A couple of years ago, we were having family over for dinner. I was looking for something simple to make for starters. Unfortunately, tastes are so diverse (add a couple of allergies or diets), that it is difficult to find something that pleases everyone. That is when I came up with the deconstructed salad.
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How do you
make do it?
To say this is the deconstructed salad recipe is a bit misleading because no real steps to it. You don’t make the salad: your guests do.
Basically, the idea is that you make various ingredients available and each person builds their own salad. It’s a bit like a salad bar, but with fewer, fresher ingredients and no premade salads drowning in mayonnaise. This ensures that everyone gets a salad they like and you don’t have to think too much about it. It is very easy and flexible, and works great when you have a number of people over or just a few picky eaters. You can tailor it depending on allergies, or what is on special at the supermarket or fresh at the market. Add a couple of “exotic” ingredients and you have the makings of a great salad, without even making it.
Our favourite deconstructed salad ingredients include:
- Lettuce leaves: iceberg, cos, romaine, rocket, baby spinach… whatever takes your fancy. Don’t be afraid to get a bag of mixed lettuce (but wash it well if any of your guests are pregnant)
- fresh vegetables: e.g. tomatoes (yes, I know they are officially a fruit), cucumber, capsicum (peppers), onions or spring onions
- Other vegetables: green asparagus, mushrooms, snow peas, princess beans. These can be fresh or fried briefly in oil. Zucchini or eggplant – browned in the pan, roasted pumpkin
- preserved vegetables: sun-dried tomatoes, sun-dried capsicum, cornichons, sweet corn, chickpeas, lentils, cannellini beans
- cheese: mozzarella balls, parmesan, feta, your favourite grated cheese or cheese cubes
- protein: little bacon pieces, hard-boiled eggs, small pieces of grilled chicken, prawns (shrimp) – fresh or fried
- nuts: pinenuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews
- If you like grains: couscous, bulgar, quinoa
- fruit: strawberries, raspberries, dried apricots, mango, avocado, apple, peaches (which are also great when grilled)
- Croutons: I have a bag of bread cubes, cut from stale loaves or bezels, which I use for croutons. Into the oven with some olive oil, butter, garlic, herbs, whatever you want until they go golden.
- dressing: either make your own, such as the dressing for our pumpkin and feta salad, or buy ready-made (yoghurt, caesar, ranch, vinaigrette, soy dressing), or just put some balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper on the table
Of course, the more ingredients you provide, the more bowls you will need. I like these small bowls (also work for snacks and cereal) and this larger bowl for the ‘lettuce’. If you like a brighter look, try these small bowls, with these larger bowls for the salad. You might know how much I like turquoise (if the new website theme didn’t give it away). If you like turquoise too try these small bowls and these larger serving bowls.
There are so may options!
Sometimes I will use it as an opportunity to get people to try things (yes, I am thinking of Miss M). The trick is to have some options, but not too many as that means more work for you, and probably more leftovers. Too many ingredients also make it more difficult to try everything because it won’t all fit on the plate or in the bowl. In this case, there is such a thing as being spoilt for choice.
What do you think: is this an option for your Easter lunch or brunch?
We had deconstructed salad for Easter at our house. Our guests could choose between:
- baby spinach and cos lettuce
- grilled bacon pieces
- fresh shelled prawns (shrimp)
- baby mozzarella balls
- sweet corn
- cherry tomatoes
- grilled asparagus
- fresh strawberries
- ceasar or yoghurt dressing or balsamic vinegar with olive oil
Of course, each guest also received a boiled egg (or three), which they could also use on their salads if they wished.