Don’t be intimidated by the stereotypical salads that are a bed of lettuce topped with a wide array of chopped, fresh veggies. Sometimes your produce drawer will be empty, or you may not want to fill it with items that you only need a small portion of (with the rest going to waste). Although the chopped salads topped with fresh ingredients are nice- you can also stock your pantry with less perishable items that are readily available when you need them.
If you are stocking your pantry for salads, here are a few recommendations:
Vinegars- a variety is nice: balsamic, rice wine, red wine, cider, and others
Oils- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, grape seed oil, etc
Preserves/Jellies- by adding a little to the vinegar you create an inexpensive fruit vinegar
Nuts and seeds- Walnuts, almonds(my husband loves the smokehouse almonds and we often use them as a healthy alternative to bacon) , pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, peanuts
Dried Fruit- Cranberries, apricots, raisins, sun dried tomatoes
Canned Stuff- artichoke hearts, heart of palm, kidney beans, black beans, garbanzo beans (it is a good idea to rinse most canned foods before adding to salad)
Canned Fruit-oranges, pineapple, pears, etc.
Olives and Peppers- There are many varieties available (don’t forget pimentos!)
If you have a few of these foods on hand you won’t be as tempted to eat out or skip the salad. I also recommend that you invest in a few tools that will help make salads easier to serve and more enjoyable. Choose a good salad bowl that will hold the right amount of salad for your family and a good pair of tongs that are easy to use for both tossing and serving. A good cheese grater (for when you have a good cheese to add) and pepper grinder are also important tools.
There are many salad recipes posted at http://www.chefjessicabright.com/ . I also wanted to share this very simple recipe from my friend Chantelle. Her family has salad nights (I can remember these from my childhood too, I loved them). She prepares a plate of lettuce for each family member and then they can choose from a wide variety of prepared toppings to create their own salad.
Chantelle’s Mandarin Tossed Salad
9 cups torn mixed salad greens (I just tear them up until the fill my big salad bowl)
1 11 oz. can mandarin oranges, drained
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 tsp sunflower kernels
3 Tbsp canola oil (or Extra Virgin Olive)
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 Tbsp orange juice concentrate
1½ tsp red wine vinegar
1 1/2 tsp. chopped green onions
1/2 tsp. ground mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
Water to equal 1 cup
Mix all the dressing ingredients together and add water so the total measures one cup and shake. Pour over salad mixture and serve immediately.
photo shows my favorite salad bowl and tongs with a chopped salad