Setting up a home salad bar - basic & luxuries?
I have figured out that my husband and two young daughters do really well with a buffet concept, and while traveling the last week we ate twice at Souper Salads. (I know, not chowish but I have a rowdy toddler and it was close to the hotel. You do what you gotta do...)
I'm going to set up a salad bar that will last us for 2-3 nights each week, by doing all the prep and chopping in one day, and store things in individual containers. Some things can just live in their own jars on the fridge door (hearts of palm, baby corn, etc) and I know some things will have to be chopped fresh each night, but I want to have 60-70% of it waiting for me in the fridge on salad bar days.
What would you include in a home salad bar, both as basics and as luxuries or little extras that really make a difference? I'm trying to expose them to a very wide variety of tastes and ethnic foods, and part of my idea with this salad bar concept is that I will keep some soups and dips frozen/in the fridge, so I'll take any ideas on pasta salads, coordinating soups, or dips, as well. Oh, and good homemade dressings.
Fire away - I have grocery list in hand waiting to add all your lovely suggestions. The best idea I picked up from Souper Salads was marinated roasted vegetables (eggplant, red peppers, and zucchni). Oh, and jicama, but I think I'm going to have to use a crisp pear instead of jicama because not sure if I can spend all that time making matchstick-sized pieces of jicama - never butchered one before...
Lucy (cooking novice who will avoid cooking by simply serving a salad bar at home for the next 15 years) :)
will second and add...
LOVE bragg's (gluten free but also tastier than soy sauce!)
artichoke hearts and hearts of palm rock!
miso grilled eggplant
balsamic stir-fried wild mushrooms
cooked, strung, and cool spaghetti squash
blackened chopped tofu
Blanched green beans
Vinegar marinated cabbage
Dried cranberries, blueberries, chopped apricots
Cooked Purple Potatoes
Okra cooked w/ tomatoes
Diced or thin strips of turkey or ham. Thinly sliced medium rare steak ( could use a leftover piece). Crumbled gorgonzola, or blue cheese. Sliced garlic stuffed olives. Sliced mushrooms. Chopped peanuts, or pumpkin seeds. Sugar snap peas. Bean sprouts.
I am going to find a couple other pre-made salads you could add, just can't find them right now!
I think the salad bar idea is fantastic - the only caveat I've found with them is, when you have a bunch of ingredients spread out in front of you it's fantastic the first time, but as the fourth and fifth times creep around the spread starts to look boring, despite its diversity. I would recommend doing different themes on different nights (greek, taco, classic american, hearty, etc) so the ingredients get switched around a bit, but you can still prep the food in advance.
On the luxury side, you can add:
- smoked salmon
- crab meat (store bought already cleaned at the seafood counter, not the canned stuff)
- shrimps (again, store bought cocktail shrimps will be fine)
- instead of regular cucumber, you can have cucumber with yougurt and dill
- dried cranberries (more like basics)
- not sure if they like anchovies
- fruits like asian pears, mango, papaya, shredded coconut, figs (if you can still find them) are great in salads
- of course you can have avocado!
for some asian touches, perhaps:
salmon poached in teriyaki sauce
pickled ginger slices
thai pickled peppers
by the way, you ahve inspired me to "avoid cooking" in the same way... now if I could get the dog to learn how to prep all this stuff
I have been trying and failing to put my dogs to work as sous chefs for years ;) They are excellent at cleaning up spills and prewashing pans though ...
Has anyone said pickled okra?
I make a salad based on field peas, but I think they'd be a good salad ingredient too ... pretty much any legume would be ...
I like toasted and candied pecans and almonds on salad. Stonewall makes a sweet maple dressing that I like with chicken, apple, blue cheese, and candied nuts. Practically any cheese is good on salad ... Gouda and smoked Gouda have lots of flavor.
Doh. We love pickled okra. Not sure how I overlooked those. Can you share your field pea salad? I love cold black-eyed pea salads (like Texas caviar if you KWIM).
Love the combo of candied nuts and blue cheese, too. And yeah, smoked Gouda. Now you are making me hungry, and I'm still stuffed from supper.
Yes, I know Texas caviar :)
Sure, as best I remember it ... I wanted something as colorful as possible.
purple-hull peas (cooked & cooled)
diced purple onion
diced orange pepper
corn, cut from cob and blanched
grape tomatoes, halved
[I bought cilantro, but got tired of chopping & didn't use it]
parmesan (the good stuff)
just a tad of olive oil
freshly-cracked white pepper
I believe I topped it with crab claw meat ...
fleur de sel on table
It was yummy ... and complete in itself, didn't even need crackers. I imagine any fresh or frozen field pea would work as well.
How about some cold cooked pasta in different shapes, or cooked diced potato so they can make their own version of a pasta or potato salad?
If you have one of those cheese graters with a handle you could leave it with a chunk of parmesan.
pea pods or snow peas
French's French Fried Onions (there's a new brand I've bought in the produce section, they have the fried onions seasoned with black pepper and they are fantastic)
sounds like a great idea. I would add sunflower seeds and maybe a tablespoon or so of 3 bean salad (from the deli or homemade). I love beets on salad, as well. One of my favorite salads, recently, is spinach, mandarin orange and toasted almond with an orange-y type vinaigrette. Whole Foods used to have some kind of corn salad that I would sprinkle on salads.
Red or green onions
Chickpeas or kidney beans
One each creamy, balsamic and Asian-style dressing
Sprouts (sunflower sprouts are awesome)
Hearts of palm
Various fruit, fresh and dried
Cooked and cooled grains/noodles
building on the previous suggestions [hope i'm not duplicating]...
chopped fresh herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon
grated or shredded zucchini/squash
sunflower & pumpkin seeds
chopped red/purple cabbage
sliced or chopped scallions
dried cherries, dried cranberries, currants, raisins
toppings and condiments:
crumbled goat cheese
bragg's liquid aminos
different vinegars than your standard red wine or balsamic [i.e. apple cider, sherry, white balsamic]
nut oils [walnut, hazelnut, macadamia]
and my 2 secret weapons:
nutritional yeast flakes [great tangy, umami flavor]
"garlic gold" nuggets/sprinkles
re: the jicama issue...easy to slice into matchsticks with a mandoline, or shred with the grating disc in the food processor.
i also use the aminos a lot in my cooking - makes a good [albeit much more subtle] gluten-free alternative to soy sauce & other salty/umami condiments.
and the yeast is a terrific substitute for pretty much anywhere you'd use parmesan - sprinkle on popcorn, steamed veggies, pasta...go crazy! :)
let me know what you think after you try them.
I'd add other toasted nuts - walnuts, hazelnuts (great with blue cheese), pecans - and also ricotta salata. Had a lovely salad last night sliced pears, arugula, endive, toasted walnuts, ricotta salata and a great Sardinian olive oil.
[Oops - just saw that someone else mentioned nuts already.]
Definately do the jicama but don't stress on the matchstick size- they peel easily and I just slice then roughly cut those slices into strips. Peppers, pickled beets, beans/chickpeas, meats such as cajun chicken, grilled tuna, etc, cheeses of all sorts, artichoke hearts, pickles, pepperoncini, different olives - whew I'm hungry for salad.