé
Yaro Set of Salad Bowls
$75, macys.com

If you are a proponent of the layered chopped salad, then opt for a glass trifle bowl to display your handiwork. And keep in mind, knives aren’t the only way to chop vegetables. The Spiralizer makes prep work feel like child’s play, and might even entice your children to eat more vegetables. The counter-top version works fine  with cucumbers, squash, carrots and other fodder, but if you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, then consider the Spiralizer Attachment. It is far more precise and powerful than the hand-cranked model.

Brieftons
5-Blade Spiralizer
$27.99, amazon.com


KitchenAid
Stand Mixer Spiralizer Attachment
$149.99, macys.com

It is easy to overlook simple kitchen gadgets like carrot peelers, but a sharp, well-designed tool from OXO is positively life-changing. And if you’ve never used a salad spinner, then it’s time to try it. You have nothing to lose besides a lifetime of soggy, waterlogged salads with diluted dressing. The stainless steel spinner from OXO is an attractive upgrade from the popular plastic models, and its spin lever is easy to operate.

OXO
Good Grips Y Peeler
$8.99, amazon.com


OXO
Steel Salad Spinner
$49.73, amazon.com

If you haven’t made a salad in a while (or are sick of the same old recipes), then it’s worth expanding your cookbook library with some notable salad tomes. I find myself referencing Jennifer Chandler’s Simply Salads about once a week. Her classic recipes are customizable, easy-to-follow, and beautifully photographed. Williams-Sonoma’s Salad of the Day has a year’s worth of recipes arranged on a calendar to coincide with the seasons for fresh produce.  Salad Samurai is a playful vegan tome that even an omnivore could love. Author Terry Hope Romero’s repertoire includes the expected locavore greens and vegetables but also has recipes that utilize rice, grains and legumes.

Simply Salads
$14.89, amazon.com


Salad of the Day
$23.76, amazon.com


Salad Samurai
$16.99, amazon.com

One of the things that makes salad sexy is the spontaneity of it all. Take what you have on hand, mix it up and see what happens. I always have some kind of raw greens in the house, such as romaine, baby spinach or a tricolor mix. I like to fortify my salads with a mix of seeds, such as hemp,  chia, and flax. And I find that a handful of raw almonds add a delicious crunch.

Manitoba Harvest
Shelled Hemp Seeds
$10.29, amazon.com


Viva Naturals
Organic Chia Seeds
$10.49, amazon.com


Bob’s Red Mill
Whole Brown Flaxseed
$16.88, amazon.com



Wild Soil
Raw Almonds
$24.98, amazon.com

Store-bought salad dressings are often packed with preservatives and made with cheap filler oils, so I prefer to make my own at home. The basic recipe (to which you can add your favorite herbs) is easier than you think: two parts organic Extra-Virgin Olive Oil to one part Balsamic Vinegar, plus a dollop of Dijon Mustard and a squirt of Honey.

Bragg
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
$44.99, amazon.com


Gourmet Living
Balsamic Vinegar
$38.50, amazon.com


Maille
Dijon Mustard
$10.63, amazon.com


Nature Nate’s
Raw Unfiltered Honey
$12.79, amazon.com

Shake it all up in a jar, and voilà, your salad is ready. Not only does it look sexy in your bowl, but if you eat it regularly, you may soon be cutting a fine figure yourself.


 

Alessi
Oil & Vinegar Cruit
$125.00, bloomingdales.com

 

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