Four years ago I never thought that I would have a relationship with salad. When I first came to college I had a very heavy palate. I’m New Orleans French. My great great great grandfather came to New Orleans with Napoleon’s army from France, put down roots in the city when it was still just a baby city, and my family has been here ever since. We like our food rich and typically with tasty sauce; cream sauce…butter sauce…red wine reduction. We love our bread French and crusty. And with butter, please. Thank you very much. We like our fried dough beignet style with powdered sugar…lots and lots of powdered sugar. And dunked in coffee. We also like our alcohol from time to time. Some people more often than others. And typically served in the streets or the porch with lots of jazz music wafting around. And every spring we will all convene in the backyard and boil up helpless crustaceans in salty, spicy delicious water and serve them with sausage, potatoes and corn. This is the way of life in New Orleans and there isn’t much that any diet is going to do about it. But surprisingly, due to either being college kid broke or simply growing up, I am starting to acquire a taste for different types of foods as well.
Salad is one of those foods that I had to grow to like. It really has to be done correctly or I’m just not a fan. Whatever the reason may be, whether it’s the texture or the dressing being too heavy, it has to be made just right and with the right ingredients. This is why often you will not see me order a salad in a restaurant. It’s not that I don’t trust restaurants, it’s just that sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting. I will give you an example. There is a Greek cafe in town that I really adore. I go there all the time despite their semi-expensive prices because it is one of the ONLY places in town you can get healthy food on the go. I want to like their salads so badly. They serve you a nice portion with lots of chicken and olives and a fabulous dressing and feta and it’s all great great great until you realize that the lettuce they buy is the cheap cafeteria, shredded up, weak iceberg lettuce mixed with matchstick carrots and that purple stuff that might be cabbage. And it’s disappointing. Because it tastes like crap and it’s wilted and once you drench it in dressing it becomes slop. And it SUCKS. I have been dying to tell these people, “please…oh dear God PLEASE invest in some baby spinach.” Because I think they do a REALLY good job but the truth of the matter is….I could make it better at home. Or like Subway. My boyfriend works at Subway. Everyone knows Subway. If you haven’t been to a Subway you need to crawl out from under your rock. Subway has started selling chopped salads. Which is great. And they will even put all your veggies and meat into a big bowl and cut it up into small bite-sized pieces for you which is so wonderful. The problem is, their dressing selection is nasty. You have to choose from heavy, gelatinous sauces or oil and vinegar. Which is plain and no fun. Again….I could make it better at home.
My sister said it just right, “you have to choose the right kind of lettuce for you.” My sister Alaina was that child that would NOT eat her vegetables cooked much less raw in a salad. “Salad” was something of a curse word to her growing up. Which is why I am absolutely fascinated any time I see her eat anything that vaguely resembles a salad. But it’s true, you have to start with a good base that you like otherwise everything you put on it is going to taste unappealing. Personally, I like the organic spring mix that they sell at Walmart in the produce section. It’s not outlandishly expensive for an organic product, it’s tasty and keeps for a long time in the refrigerator. I also like the baby spinach of the same brand. I believe it is called “Marketside”. I have wasted head after head of iceberg, romaine, and green leaf lettuce, cut it up, washed it and made a big delicious salad with it all to take one bite and realize that I can’t finish it because it tasted too “grassy” to me. The good news is, now that I’ve found what I like I have been making successfully eaten salads for two years now. I usually find myself making salads for lunch because by the time dinner rolls around I’m done messing around and I want what I call “big food”. For some reason in my mind salad is considered “dainty food” no matter how much animal or non-animal protein I add to it. Since I have graduated college I have been getting quite creative with my salads. It’s a wonder what more free time could really do for your food life. And the Pinterest “Food and Drink” feed is never at a shortage of delicious salad pictures which serve as delightful inspiration for my lunchtime escapades. (Seriously, Pinterest is the greatest resource for everything in the world….literally. I’m an addict.)
