The perfect salad does not come from a fancy restaurant or recipe book. It doesn't come from Neil Fraser at Grace nor Nancy Silverton at Pizzeria Mozza nor Jason Travi at Fraiche. Or at least my perfect salad doesn't. (Though the Goat cheese salad from Grace, the Chopped salad at Mozza and the Beet salad at Fraiche do make compelling opposing arguments to my thesis.)
While some people are fine to order salads as they come when dining out, I inevitably always find something I want to change. At Sage on the Coast, I request that chicken be added to their Chopped grilled vegetable salad and secretly wish I could ex-nay any mushrooms as well. At Stanley's in Sherman Oaks, I mess with the Summer chopped salad by asking for balsamic vinegar instead of ranch dressing and no turkey bacon, please. And at Aroma Coffee and Tea, I wreck all sorts of havoc on the Goat cheese + walnut salad -- adding grilled chicken, beets and orange segments to the mix.
Though I often pretend to be proud of my Sally-like behavior, claiming that I just know how I like things, after a while, it gets tiresome (and expensive!) to make all my special requests. And even then, the salad doesn't always meet my expectations. Sometimes there is too much goat cheese, sometimes there is not enough. Other times I run out of grilled chicken mid-way through my meal, and am left with an overabundance of greens without any meat to accompany it home to my stomach. Faced with all these seemingly insurmountable obstacles toward achieving ultimate salad satisfaction, this past Saturday I decided to do something revolutionary.
I made my own salad.
Because of my obsession with anything containing cheese, fruit and nuts, it didn't take me long to figure out that I would be decorating my spinach and field greens with goat cheese, toasted walnuts, dried cranberries, and half a thinly sliced granny smith apple. Grilled chicken was another given, as was the homemade balsamic dressing I made using balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, honey, salt, and pepper. Despite my appreciation for all the ingredients I had already decided upon, the mental image of my perfect salad was not yet complete. I considered adding another type of fruit -- a nectarine or smattering of red grapes, but did not want my salad to turn into a fruit bowl. As much as I love getting my five-a-days from those sweet seed-bearers , I decided that my salad would not be complete unless it included a vegetable. It didn't take me long to decide that beets, which pair excellently with nuts and goat cheese, would be the final member of my salad family.
While it took some preparation and foresight, my salad really was perfect. Plus, when I ran out of goat cheese mid-way through my greens, I could just hop up and grab some more. Just try and see how that goes over at Grace...
Diana's Perfect Salad
1/4 lb chicken breast from Whole Foods salad bar
Spinach and mixed greens
1/2 Granny Smith apple, finely sliced
Handful of dried cranberries
2 pre-cooked red beets from Trader Joe's, sliced
Goat cheese (to taste)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Squirt of honey
Pepper and salt (to taste)