It’s a new year, and with it comes a litany of self-improvement pledges most of us don’t intend to keep: get organized; finally learn French; lose weight; take up beer enemas; et cetera.
But really, among all of those things, weight loss is the resolution most frequently pronounced, and (often) the most easily forgotten. It’s easy to see why: people, resolutions are fleeting. Pie is eternal.
Nevertheless, at this time of year, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to present you with healthier-side-of-junk options. Because despite my Vegenaise addiction, my love of combining baked goods with cookie dough (peanut butter cookie dough brownies, y’all), and my tendency to drink more beer than water (my metabolism wishes I was kidding), I love salads.
Salads. They seem so boring. I literally just yawned after thinking too long about iceberg lettuce. But contrary to the uninteresting incarnations of salad one usually conceives, salads have capacity for whimsy; they’re like the cupcakes of entrees (stay with me). Think about cupcakes: there are s’more cupcakes; fluffernutter cupcakes; s’more fluffernutter cupcakes (for the catatonically stoned); peanut butter and jelly cupcakes; banana split cupcakes; creamsicle cupcakes; cupcakes paired with wine (okay, a quick detour into Chubby Town: banana cake/peanut buttercream/shaved chocolate paired with Beaujolais. Prepare to have your mind blown).
(Sorry about that Bubba-Gump-esque diatribe about cupcakes; I’m done, I promise.)
Anyway. Much in the way that delicious cupcake combinations draw on inspiration from other dishes, salads can be interesting, a culinary delight in a bowl. For example:
The Pizza Salad! The pizza salad is not quite the comforting, carbohydrate-coma-inducing experience that actual pizza is. It is, however, delicious. Consider the veggies you like on pizza: spinach, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, red peppers, olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, fennel…(okay that’s enough). Throw your choice toppings on a bed of romaine, toss with a little tomato-basil vinaigrette, tofu ricotta or grated soy cheese, and croutons (or toasted bread. Pizza needs crust), and top with a dribble of vegan ranch and red pepper flakes (for an authentic pizza experience).
The Stir-Fried Salad! Similar to a chicken-sesame salad, except, you know, sans chicken carcass, consider the elements of stir-fry: teriyaki tofu, snow peas, green onions, bok choy, broccoli, shaved carrot, cabbage, almonds, water chestnuts, and ginger-y dressing (for an easy one, combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, ground ginger, agave, and sesame oil). Put it on a bed of greens, and voila! (Is my salad-pushing beginning to remind you of the Slap Chop guy? I’m sorry. I assure you that I have neither a coke problem nor a tendency to beat sex industry workers. As far as I know).
The Chicken Dijon Salad! I’m not a huge proponent of mock meats, but I support the use of TJ’s Chick’n Strips (or Gardein) in this recipe (if you’re opposed, marinated tofu would make a fine substitute). Sautee the strips in garlic and serve on a bed of butter lettuce with tomato, thinly sliced shallots, blanched green beans, and heirloom tomato. Make a Dijon vinaigrette by whisking together Dijon mustard, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, agave, tarragon, salt, and white pepper.
Indian Curry Salad! When you go to an Indian restaurant, what do you order (besides samosas and IPA)? If you have a soul, the answer is probably chana masala and aloo palak. Toss chickpeas with boiled potatoes, and finely chopped tomatoes and onions. Make a tangy, creamy dressing with vegenaise, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt, cumin, garam masala, and coriander (for heat, add some cayenne). Serve this creamy dream on a bed of spinach (bonus if it’s warm and causes the spinach to wilt a little).
Maybe these aren’t the 40-calorie salads prescribed by sadistic weight-loss programs, but they are the sorts of salads that you actually enjoy. And in the end, isn’t enjoying a dish full of vegetable goodness more fulfilling than losing five vanity pounds?
(Narcissists: please don’t answer that question.)