This section of my blog is for people like me who are sick and tired of a boring old sandwich or the school/work cafeteria salad bar for lunch. In this section I will give you some tasty salad recipes and other kinds of simple recipes that you can make at midday. The first lunch recipe that I wanted to debut is something that I kind of figured out for myself. I love love love Japanese food. I could literally eat Japanese food every other day of the week and never get sick of it. There is something about Japanese flavors and textures that I’m a really big fan of. One of my favorite things to get when I eat Japanese is the snow crab salad. MOST Japanese restaurants have some kind of rendition of this. It’s basically just some kind of lettuce with a mound of snow crab on top and depending on which restaurant you’re at, they add different fixings and dressings. My favorite version of this salad is the one that belongs to Yujin Japanese Restaurant back home in Covington, Louisiana. It’s just perfection. This is probably one of the only times I am ever going to ask you to use iceberg lettuce because I am NOT a fan. But for some reason it is a must with this salad. (In the picture however, I used spinach because that is all I had. Use your imagination, folks) . Here’s how it goes:
– 2 or 3 iceberg lettuce leaves, washed
– 2 or 3 imitation crab sticks
-1 tablespoon cream chesse, softened
– a few pinches shredded carrot
– 4-6 asparagus sprigs, trimmed
– 1 avocado, sliced
– 3 tablespoons salt
1. Arrange the iceberg lettuce in the bottom of a salad bowl.
2. Pour some water into a pot, toss in the salt, and bring to a boil.
3. Trim off the bottoms of the asparagus and cut into 2 inch pieces.
4. When the water is boiling, put in the asparagus and boil for 7 minutes. While the asparagus is boiling, pour some water into a separate bowl and set aside. When the timer reaches 30 seconds left, toss some ice cubes into the separate bowl to make that water very cold. When the 7 minutes is up, immediately take the asparagus out of the boiling water with a slotted spoon and toss them into the ice water. This is called blanching. (No, I didn’t figure that out on my own. My friend that goes to culinary school, Elijah, taught me that haha!)
5. In a small bowl, shred the crab sticks up into small strips and add in the softened cream cheese. Here you can season with some salt and pepper if you like. Mix well.
6. Put the crab mix, the sliced avocado, the blanched asparagus, and the shredded carrots on top of the lettuce. You can drizzle some oil on top if you would like but typically this salad is not served with dressing.
Just to make a note, this is not the actual Yujin recipe. This is my interpretation of it with their fixings and their style. They probably use real snow crab and they might mix theirs with mayonnaise instead of cream cheese. I find I like the cream cheese better because it is not as oily and if you use the reduced fat kind it is less fattening. I would not be afraid to use crab stick either. Crab stick is imitation crab meat that you find a lot of times in sushi rolls like the California roll. Crab stick is not made of anything strange either. No, it is not crab, but it IS made out of white fish meat and compressed into a stick to look like a crab leg. Some people might find this ingredient to be a tad bit too fishy for them. If you have eaten a California roll before, you have eaten crab stick and it does not TASTE fishy at all. It is very mild. It is also very low in calories and is a good protein source. (My friend who is allergic to shellfish said he likes this product because it tastes like crab meat and he can eat it without having an allergic reaction since it is not real shellfish) You can buy it at Walmart in packages. At my Walmart there is a frozen seafood section right by the bakery. I am not sure if it is located next to the bakery in ALL Walmarts but in the ones in my current town and in my hometown, it is. It’s not in the frozen seafood case, but in the case next to it. There you will find other seafood products like packaged salmon and crab cakes. This is where you find crab stick. It is not expensive. Otherwise I would not buy it. My favorite bite of this dish is a piece of avocado, a piece of asparagus and a little bit of crab. The combination is just great. I could literally eat that blanched asparagus by itself, it is just so tasty. I don’t know what happens to asparagus when it is boiled in really salty water, but it’s pretty awesome. I find that this salad really does taste pretty darn close to the real deal in the restaurant and that’s why I keep on making it.
This is just one of my lunch time salads. I hope to be of service again in the future and show you some more of my salad creations. Until then!
Eat, Pray, Love,