Oh salad, you delicious teeming bowl of freshness. We all know that it gets a bad rap, though. A friend and I used to joke about writing a food blog devoted to salads called foodsIresent.com. Salad's infamy largely stems from the following egregious paraphrase:
Us single ladies have just got to stay on top of keeping our figures slim, amiright?? Nibble at some lettuce, lest your skin lose its luminance and your biceps grow some waggle!*
*Do I detect a new career for myself? Ladies magazine article writer?
Okay, so it's easy to make fun of the dieting-woman demographic, and I realize that there's probably something problematic about that from a feminist point of view. Though I'll have to admit that it's tempting to see salad as the cure to my singledom: that eating it will make me fabulously attractive and thus have hordes of interesting and attractive men lining up at my doorstep with mix tapes made just for me.
Lest I fall into this food neurosis, I must remind myself of one very important fact: I actually really enjoy eating salads. And I like eating foods I genuinely enjoy more than I like worrying about my general attractiveness. Admittedly, salad makes me feel virtuous, but really only because it makes me feel good. Because salad is usually such a fresh affair, it's a food that feels alive still, containing within it an energy that transports itself to your own tastebuds and nourishment. Borrowing the terminology of raw food enthusiasts and Victorian-era magazine copy, the feeling of vitality pervades my experience of eating salad. Plus, I feel more culinarily satisfied when I make a good salad, simply because it was all the more challenging to do so.
And indeed, us single ladies do have to look good! Well, for ourselves, of course. And it's less about starving ourselves with loveless lettuce than about eating foods that make us feel good and healthy in a way that creates an outer glow. So if you're a single guy or gal, don't eat a salad because you think it's a low-calorie dinner option, but because it's fucking tasty. What better way to exude confidence than to walk around the town knowing how badass you are in the kitchen because you can make even salad taste amazing?
Lately, I've been making a lot of raw kale salads. I find that the extra fibrousness of raw kale makes this an extra substantial salad, and it keeps really well. One bunch of kale composed into a salad, thrown into a giant wooden bowl and covered in the fridge, lasts me all week.
If you've ever tried a kale salad before and were turned off by the exhaustion your jaw felt at chewing the damn thing, then I highly suggest the following method that allows any variety or bunch of kale to be used, not just the tenderest of young leaves you can only find a few weeks a year at the farmers market. Wash, dry, and separate the kale leaves from their stems. (Save these for pesto!) In a large bowl, toss the kale with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 teaspoon salt. Allow everything to sit for an hour, and the oil and salt will keep the kale company in a happily simple marinade until the kale is slightly wilted and perfectly tender.
Combine with cubes of roasted winter squash, raisins, sunflower seeds, thinly sliced shallots and the juice of a lemon mixed with some dijon vinegar. Good kale salads involve some combination of sweetness, crunch, and a bit of sharpness.
My fridge's current iteration of kale salad has been my favorite so far:
RAW KALE SALAD WITH QUICK PICKLED RED ONIONS, ROASTED BEETS, FENNEL, AND CITRUS VINAIGRETTE
Prepare a bunch of kale according to the basic olive oil and salt marinade method. While the kale is sitting there thinking about its self-improvement, thinly slice half a red onion, cover it in boiling water, and let that sit for 10 minutes. Drain the water and add to the onions a teaspoon each of sugar and salt, a pinch of cinnamon or allspice, the juice of a lemon, and a quick glug of apple cider vinegar. Let the onions rest for a bit until they start to give the beets a run for their money in the pinkest-thing-in-your-dinner competition. Slice up a few beets that you've roasted whole in the oven, as well as half a bulb of fennel sliced as thin and translucent as you can. Throw everything in with the kale and then move on to the vinaigrette: combine the zest and juice of one orange with a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a splash of cider vinegar, some freshly cracked black pepper, and then slowly whisk in a short stream of olive oil (not the normal amount you would for a vinaigrette, because remember, your kale leaves are already quite greased up). Toss with everything else and consume with a heightened sense of virtue and joy.