Do you like those super one-bowl salad meals the fast-food joints are serving now? You get a plastic tray of veggies, a bagful of little envelopes of condiments and maybe a tub of chili. They aren’t bad, except to feed a family it would cost a fortune.
I admit I love salads that make whole meals, and I’ve turned just about everything in my kitchen into a salad at one time or another. Today I’ll share a few of the winners with you.
Pad Thai salad
Pad Thai is fantastic but making it at home can be quite the chore. You can buy a jar of ready-made sauce but it’s bland and I’d just as soon take a pass on the whole dish as use that. But my frugal inner self wouldn’t let half a bottle go in the garbage and I turned it into salad dressing. No looking back now.
You can buy cooked frozen shrimp that make your life simpler but they won’t quite have all the flavour of those you cook yourself. If you use ready-to-eat frozen then, of course, you need to defrost them according to the package instructions then throw them in with the vegetables in the frying pan just to heat them through.
This amount serves four to six people, more if served as a first course instead of a whole meal.
1 package (about 8 oz.) fine rice noodles or vermicelli, prepared according to package instructions
2 cups bean sprouts, rinsed and drained thoroughly on paper towels
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup chopped roasted unsalted peanuts
4 green onions, thinly sliced, divided
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 stalk celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled and minced or grated
1 small red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
16 to 24 medium shrimp, tails on or off as you prefer
1/2 cup bottled Pad Thai sauce
1 small lime, juice and grated zest
1/2 tsp. sriracha or other hot pepper sauce (more or less to taste)
1 handful fresh basil leaves, torn or chopped coarsely
Soak or boil the noodles, depending on the kind you use and drain thoroughly; cool. Place in a large salad bowl along with bean sprouts, cilantro, peanuts and about half the green onions.
Heat oil in a frying pan and add remaining green onions, celery, garlic, ginger and red pepper. Cook together until the edges are starting to brown and add shrimp. Cook, stirring, just until they are pink and firm. Remove from heat, cool a few minutes and add to noodle mixture in salad bowl. Whisk together Pad Thai sauce, lime juice and zest, sriracha, and basil and toss to combine well. Serve on a bed of torn lettuce leaves and pass around more lime wedges and chopped peanuts.
Chicken burrito salad
Here’s a tasty version of those Mexican salads you can buy now in restaurants and grocery stores. If you have leftover cooked roast beef or pork, it will be equally delicious. Feel free to slice an avocado on top if you like. I usually add a few drops of hot sauce to the salsa and ranch dressing mixture — up to you. And why is it called Burrito Salad? Roll up any leftovers in a flour tortilla and you’ll know why.
This recipe makes about four servings.
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. chipotle or regular chili powder
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 large bag pre-washed salad lettuce — I like romaine the best
1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 small can black beans, rinsed and thoroughly drained
1 small can corn niblets, drained
16 grape tomatoes
1/4 cup sliced olives — whatever kind you like
1/3 cup each good quality salsa and ranch salad dressing
1 tbsp. lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup tortilla chips (or as much as you like)
Dry chicken with a paper towel and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Sprinkle salt, pepper and chili powder evenly over chicken and fry in oil until golden brown and cooked through; set aside.
Place chicken, lettuce, grated cheese, onion, black beans, corn, tomatoes and olives in a large salad bowl.
Stir together salsa, ranch dressing, lime juice, and cilantro and pour over salad; toss to coat well. Serve with tortilla chips on top.
Roasted curry cauliflower and cashew salad
Oh boy, is this delicious. Don’t be alarmed by the amount of spice — because it is served at room temperature or chilled, the flavours will mellow. This should serve four but it probably won’t.
1/4 cup olive oil, divided
1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, grated
2 tbsp. curry powder — hot is definitely called for here but up to you
1/2 tsp. garam masala (available in most grocery stores)
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. each ground cumin, coriander and dry mustard
1 large or 2 small heads cauliflower, broken into florets
1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
1 cup dry roasted cashews, salted or unsalted, as you prefer
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 tbsp. each honey and lemon juice
Whisk together half the olive oil, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, salt, pepper, cumin, coriander and dry mustard.
Stir in cauliflower to coat evenly in spice mixture. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast at 400 F about 15 to 20 minutes, until brown and starting to soften. Stir a couple of times while roasting.
Cool cauliflower slightly and toss with orange pepper, cashews and raisins. Whisk together remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil with cilantro, honey and lemon juice. Pour over salad and stir to coat thoroughly. Serve immediately or chill.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher
in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her
c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.