Salad – a Great Appetizer, Side or Entrée
There are lots of types of salads to choose from, so regardless of the occasion or season you will be able to pile your plate with nature’s bounty, enjoying typical salad ingredients, fruit, cheese, nuts, cooked ingredients, raw ones, and whatever else you choose. There are nutritious, healthy salads as well as creamy, rich ones. You can choose from all kinds of ingredients which combine perfectly to offer a plate rich in flavor and color.
A Small Salad to Begin the Meal
If you are making a salad for lunch or your entrée, that is one thing, but consider a smaller helping and you will find it makes the perfect appetizer, leading your dinner guests into the entrée without filling them up too much in the process.
What are you having for the main dish? If it is something hearty and rich like beef or venison, consider a light seafood appetizer salad or perhaps something with cheese or chicken, just to be a contrast. There is nothing wrong with serving a red meat salad in this scenario as long as it is a different protein from what is in the main dish, but consider a contrasting dish, just to make the meal more interesting.
Toss your ingredients together with dressing if you are making something like a Caesar salad or similar, or drizzle homemade dressing on top if you prefer. Unless you are sure everyone likes and wants dressing, then offer it on the side and allow people to take the amount they want. Do not pre-dress the salad because lettuce goes slimy. Dressing it just before serving is preferable.
Make the Salad the Star of the Meal
If you are serving the salad as the main dish itself, you have plenty of possibilities, but bear in mind you will need to offer something filling. Even if your salad is primarily lettuce-based you can still add plenty of meat, fish, cheese, veggies, or other ingredients to make it more satisfying. Potatoes, pasta or rice are examples of starches which can be added to make it more filling.
Something else to consider is preparing a pair of salads, perhaps a creamy pasta salad with peas and ham and a shrimp and potato salad in a cocktail sauce, then serving a scoop of each one on a bed of baby spinach or lettuce leaves. Add some shredded cheese, a couple of small pickles and maybe a cherry tomato, and you will have a lovely, colorful salad which everyone will love, and which will be perfectly well-balanced and satisfying.
Salad as a Side Dish
A side dish can be plain vegetables like a portion of broccoli or it can be a starch like Mexican fried rice, but do not forget about the humble side salad, because it can really complement your meal, adding color, a fresh flavor and, depending on the ingredients used, crunch as well. Side dish salads tend to be simpler than the main course because they are just offered to balance out the meal, but you can make one with lettuce, onion, cucumber, tomato, maybe something crunchy like croutons, and some dressing.
Your side dish salad needs to go with what you are serving it with, so if you are serving a spicy beef dish, for example, you could consider a refreshing side dish, perhaps with a creamy dressing, to contrast with those spices and offer a cooling mouth-feel. A spicy side salad would be too much with a piquant main dish and offer too little contrast. If your main dish is something simple, such as a poached fish filet, consider adding more ingredients to the side salad, so you have complexity in the side and simplicity in the main dish.
The most important thing to remember though is it is hard to go wrong with a salad, so you can get as imaginative as you wish, combining colorful ingredients with a tasty dressing. Whether your salad is meant as an appetizer, main dish or side, you can have fun making it and enjoy the unique results of your efforts.
Not only is it fun to make your own salad but it also means you have a healthy meal coming up. Not all salads are equally nutritious of course but add crunchy veggies and plenty of color and you can be sure of both flavor and nutrition in there. If you want to get the kids eating healthier, let them pick some of the ingredients that go into the salad, and make sure you add plenty of interesting ingredients like cheese, nuts and raisins, as well as the salad leaves and cucumber. A younger child can toss the salad and an older one can help with the chopping perhaps.
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