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Nov 11, 2007 06:07 PM

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) :)

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  1. 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.

    1 Reply
    1. re: AlaskaChick

      Pepperoncini = inspired.

      Off topic, but I once made a pork roast in the crockpot where you added half a jar of pepperoncinis including the liquid, then served it topped with alfredo sauce on toasted rolls. Sounds strange but we inhaled it.

    2. Basics:
      Romaine lettuce
      Baby spinach
      Chopped cucumbers
      Grape tomatoes
      Grated carrots
      Chopped broccoli
      Red or green onions
      Chickpeas or kidney beans
      Cottage cheese
      Hardboiled eggs
      Hot sauce
      One each creamy, balsamic and Asian-style dressing

      Sprouts (sunflower sprouts are awesome)
      Coleslaw mix
      Roasted veggies
      Toasted nuts
      Baby corn
      Hearts of palm
      Artichoke hearts
      Sundried tomatoes
      Water chestnuts
      (Regular) chestnuts
      Veggie burgers
      Sour cream
      Fresh herbs
      Crumbled feta
      Various fruit, fresh and dried
      Cooked and cooled grains/noodles

      6 Replies
      1. re: piccola

        Great list, and good call on the water chestnuts. Ashamed to admit I've never had regular chestnuts but will try them. And mmmm on the feta.

        1. re: MarbleFallsParadise

          building on the previous suggestions [hope i'm not duplicating]...

          chopped fresh herbs: parsley, basil, cilantro, tarragon
          shredded beets
          grated or shredded zucchini/squash
          sunflower & pumpkin seeds
          chopped red/purple cabbage
          sliced or chopped scallions
          black beans
          radish sprouts
          dried cherries, dried cranberries, currants, raisins

          toppings and condiments:
          crumbled goat cheese
          grated parmesan
          baba ghanoush
          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.

          1. re: goodhealthgourmet

            These are great - I went to bed thinking about Mediterranean spreads, so I'll put hummus & baba ghanoush on the list, and I'm so glad you mentioned Bragg's liquid aminos AND nutritional yeast, because I've been wanting to try both of them.

            1. re: MarbleFallsParadise

              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.

            2. re: goodhealthgourmet

              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.]

          2. 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.

            1. 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)

              1. for some asian touches, perhaps:
                salmon poached in teriyaki sauce
                pickled ginger slices
                wasabi peas
                wonton crisps
                bean sprouts
                green papaya
                miso-based vinaigrette
                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

                3 Replies
                1. re: alex8alot

                  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.

                  1. re: foiegras

                    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.


                    1. re: MarbleFallsParadise

                      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 avocado
                      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)
                      balsamic vinegar
                      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.