There is nothing worse than a sad salad. Perhaps that’s a bit hyperbolic, but have you ever eaten a salad where the lettuce is wilted and starting to take a turn for the worse, there are meager add-ins, and it’s soaked in flavorless, extra oily dressing? I mean, it makes me sad just thinking about it. We deserve better than that.
I’m a big believer in less is more, but salads are an exception where more is definitely more. With a little effort and an abundance of fun toppings to choose from, salads can be a freaking party. Veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, meat, cheese, herbs, fried, baked, dried, grilled…you’re all invited. Get in my bowl!
Heavily inspired by The Pioneer Woman’s Big Steak Salad, I set off on a salad making expedition worthy of meeting dinner time hunger pangs. The final plate made me feel, unexpectedly, quite grown up. If you could use an adult-restaurant quality salad in your life, let this inspire you on your next grocery trip and to raid your cupboards to make the most epic salad you can imagine.
Let me tell you how I put this smokeshow together. Emphasis on the smoke. I started with a couple of strip steaks that I patted down with paper towels, salted, and then threw in a screaming hot cast iron skillet. I live in an apartment and can’t have a grill, so the cast iron skillet is really the best way to go, but holy smokes. Even with balcony doors and windows open, fans and exhaust on, those babies smoked like no tomorrow. Fortunately, there are worse things than my apartment smelling like a steakhouse. All I’m saying is the end result was worth having my hair smell like steak for two days.
While those were resting, I whipped up some onion rings. I followed the recipe in the link above, but used the cheater’s version of buttermilk. I don’t know anyone who actually buys or has a use for buttermilk on a regular basis. So, if you’re like me, just use regular milk and add a splash of white vinegar to it.
I had walnuts in my freezer and followed this recipe to make totally delectable, melt-in-your-mouth, candied walnuts.
After that, it was just a matter of gathering and chopping the rest of the party goers. I cheated and used a bag of mixed lettuce-y type objects. I would argue that lettuce is typically the least exciting part of a salad, but it still requires some thought as the important base layer. My preference is that it’s crunchy and forkable. Those stringy greens that get soppy and pushed around plates are total bullshit.
For veggies, we had bell pepper, cucumber, and grape tomatoes. For cheese, nothing goes with steak quite like a buttery, crumbly bleu. And the dressing was a mishmash similar to the Pioneer Woman’s. I didn’t measure anything, but put olive oil, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, worcestershire, soy sauce, fresh lime juice, garlic powder, dried ginger, honey, salt and pepper in a container and shook it all up.
I tossed all the veggies with the lettuce and bite size pieces of steak, added some dressing, and then plated it with the candied walnuts and a generous helping of onion rings.
I mean, look at it. My mouth is watering. I have zero patience for food presentation and am by no stretch of the imagination a food photographer, but look how pretty it is! If I can do it, so can you.
I think salads are a pretty personal thing because they’re so versatile. It might be interesting to do a personality assessment based on topping choices. “Oh, he likes sun dried tomatoes. How sophisticated.” But, I digress. The point is put anything and everything you like in your salad. Have fun with it, celebrate texture, embrace the madness!