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When does a salad become a "meal" unto itself?

For those of you who will eat a salad by itself as a meal (as opposed to a side or an appetizer), what for you makes a salad a meal?

Is it the addition of some sort of protein like fish or meat?
Or some sort of dairy product like cheese or eggs?
The addition of beans, or legumes?
Using some sort of nuts (like walnut, almonds, etc.)?
Some sort of starch like rice, pasta, or a grain?
Size and quantity?

Or is it simply a state of mind?

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  1. I was thinking, "When that's all I eat." But that sounds kind of snarky so I will go with the state of mind option. If. I have a salad out for a meal it usually does have meat or tuna but at home it is just my regular greens, herbs and whatever else I have. There is plenty of protien in my diet so I don't consider it a requirement for every meal.

    14 Replies
    1. re: calliope_nh

      I was thinking, "When that's all I eat."

      I don't think that would've been snarky.

      But that answer, as valid as it is, sort of begs the question, right? I mean, when and what makes a salad "all that you eat"?

      1. re: ipsedixit

        In the summers I have a good size container garden with tons of cherry tomatoes, various lettuces and other greens, herbs and usually a few other small things. When it is hot and I am alone I often decide to take a bowl downstairs and fill it up. When back in the kitchen I do a quick chop to the herbs, add dressing and chow down. I might add some olives, croutons or cheese. I like the simplicity and ease of it. I don't think I have ever planned my shopping around a salad.

      2. re: calliope_nh

        I was thinking along the same lines. But yeah -- it's a meal when I make the decision to not have anything else.

        So it might be a small tomato and lettuce salad, or a couscous salad with tomatos, cucumbers, feta and grilled shrimp, or a party in a bowl bigger than my head with beans, protein, and big-ass croutons.

        "It depends".

        1. re: sunshine842

          2nd that, some days it's all I want.

          1. re: treb

            Third. My recent fave salad is easily a meal. Kale, Parm cheese 'crisps,' slightly garlicky vinaigrette with a poached egg on top.

                1. re: c oliver

                  thanks for that! Do I need to wear my "Eat More Kale" teeshirt while I eat it? :P

                  Poached egg on salad dressed with vinaigrette is one of my all-time favorites -- the dressing the two marry to make is fabulous.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Definitely wear that tee! I mainly learned to make the salad so I could order other things at the restaurant. Kale rocks :) (Gawd, did I actually say that?!?!?)

                    1. re: c oliver

                      You must have been into J.J. Kale back in the early '70s.

                      1. re: Tripeler

                        Still am. And it's "Cale" with a C.

                            1. re: bbqboy

                              Very sad. He has been one of my favorites for decades.

      3. Definitely something animal - be it hard-cooked egg, cheese, meat, poultry, or fish/seafood. I like adding beans to an entree salad, but those alone would not transform it from side to meal. Nor would nuts or starch.

        1. Oh my, using the "P" word!
          Yes, for me, the addition of a protein, yes, a protein, makes it a meal.

          1 Reply
          1. re: wyogal

            Oops. I must be a TV chef in my other life.

          2. When does a salad become a meal unto itself?

            When it has some kind of meat on it. Taco salad with lettuce, taco meat, shredded cheese, salsa and sour cream. Guacamole & fried flour tortilla chips on the side.

            Chicken Caesar salad with garlic bread. I like to have something crunchy on the side with my dinner salads.

            1. For me, if the salad is enough to fill me up, then it is a meal. Proteins such as poultry, meat or fish are obvious ways to make a salad substantial enough to be a meal (though a few bacon crumbles are not!). Cheese, nuts, or legumes also work, and do filling vegetables.

              I also like a salad to have a few layers of flavor and texture to make it interesting enough to consider as a meal.

              1. To fill me up as a whole meal I like some vegetables more substantial than lettuce , a lot of variety and some meat, cheese, beans or nuts or seeds.

                1. I'm salivating. L-T-O-C-P, deli ham and cheese in layers, rolled and sliced into coins, plus croutons, dressing. 12 inch bowl, a few herbs, heavenly.

                  3 Replies
                    1. re: ipsedixit

                      Helped me run 6.75 minute miles for many years.

                  1. Salads are often main meals for me: meat or fish on a salad = main meal in my book

                    1. i have salad as my entire meal very often.

                      the things that make it a "meal" for me are:
                      1) a tremendous quantity of greens/ vegetables
                      2) either
                      a) legumes
                      b) nuts
                      c) cheese
                      or, on very rare occasions d) fish

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: westsidegal

                        You mean, greens and *gasp* proteins? wink wink

                      2. A salad becomes a "meal" when I eat it at a meal time.

                        1. I rarely feel satisfied with just a salad as a meal - the same thing with soup. If the salad has plenty of meat, or if there is adequate bread and butter, I can maybe fill up on it.

                          1. For me, a salad becomes a meal when it's got enough in it to fill me up before I get bored.

                            I should also say that I'm a big fan of salads but mostly love the lettuce-y, less filling parts of a salad.

                            I'm not a huge meat or dairy eater so I find that my salads tend to be mostly vegetarian. I love things like olives and beans but find that I often get bored with a huge salad before I'm full from it. When I add cheese or meat, I tend to get full off of the salad before I get too bored to finish it. Or maybe I'll just add my favorite mixture of egg whites (hate the texture of yokes), nicoise olives, and maybe a bit of tuna.

                            So maybe it's just my mood?!

                            1. When I put the dressing on. Otherwise it might as well be rabbit food.

                              1. A cobb salad uses up all the leftovers. A chefs salad has sliced cheese and salami. A salad does not include half a pound of salmon or a chicken breast. For me anyways.

