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Friday, August 23, 2013

Day 8, Monday: In Which I Set Forth Principles of Salad

What I ate on this day:

Breakfast: I went for the sliced turkey and yellow pepper again. Super good.
Lunch: Sirloin cheeseburger with fixin's.
Dinner: Bacon and eggs.

The cheeseburger falls under the same principle as the bagel with lox, cream cheese, etc. The flavor is not in the bagel! Similarly, in a cheeseburger, the flavor is not in the bun! The flavor is in the stuff WITH the burger--pickle, tomato, onion, whatever condiments you like. I'm oddly becoming more of a mayonnaise fan, but anything other than homemade mayonnaise is pretty unhealthy and also doesn't taste that good. Mayonnaise is easy to make at home, and I learned how to make mayonnaise from a real French woman in her kitchen in France, but most of the time I am not in the mood to make a mayonnaise. Ketchup is fabulous but it is full. of. sugar! So check out this picture of how I had my burger. On a plate with an array of burger-related veggies and a little mustard. Makes a nice looking plate, in my opinion. Instead of eating with my hands I used a knife and fork and cut up my food and inserted it daintily into my maw. Yummo!

Dinner was supposed to be a little something FANTASTIC that I make called "Bacon and Egg Salad". No, it's not a variation on egg salad. It's a salad with eggs and bacon in it. This sounds pretty run of the mill, and indeed, some may say it is. But I say that making a salad is an overlooked art. The thing is, it's not enough for me to roughly chop up whatever is in my fridge and throw it ice-cold on a plate with some sugar-free dressing from a bottle. Oh no. Or rather, sure it's enough to get the vegetables into my body, but if I want to actually SAVOR the meal, I make an effort to follow these principles:

1. I really think about the ingredients. Will the flavors be harmonious? Am I putting in two things that really don't go together? Personally, I don't care for the taste of tuna with tomato. Not sure why. I find those two foods unpleasant together. In fact, I am not a fan of raw tomato in a salad at all. Similarly, I wouldn't be happy with, say, goat cheese and tuna. I like tuna in the classic Nicoise (PRONOUNCED NEE-SWA-Z!), but not with tomato. You have your own preferences, I'm sure. Respect them.

2. Along the same lines, at any given moment I have about six crunchy salad-appropriate veggies in my fridge. Say I have celery, cucumber, yellow pepper, fennel (great in green juice but more about that later), scallion, and carrots. I've been known to chop up a little of each of these, throw them on some lettuce, add a bunch of savory other stuff (bacon, chicken, egg, goat cheese, avocado, toasted pine nuts, whatever), whisk up some dressing and throw it all together. We are invariably disappointed with these salads. There are too many competing flavors and textures. It's actually better to use fewer ingredients and just use more of each one. Then you've got cuisine instead of food.

3. Cut harder vegetables into smaller pieces (like pea-sized), and softer ingredients into larger pieces. If I cut up a little chunk of goat cheese into a million tiny pieces it blends with the salad dressing and creates a mucus-y coating. Texturally nasty and also you miss the taste of the goat cheese. Larger chunks means actual flavor. Similarly, don't cut an avocado into small pieces. Keep avocado either in slices (I don't really do this but I like it when I go to a restaurant and that's how they have the avocado) or cut into chunks. Cucumber is not rock hard but not soft either, so it should be somewhere in-betweeny. Celery should be very small, like pea-sized, because it is pretty flavorless and quite hard, and in my salads, I either don't use carrots or I shred them. Carrots coins ruin a salad, in my opinion. And I should know. Carrot coins were a big feature of the Dorothy-Lynch-salad-dressing-salads of my youth.

4. Use room temperature vegetables. I can't imagine that cold food was a big feature of life at the dawn of humanity. Probably we didn't start eating cold food for several hundred thousand years. Ideally, I spend the 30 minutes before my meal harvesting beautiful vegetables from my warm, abundant garden in the south of France, wearing a muslin peasant blouse and a big straw hat, placing the veggies in a large straw basket, with my well-behaved dog hovering nearby, no mud or stress or bugs, etc. But usually, when I'm not at my country house (joke. I don't have a country house. I'm a yoga teacher for God's sake!) I pull the stuff right out of the fridge. So I wash it in warm water, and if I'm using bacon and egg, like I do for bacon and egg salad, I don't let them cool before I add them, so that the hot food cooks the cold off the raw veggies.

5. I MAKE MY OWN DRESSING. I cannot emphasize this enough. This is essential to my enjoyment of a salad. Why, why oh why get it from a bottle when you can pour a third cup of olive oil into a mug, squeeze in a lemon, few drops of vinegar, generously salt (maybe a little garlic powder), and you've got something fabulous?

Okay, so here's what I put in bacon and egg salad:
- Bag or two of salad
- Six to eight strips of bacon chopped
- Three hard-boiled eggs
- Entire avocado
- Plenty of scallions
- Plenty of cucumber
- Enough pine nuts to coat the bottom of an omelette pan, where I toast them and then add them warm to the salad
- Sometimes peas

This is a salad that eats like a MEAL, people! It's fantastically satisfying. But last night, my hubby and I got home late. We were exhausted. Hubby had very kindly already prepared the bacon and eggs. So we just ate that: bacon and eggs. No salad. (Sad trombone.)

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

try adding some dijon mustard to your salad dressing - yum!


August 24, 2013 at 6:28 PM  
Anonymous Lisa D said...

Emma - I so agree with you on the salad dressing. Why does anyone buy it?
BTW I've been following your sugar detox and I'm very impressed....not sure I could do it. Keep going!!!
Bagged lettuce - forget it - I don't trust what they wash it in - it loses a lot of nutrients compared to the other stuff. Interestingly I heard on NPR wash and tear your lettuce - then store in the fridge. The phyto nutrients will increase as it sits in the fridge - really, truly.

September 1, 2013 at 10:59 PM  

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