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Salads to admire first, then eat

May 23, 2016

Pad Thai Salad with Peanut Sesame Dressing.

They say we first eat with our eyes.

Gastroenterologists may disagree, but we know what is meant: The visual appearance of food is part of the experience of eating it. Often, the better it looks, the better it tastes.

And that may be the reasoning behind a tasty new trend of boxing up salads in see-through containers. Itís like a layered salad ó or one of those make-your-own-cookie jars ó but in just one portion.

Itís a great way to whet your appetite before you even get your salad on a plate. And there are even some people who just eat the salad in layers out of the container.

The idea of what I call Shake-a-Salad appears to have originated with the folks at Ziploc who, not coincidentally, also developed a clear plastic cylinder in which to put the salad. But anything clear and tallish and straightish will do ó a Mason jar, for instance, though there will be a bit of a bottleneck at the top.

There are only a couple of rules to follow when making a Shake-a-Salad. You want to build it with layers of the sturdiest and heaviest items on the bottom, so they donít crush the more delicate layers. And because the dressing is obviously going to find its way to the bottom, you donít want to put lettuce there, which will wilt in the dressing, or items such as grains or croutons that will absorb it.

I made three, just for kicks.

The first, Pad Thai Salad with Peanut Sesame Dressing, was developed by Ziploc specifically to be used in one of these containers. It was created to have a strong visual appeal ó because we eat first with our eyes ó and it is gorgeous. Itís so beautiful youíll almost hate to eat it.

Included are all the ingredients for pad Thai except the one that actually defines the dish, the rice noodles. But the rest is there: chicken, peanuts, scallions, sesame seeds, cilantro and bean sprouts, plus ingredients chosen as much for the way they look as the way they taste ó red cabbage, carrots and red bell peppers.

Still, the real star of this salad is the peanut sesame dressing. Thick, hearty and drenched in peanut-sesame flavors, this is a dressing to remember for any number of salads based on lettuce, kale or cabbage. Why, it would even be delicious on a salad served on a plate.

Shake-a-Salad No. 2 was a mixture of farro, roasted chickpeas and feta cheese, along with a spicy ó but very light ó dressing. The genius of this salad is the amazing way the rich nuttiness of the farro becomes instantly enlivened when it meets the briny saltiness of the feta. The roasted chickpeas are only a crunchy icing on the cake.

But what if you canít find farro? The ancient grain, which has been around since the time of Mesopotamia, is often absent from supermarket shelves (though it can also be found just as often). If your local store does not carry farro, you can easily substitute brown rice with very similarly happy results.

My final Shake-a-Salad makes full use of one of those classic food combinations, beets and oranges. Arugula adds a peppery punch, which is nicely smoothed out by a mild dressing sparked by a hint of orange juice. Walnuts on top keep the salad solid and sophisticated.

When you pull out your clear cylinder with beets and oranges and other goodness, your colleagues or schoolmates will be impressed by your good taste. But even that good taste wonít taste as good as your salad.

óóó

PAD THAI SALAD WITH PEANUT SESAME DRESSING

Yield: 4 servings

3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 1/2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter

1 tablespoon honey

3 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce

1 teaspoon sriracha, optional

1/2 small red cabbage, shredded

1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped

2 cooked chicken breasts, chopped or shredded

4 ounces lettuce

2 red bell peppers, seeded and diced

1 cup bean sprouts

2 carrots, peeled into ribbons

4 scallions, thinly sliced

1 cup roasted and salted peanuts

3 tablespoons sesame seeds

1. Whisk together the vinegar, olive oil and sesame oil until emulsified; then whisk in the peanut butter, honey, tamari and optional sriracha until smooth. Taste and adjust if needed.

2. Place dressing in the bottom of 4 tall containers. Mix together cabbage and cilantro, and portion this mixture out into each container. Add layers of chicken, lettuce, red peppers, bean sprouts, carrots, scallions, peanuts and sesame seeds. Refrigerate until serving.

Per serving: 602 calories; 45 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 37 mg cholesterol; 29 g protein; 28 g carbohydrate; 14 g sugar; 7 g fiber; 1,113 mg sodium; 122 mg calcium.

Adapted from a recipe by Ziploc.

FARRO, FETA AND ROASTED CHICKPEA SALAD

Yield: 4 servings

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 cup farro or brown rice

2 tablespoons fish sauce

3 tablespoons lime juice

3 tablespoons brown sugar

6 tablespoons (3 ounces) water

1 medium garlic clove, very thinly sliced

1 Thai chile, very thinly sliced (or serrano chile)

6 ounces crumbled feta cheese

4 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drain and rinse chickpeas, and toss in a bowl with olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt and pepper. Place on a baking sheet and roast until golden brown and crunchy, about 30 minutes, occasionally shaking the pan.

2. Meanwhile, make farro according to package instructions, using remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.

3. In a small bowl, combine the fish sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, water, garlic and chile. Whisk well. If too strong, add more water, 1 tablespoon at a time.

4. Place dressing on the bottom of 4 tall containers. Portion out roasted chickpeas into each container, and layer farro, feta, carrots and cilantro. Refrigerate until serving.

Per serving: 504 calories; 16 g fat; 7 g saturated fat; 38 mg cholesterol; 21 g protein; 73 g carbohydrate; 20 g sugar; 12 g fiber; 1,866 mg sodium; 335 mg calcium.

Adapted from a recipe by Ziploc.

BEET, ORANGE AND ARUGULA SALAD

Yield: 4 servings

1 tablespoon orange juice, preferably fresh

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil or sunflower oil

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 large or 4 small cooked beets, peeled and sliced

4 cups baby arugula

1 pound oranges, peeled and pith removed, cut into slices, half-moons or supremes

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

1/4 cup chopped walnuts (1 ounce)

1. In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, balsamic vinegar, sherry or red wine vinegar, salt, pepper and oils. Taste and adjust the acidity, adding a little more vinegar or orange juice if desired.

2. Place dressing in 4 tall containers. Portion out beets into each container. Add layers of arugula, oranges, cilantro and walnuts. Refrigerate until serving.

Per serving: 244 calories; 19 g fat; 2 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 3 g protein; 18 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 5 g fiber; 55 mg sodium; 84 mg calcium.

Adapted from the New York Times

 

 


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