A Week of Salad Days

I agree with Saadi of Shiraz when he wrote, “A theorist without practice is a tree without fruit.”  In my last post, I revealed my salad composition theory, and in this post I will put it into practice.

There are three dimensions to a good salad:  substance, ruffage, and flavorings; the salad dressing being an all-important subcategory of flavorings.

Here is a list of foods to be utilized in each category:



beans; yogurt; chopped leftover steak, chicken, fish, or turkey from last nights dinner; avocado; nuts; tuna; cheese; grains such as farro, rice, quinoa, bulgur wheat, or injera; shrimp; roasted vegetables such as turnips, carrots, beets, fennel root, pumpkin, winter squash, brussel sprouts


Boston lettuce, spinach, turnip greens, arugula, parsley, Romaine lettuce, watercress, red leaf lettuce, endive, chicory, green leaf lettuce, fresh herbs of any kind, green onion, tomato, carrot, cucumber, green apple, berries


sundried tomatoes, capers, olives, fresh herbs of any kind, sliced jalapeno, cracked red pepper, soy sauce

Makings of a Salad Dressing:  any kind of oil and any kind of vinegar or citrus.  My favorites oils are olive oil and sesame oil.  My favorite vinegars are red wine vinegar and apple cider vinegar.  My favorite citrus at this moment is lemon.


Here was my week of salad days.




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Substance: farro & cannelloni beans

Ruffage: red leaf lettuce & mint

Flavorings: sundried tomatoes, red wine vinegar, malt vinegar, olive oil, salt, & pepper



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Substance: farro, cannelloni beans, pecans, & bulgur wheat

Ruffage: fennel root, celery, carrot, & parsley

Flavorings: thyme, olive oil, coconut vinegar, salt, & pepper


A brief salad intermission where I eat leftover pork verde chili for lunch…



Substance:  avocado & pistachios

Ruffage: red leaf lettuce, the rest of the Thai basil and mung bean shoots from a takeout Vietnamese Pho, flat leaf parsley, mint, remnants of a fennel stalk, mint, thyme, & blackberries

Flavorings:  red chili flakes, lime, soy sauce, & sesame seed oil




Composing the Salad

com·po·si·tion, noun

1. the act of putting things together; formation; construction
2. the artistic arrangement of the parts of a picture
3. an essay


I recently bought Anna Jones’ ultra-hip vegetarian cookbook A Modern Way to Eat from the second-hand book store because I opened it up and saw this:

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(You can see a clearer image on book designer, Sandra Zellmer’s website.)

Sometimes the workings of a kitchen and the action of feeding oneself calls for abstract strategies, and sometimes it demands a recipe. About 75% of my daily cooking falls in the abstract strategy category. The remaining 25% comes from recipes. Recipes are particularly useful when you are trying to learn about a new technique or a new culture, or a work of literature, and they can also be very effective at impressing people. For example, I plan on making Osso Buco this weekend for a beautiful boy that I will later put the moves on, and I’ll be using this recipe from Saveur.

Salads are almost exclusively an abstract strategy food. The beauty of a salad is the salad’s ability to convert the extra fresh items in your fridge into lunch, thereby conquering two of the most formidable culinary problems: rotting produce and work lunches. Salads were always a staple of my lunchtime fare, but this year my lunch time has been devoted almost exclusively to salads, thanks to my farm share.

Thanks to Lev Vygotsky (what a babe) and my experience on Pinterest, I know how people develop concepts.  It begins with heaping, with the piling of objects without rhyme or reason.  Back in September and October, my salads were heaps: piles of vegetables.

The next stage in my salad development was my pseudo-concept that if I didn’t have an avocado on my salad, the salad wouldn’t fill me up, it wouldn’t be delicious, and my hunger would turn me into a nightmarish dictator for my afternoon classes.  Like I always say- there’s a reason students always gave teachers apples in the good old days.  Hungry teachers are monsters.

When I first saw the chart in the recipe book, I believed I had arrived at my genuine concept at last.  Here was a form that allowed for the improvisation that comes so naturally to salad composition, but still made sure that all the flavor, substance, and style necessary to remain human in the afternoons was present and accounted for.  I bought the book, brought it home, studied the chart, and realized that the chart was far to complicated to be useful in any way.  The chart was another pseudo-concept.  So I decided to make my own chart.

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