Wednesday, June 24, 2009

When Salads Go Bad

Bad salads. They give good salads a bad name. They turn children against vegetables, often for decades. They bring hungry women to tears. They make strong men turn to deep-fried bacon-wrapped cheese-sauced triple-beef burgers on garlic toast. With extra butter. Bad salads ruin lives.

A few candidates for Worst Salad Ever:
  • The Jersey Diner Salad. Flabby lettuce, a mealy pink tomato slice, a single, limp carrot curl, three fancy-sliced radishes, and a half gallon of neon orange dressing.
  • The Ubiquitous 80s Caesar. Remember when this awful pretender first emerged in the 1980s? Its ghastly omnipresence still lingers today. And don't get me started on Caesar spelled Ceasar.
  • Anything on a Field of Anything. X on Field of Baby Greens. Y on a Field of Arugula. Z on a Field of Organic Spinach. I got your Field right here.
  • Salad bars that, as the Man so eloquently describes, "smell like a three-day-old bag of lawn clippings on a hot day."
  • ABC Salads with No Discernible ABC. Nothing says "@#*&%!!" like dropping $15 on lunch and getting a steak salad that consists of a bale of romaine and a chiffon-sheer hint of beef that tips the scales at a slender 22 grams, max. I'm lookin' at you, Mixt Greens.
  • Salads served on a pipin' hot plate, fresh from the dishwasher's Sanitize Cycle.
But the worst salad I've ever encountered, EVER, was on the menu virtually every day at my junior high school. It consisted of iceberg lettuce, apparently marinated for several hours in a mixture of 10 parts motor oil, 1 part white vinegar, and 5 parts salt. It was slopped into - er, served on - on a little paper plate thingie that looked sort of like an inverted coffee filter that had been trimmed down to create a short bowl. Sadly, the plate lacked the absorbency of a coffee filter, so the salad sloshed helplessly from side to side like a kelp bed on an oil slick.

Have you had an awful salad? Tell me!

Meanwhile, guidelines for a good salad:
  • Clean, dark, leafy greens - or a mix of green and red
  • Good tomatoes, or no tomatoes
  • Radishes, or cukes, or something with crunch
  • A sprinkle of crumbled cheese (gorgonzola, feta, something with a kick)
  • Olives (mmmm, calamatas)
  • Nuts (dry roasted almonds, or toasted pignolis)
  • Just a drizzle of dressing - whisk together olive oil, vinegar (or lemon juice) salt and pepper. You'll need a tablespoonful or less per two cups of salad.

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