I resent your status as pretender to the salad throne. Certainly, you’ve had your moments. At your best, you add a satisfying sweet crunch, and you shine in the Caesar and, I’m told, the Wedge. But really, you lack substance. You’ve got negligible nutrients and very little taste. I can fold up a whole bowl of lettuce and eat it in four bites.
And you’re such a diva! It takes a lot of dressing to make you sparkle. You get tired and sulky in only a couple of days. You come in massive quantities, but without immediate attention, you slime up the whole crisper. If it’s too hot, you wilt. If it’s too wet, you wilt. Sometimes you get all ugly and pink and I don’t understand why. And sometimes, you’re just plain bitter.
So goodbye for now, lettuce. I’m making my salads without you.
Vaguely Asian-inspired Vegetable Festival (serves about 6)
For the salad:
1-1.5 lbs cooked chicken**
1/2 small red cabbage
1 large bell pepper
2 large carrots
1 green apple
Handful of chopped peanuts
**Note: I marinated boneless, skinless thighs in a mixture of ponzu dressing, gochugaru (Korean chili pepper powder), and fresh chopped garlic, then seared them on my cast-iron grill pan. But any kind of chicken will do. Poached is nice, as is leftover diced roast chicken. Really, you could use beef, pork, or tofu in this salad and I think it would be good.
For the dressing:
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 tbsp. fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime (~3 tbsp.)
1 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sugar or to taste
Chili flakes, to taste (optional)
Thinly slice, grate, shred, or chop the cabbage, pepper, cucumbers, carrots, and apples into a large bowl. I sliced them thinly on my mandoline, but any smallish cut will do as long as each ingredient ends up roughly the same size – crucial for a nicely variegated bite. Dice or shred the cooked chicken and add to the bowl. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts.
For the dressing, whisk all ingredients together. Drizzle over the salad and toss well to combine.
This lovely concoction is crunchy, colorful, tangy, and filling. It would be good with steamed rice, but I ate it on its own, with frozen yogurt to follow. And, if you have any fresh mint, basil, or cilantro hanging about, by all means chuck some in!