This holiday season, as with those in the past, we feasted.
Smoked turkey. Beef tenderloin. Chicken pot pie. Potatoes au gratin. Macaroni and cheese. Lemon pound cake. Champaign cocktails. Posole soup. Triple chocolate layer cake with caramel sauce. Buche de Noel. The list goes on.
I love the holidays for the decadence in general. I don’t need presents. I dump all my extra funds into buying nice food. Upcoming and still on the agenda: king crab and maybe lobster.
I know you might be wondering what the point of all this is. Well, after all the amazing dishes served, my sister said her favorite was the simple salad I threw together as an after though. Pretty impressive that a simple salad almost stole the show.
The reality is that the salad was good because it was a well-balanced dish that complemented what else was on the plate rather than competed with the other dishes.
I’ve always been good at salads. I like them a lot and eat them almost everyday. Usually, though, I don’t make salads at the holidays. Roasted Brussels spouts or green beans with toasted almonds or garlic spinach usually trump the simple salad.
This year, though, I was working a lot and needed something easy to go along with the meal. I had a pomegranate, some spinach and some amazing dried tart cherries I got from a farmer’s market last summer. So, instead of making another rich side dish, I made a spinach salad to go along with dinner.
For dinner we had a perfectly-cooked beef tenderloin, smoked turkey, potatoes au gratin and the salad. The salad looked pretty and Christmas-y with the pomegranate seeds in it and the light lemon vinaigrette I made accompanied the meat and potatoes perfectly.
Salad dressing is one of the most under-rated parts of dinners I think. You can make a beautiful salad and dress it with a sugary jarred dressing and ruin it that quickly.
I am a big advocate of making dressing. If you don’t have time to do something special, simply dress greens with a good olive oil and vinegar and toss in salt and pepper.
If you do have more time, juice some citrus fruit (this recipe would work with orange and lime as well), crush some garlic (I like to macerate it into a paste with a mortal and pestle) and liven the salad up a bit. The only trick is to balance the flavors with the right amount of citrus-to-sweet with the perfect amount of honey. The nice part about this is that you can easily adjust things if you get it too sweet and add more lemon then whisk in extra olive oil to adjust the oil-to-vinegar ratio.
Another way to make a good salad is by prepping your lettuce correctly. Softer leaves, like butter and red-leave lettuce should be torn while courser leaves like romaine and endive should be cut. I, personally, like individual pieces to all be small enough to share the fork with the other salad ingredients. It is really annoying to finish all the lettuce and be left with all the toppings at the bottom of the bowl. The idea if to eat them all together, right?
So, if you prepare the lettuce correctly then make a easy vinaigrette such as the recipe I have provided, you will have a dish that will go with almost anything. While it may be the star of the show, that is really only because you have done such a good job of creating something that accompanying the rest of the meal.