What comes to your mind when I say salad? Tomatoes, onions, cucumber and lettuce maybe… with nimbu and chaat masala…
But limiting the salad bowl to just these is – to use a strong word – blasphemy. Specially when there are so ‘many’ ways to prepare and enjoy this underrated dish.
My eyes actually opened up during my travels… far away from the regular kachumbar (a couple of ho hum veggies grated and mixed up) that I was used to eating at home, I discovered fresh possibilities, and quickly also learnt that eating a salad is the best way to sample the local produce (in its best form) of a country. During a trip to California I ate at a restaurant where you could make your own salad under 5 dollars. Did I have a ball there? Yes, totally! Then on a trip to Italy I tasted greens I never even knew existed on the face of this earth and woke up to the fact that lettuce doesn’t just have to mean just iceberg lettuce. There I also saw an interesting appliance called salad spinner, which ensures that the dressing gets coated uniformly over the whole lot. Haven’t seen that in India yet, but luckily now there are a lot more options and varieties of ready-to-eat salads available here, compared to say even 5 years earlier. That’s probably because more and more people are switching to healthier foods – and salads are definitely a good way to do that.
And why not? ‘Coz…
- A nice wholesome salad is a perfect vehicle to sneak in additional nutrients (vitamins, minerals and trace minerals) easily.
- It is a great way of ingesting a plate full load of antioxidants, which help keep a check on free radicals and thus keep lifestyle disorders at bay (diabetes, heart disease, arthritis), and prevent aging too.
- Most of us fail miserably in meeting our daily requirement for fibre, which is essential to keep our gut in good shape. A decent sized salad a day can single handedly correct this imbalance.
- A smart salad can serve as a one pot meal and give you a brilliant mix of essential nutrients (carbohydrates, protein and good fats).
- It is of course a great way to cut calories from a meal without compromising on satiety.
- A salad is possibly the easiest dish to put together and eat too; perfect even as a working lunch actually (no messy hands). It’s the best way to clean up the refrigerator and the best part is that anyone can make a salad.
Here’s how I make it fun and healthier…
- Add at least one source of protein; boiled egg, tofu, cheese, lean cuts of some meat (chicken, fish, prawns) and tofu.
- Try to add one unusual ingredient every time: I love alfalfa and wheatgrass sprouts.
- Experiment with greens; try nutrient dense arugula (called “rucola” in Italy and “rocket” in Britain), baby spinach (you don’t even need to blanch these), bitter salad greens radicchio (add a lovely twist to the salad), watercress sprigs (contains enough vitamin K to get you through the day) and if you are feeling particularly adventurous maybe even some unusual ones like Japanese purple mustard.
- I love to add a fruit too every time: orange segments, sliced strawberry/apple, pomegranate seeds, mango cubes…
- Always add a bit of oil (olive, sesame) in the dressing; the fat soluble vitamins (A,D, E and K) need some fat to get properly absorbed in the body.
- Add both crunch and a good dose of Mono unsaturated fats and omega 3 via nuts (walnuts, almonds) and seeds (sesame, sunflower).
- Finally I dump chaat masala and sprinkle some herbs; a different one every time.