I love salads, I truly do. They are my ideal lunch, and even if they weren't good for me I would eat them every day. I should point out that I am referring to 'Epic Salads'. Yes, there is a difference (and yes, capital letters are necessary).
A good, Epic Salad is like a colourful Broadway show. What is playing, and the star of the show, changes with each performance. One show may feature Liza and Mr Jackman (read: lentils and pecans) while the next may feature Carol Woods, Nathan Lane and Chita Rivera (read: spinach leaves, goats cheese and asparagus). If 'The Boy From Oz' were on then naturally beetroot would feature, it would be all about rice noodles with 'Miss Saigon', and fresh coconut would be sprinkled over 'South Pacific'. After an Epic Show (read: Salad) you always leave the theatre (read: table) feeling invigorated, energised and full of song and dance.
I am known amongst my family for my Epic Salads. I really pride myself on being able to make a salad a fulfilling meal. There are so many incredible flavour combinations to choose from, so a salad should never be plain or lack-luster. It should be vibrant and inspired! It should be Epic - each fresh mouthful a scrumptious surprise, with different ingredients working together to present new (high)kicks of exciting flavours.
Unfortunately, many individuals remain unaware of the beauty and power of the Epic Salad. With good intentions, many will try to like salads. They will pack them in a snap-lock container and take to work for lunch. This is often done in an honest yet futile attempt to be healthy, which is foiled immediately after begrudgingly choking down plain lettuce leafs, with lifeless tomato and other predictable ingredients that encourage as much excitement as watching Cats (and by that I mean watching actual cats…sleeping).
The problem is, generic and empty salads leave you feeling unsatisfied, unfulfilled and lusting after something yummy and interesting. More often than not, this manifests as a 'junk food' craving, and some chocolate or a greasy spring roll is inhaled to literally and psychologically fill the hole in your stomach. Fail. Epic fail.
We need to shake off the 'boring', 'healthy' and 'rabbit food' labels that so often plague this wonderful meal. 'Open Your Eyes to the Epic Salad' should be plastered on streets in Neon lights, to allow people to realise the possibilities of brilliant flavour combinations and delicious ingredients. To show them how fabulous, filling, exciting and down-right yummy salads can be. There would be no more resentful groans when "what did you bring for lunch today?" is asked by a colleague. Rather, this question will invite a Glee-ful song and dance response, and summon envy from those around with monotonous lunches or boring, decidedly non-Epic salads.
I should note, that whilst I encourage everyone to free their salads from the shameful shackles of 'boring health food', I do not see much point in loosing the 'health' aspect. Why douse a perfectly nutritious meal in creamy dressings, oily croutons and greasy bacon? You are suffocating all those delightful nutrients in a heavy blanket of saturated fat. I am all about lean meats, fresh and seasonal vegetables, lighter dressings and exercising appropriate portion control with those more indulgent ingredients such as cheese, extra virgin olive oil and nuts. A tablespoon of olive oil, a small handful of nuts, ¼ an avocado, ~30g of cheese – include some of these ingredients and you are on your way to Epic-ville.
For a salad to truly deserve the title of 'Epic', it should not only be delicious, but also keep you from reaching for a sugary pick-me up mid afternoon. To do this, make sure you include some good quality, complex carbohydrates either within or alongside your salad. I'm thinking brown rice, some pasta, quinoa or other grain, or perhaps some wholegrain crackers on the side. You should also include some protein, which could be in the form of lentils or chickpeas (or other legumes), boiled eggs, lean meats, seafood or nuts.
Are you inspired yet? If your salads are not already 'All That Jazz'y, I hope you try and Epic them up a little. Give them a real chance to sing. They have so much potential :)
Here is an example of one of my Epic Salads. It consisted of my beloved sirena tuna in oil (added note when revising this post: Safcol is a more sustainable brand of tinned fish), avocado, legumes, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, spinach leaves, lots of freshly cracked pepper and a lemon juice/extra virgin olive oil dressing. How pretty is it?! Can you hear the chorus?
Take a bow…