i really roped you in with that title, didn’t i?
i’m not one to order a salad for dinner when we dine out. sure, i might get one as a starter if i’m feeling hungry and/or like i need to counter whatever drink i’ve ordered with some vegetables, but it is only on the rarest of days that you’ll catch me ordering a straight-up salad as a meal.
with one exception. we frequent a rather hip tex-mex restaurant, superica, here in atlanta; for the longest time, i was committed almost exclusively to two menu options, the carnitas tacos and the fajitas. i would gorge myself on bottomless chips and salsa (they have two dangerously delicious house-made salsas), then i’d inevitably be full by the time my plate of three juicy tacos arrived. a friend mentioned to me that the salad at superica is delicious, and it is a lighter meal alternative for those of us with no willpower when it comes to free appetizers. she recommended trying the salad and getting a taco à la carte so i wouldn’t feel like i was missing out. the next time we went, i decided to follow her advice.
that, my friends, was a life-changing day. it was the day when i realized that, with the right mixture of simple ingredients–mixed greens, roasted corn, pickled red onions, thinly sliced radishes, cucumbers, avocado–and and a really good dressing, a salad could become crave-worthy. at first, i tried to keep it casual–
“oh, i think i’ll just do the salad tonight. i’m not that hungry.”
“you know, i’ve really filled up on the chips and salsa. i’ll stick with the salad and call it a night.”
it quickly turned desperate.
“we have to go to superica. i’m craving their salad.”
my husband, our friends, everyone wondered if i was okay. had i experienced a traumatic head injury? who was i to reject tacos and request a salad? slowly, they listened to my rave reviews and started to try it for themselves. i’ve now converted countless people in my life into salad-orderers, and i’m proud of it. is it a little cultish? maybe. but i don’t care, because it’s a flavor explosion in my mouth, and i want to shout it from the rooftops. if loving a salad this much is wrong, i don’t want to be right.
but then there’s that one issue: why pay a restaurant to make something i could feasibly make at home? i was wary at first, wary i couldn’t nail the key component, the oregano-heavy buttermilk ranch, at home. the dressing is what makes the salad THE SALAD. i’ve tried countless iterations, substituting the buttermilk with greek yogurt in an attempt to make it friendlier on our stomachs, and it’s been pretty good. most recently, though, i made it with a cashew base, and it changed the game. the fact that it is dairy-free (and vegan!) only makes it better. i’m including both options for those of you with nut allergies, but, if you’re able, go with the cashew base. it’s so easy to make that it almost feels like it shouldn’t be allowed to be as delicious as it is.
we now keep all of the ingredients prepped in our fridge so it’s easy to throw together a salad whenever we want one. my husband said the other day, “you know, i wouldn’t say this about many things, but i could eat this salad every day.”
and we do.
it’s easy to make, particularly enjoyable in the summer since the ingredients are fresh, and will convert most salad skeptics into full-fledged koolaid-drinkers (the metaphorical kind, not literal ones). i like to make a big batch of dressing that will last for the week between my husband and me, though it can easily be halved or doubled if you want to maximize efficiency according to your needs. just consider yourself forewarned: once you cross this salad threshold, there’s no going back.
Ensalada de la Casa
servings sizes vary
- fresh mixed greens
- diced avocado
- sliced cucumber (i prefer persian cucumbers since they’re perfectly bite-sized, but whatever kind of cucumber i use, i slice enough to fill a jar and cover them with water to keep them crisp)
- thinly sliced radish (i store these the same way as the sliced cucumber)
- roasted corn (see below)
- quick-pickled red onion (see below)
- creamy oregano dressing
- shredded monterey jack cheese (optional)
- cilantro (optional)
combine ingredients according to your own preferred ratios and enjoy immediately (not that you’d be able to resist it once it’s made).
- one bag of frozen organic corn
i’m all about making things easy, and frozen corn does just the trick for this. steam the whole bag of corn, turning on your broiler while the corn is steaming. once it’s done steaming, spread the kernels on a sheet tray and roast under the broiler just until the corn starts to get crispy. when it’s done, store it in a sealed container in the fridge.
Quick-pickled red onions
fills one quart-sized glass jar
- one large or two small red onions
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- pinch of sugar
- 1 + 1/2 cups freshly boiled water
these bad boys are one of the most flavorful components of the salad. i am not a huge fan of raw red onion, but i am all about these suckers.
halve and peel the onions, cutting off both ends. thinly slice the halves, then place all of the onion in your empty glass jar (glass only for pickling).
in a separate measuring cup, mix your salt, sugar, vinegar (use more vinegar for a more acidic taste), and hot water, stirring to dissolve. pour the mixture into the jar of onions and fill to the top. seal the jar and leave at room temperature until cooled. store in the refrigerator.
Creamy oregano dressing
yields roughly 16 oz
- 1 cup of raw cashews, soaked 4 or more hours and rinsed, OR 1 1/4 cup of full-fat Greek yogurt
- 3 Tbs white vinegar if using cashews or 2 Tbs if using Greek yogurt
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 Tbs dried oregano
- 1 tsp honey
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3/4 cup filtered water if using cashews, or 1/4 cup if using Greek yogurt
add all ingredients except water to a blender and blend until thoroughly emulsified, mixing longer if using cashews. add extra water 1 Tbs at a time to create a thinner consistency. store for up to one week in an air-tight jar or bottle in the refrigerator.