                                I have always enjoyed salads with a variety of dressings. I do not eat salad naked. I do not need copious amounts of protein in whatever form to be satisfied. And many a meal has consisted of a quarter head of iceberg with thousand island.

                                1. yes when that's all I eat. Which is generally dictated by size.

                                  1. A wedge of iceberg with blue cheese and maybe some crumbled bacon and black olives or sliced cherry tomatoes is a salad and is a meal.

                                    A Tostada shell spread with refried beans and topped with shredded lettuce, cheese, olives, tomatoes, avocado ~~ is a meal.

                                    Cottage cheese on a bed of french style green beans with just a skosh of Thousand Island dressing is a meal

                                    Tuna salad on a bed of shredded beets is a meal

                                    A scoop of egg salad on a bed of shredded lettuce is a meal.

                                    I say this because that is what I am eating these days, too *)^)&% to cook.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: laliz

                                      Are shredded beets the same as julianned? If not, how do you shred them? I love beets.

                                      1. re: LA Buckeye Fan

                                        Technically, shredding is, well, shredded. Whereas julienned is cut into strips, similar to matchsticks.
                                        I would shred beets using my box grater.

                                    2. I'm with calliope: it's when that's all I want, and for me it can be just dressed greens. Butter lettuce and a sliced-up Belgian endive is great, and with some nice bread it's fabulous. High-season heirloom tomatoes cut into chunks and simply dressed makes a luscious bowlful, again with the bread. If I have any boiled eggs I like those in the green salad, while the tomatoes are nice with hothouse cucumbers and/or avocado. The salade Ni├žoise is something I usually prefer to let a decent restaurant do, though I've made some good ones after scoring big at the farmer's market, but canned fish is a fairly frequent guest on my lunch salad, especially sardines in olive oil.

                                      1. for me it is when it includes a protein that is hot/warm (i pretty much like something warm) for it to feel like a meal to me.

                                        like grilled chicken or shrimp.

                                        1. A salad becomes a meal when I feel I want the focus of that meal to be vegetable based rather than protein based. That doesn't exclude the addition of some protein, animal or vegetable derived (tofu, nuts, etc.) any more than a protein focused meal excludes some vegetable matter. In most cases if it is going to be a meal it will necessarily be a large salad, just as a protein based meal won't be a shrimp cocktail, unless of course it is a LARGE shrimp cocktail. And to be a meal the salad will probably be more complex than what I would expect to find in a side salad. I want a variety of flavors and textures in order to satisfy me. I like the same in a protein based meal, but it seems more important in a meal salad.

                                          So three factors: desire, quantity, complexity.

                                          1. State of mind for me. No need to add bulk if I'm not in the mood.

                                            1. I think when it has a substantial amount of protein and size. There's a difference in a side salad with a few pieces of chopped ham and a huge dinner plate full of salad with a chicken breast cut into thick strips.

                                              If it can fill me up, it's a meal.

                                              1. Summer is my time to indulge in all sorts of uni-salad meals, especially Salad Nicoise. While a can of white Albacore will suffice, I like a piece of freshly-seared and sliced tuna as the centerpiece for my haricots, potatoes, eggs and tomatoes on a bed of fresh greens with a tarragon/caper vinaigrette. That, with a side of hot garlic bread and a well-chilled white Bordeaux is a meal I can do anytime.

                                                1. When I have a small slice of some very hearty multi-grain bread to go with it.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. When it's too hot to cook.

                                                    1. When the salad is sizable, has a variety of ingredients and when a protein or proteins is/are a major ingredient, then for me it is a meal.

                                                      We do this frequently at our house.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: sueatmo

                                                        Been doing this every night this week. I love summertime.

                                                      2. When I top it with a minimum 16oz steak.

                                                        3 Replies
                                                          1. re: jrvedivici

                                                            I have to admit that my salads have often been referred to as"meat with a side of lettuce" by my father.

                                                          2. Slightly boring answer, but for me it's the addition of chicken or steak. One of our favorite easy meals is romaine, caesar dressing, shredded parm, croutons, and grocery store rotisserie chicken. Without the addition of the chicken, it's just a plain old everynight salad that we munch on before dinner :)

                                                            1. Isn't cheese a protein? Ah hell, I'm confused.

                                                              But at any rate, for me a salad becomes a meal with the addition of meats and cheeses. There is no way I could make a satisfying meal out of a salad that didn't contain them.

                                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                                  Agreed. Even then, having it more than once a week would be too much. Also, for me, meal salads must contain some protein, preferably shrimp and/or crabmeat.

                                                                2. For me, salads are a meal very often.
                                                                  it's a meal when I eat it and nothing else.
                                                                  It could just be lettuce alone with a bit of lemon/olive oil/soy sauce drizzled on it (I know!) or tomatoes (especially when they are in season) chopped with chopped up basil and drizzled with a bit of olive oil. I make a huge bowl of it, and eat it and it alone with nothing else... and it's a meal!

                                                                  1. In the winter, Thursdays are usually some sort of soup night. In the summer, Thursdays become salad night (as in a meal). It does usually contain some sort of protein. These are some of my favorites:

                                                                    Chef Salad (love the ham, turkey, eggs, etc.)
                                                                    Asian Chicken Salad (love the pasta and cabbage)
                                                                    Blackened (or regular) Chicken Caesar Salad
                                                                    Taco Salad
                                                                    "Olive Garden" knockoff salad
                                                                    Steak Salad
                                                                    Green Beans with bacon salad
                                                                    Shrimp salad
                                                                    Tuna salad
                                                                    DH's favorite Salmon salad