Variations on Famous Salad Themes
Can a Person Live on a Single Food?
Many have asked the question, "If you had to eat only one food (your favorite) for the rest of your life, what food would it be?"
I don't know of one food alone that can sustain a human beging for very long, other than the manna from the Old Testament that was the only food available for 40 years to the Hebrews wandering in the desert with Moses and Joshua. I have heard that one can live on bananas alone or potatoes alone, but I have not tried it.
In the 1980s, I remember social workers teaching us that if a person ate only McDonald's foods and ntohing else, that person would die before the end of a full year. I don't know if that is true, but I've never tried that one, either. There has been testimony that such a diet makes a person gain a lot of weight and become unhealthy, though.
Therefore, I would pick salads in general, because they offer a wide, healthy variety of ingredients. The salads listed below are famous ones from culinary history, with a few variations.
Nicoise and Variations
As a child I did not know what tuna is; we ate only chicken, beef, and pork at home, with turkey on special occasions. Later I discovered the wide world of fish and have enjoyed several types ever since.
For years, I made the salad below, without anchovies and capers and with scratch mashed poatoes, before I ever knew there was a famous name for the dish.
Instead of salad dressing on this and many other salads, I like to add a half can of spicy Mexican diced tomatoes with cilantro.
As a Main Dish, serves 6 people
- 1 Large head of Boston lettuce, washed, and the leaves separated and patted dry
- 1 pound green beans, cooked but no overcooked (steamed is nice)
- 2 Tbsp minced shallots or green onions
- 1/2 Cup mixed oil and vinegar
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- 4 ripe red tomatoes, cut to wedges or a dozen cherry tomatoes cut in two
- 4 red or white boiling potatoes, boiled, peeled, and sliced [some recipes call for articoke hearts instead]
- Two 3-ounce cans of oil-packed tuna
- 6 hard boiled eggs - cooled, peeled, and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 can of anchovies
- 3 Tbsp capers
- 1/4 cup small black pitted olives
- 3 Tbsp chopped parsley - fresh is best
- Place a bed of lettuce leaves attractively on a large serving plate.
- When ready to serve, toss the cooked beans with the shallots, oil/vinegar, and salt/pepper.
- Baste the tomatoes with a spoonful of oil/vinegar.
- Set potato slices in the middle of the plate.
- Scoop green beans at either side of the salad.
- Scoop tomatoes and small scoops of tuna around the potatoes.
- Surround the entire presentation with egg halves, yolk up.
- Place an anchovy on top of each egg.
- Spoon oil/vinegar over everything and sprinkle Capers, olives, and parsley.
- Serve at the table.
This is a salad to which many people add green grapes, although I have heard complaints from several diners that they do not like the grape addition. If you like grapes, by all means add them right in.
There are several stories about how this salad was originated in any of the years 1893, 1896, or the 1920s; either by a Matre 'D at the Waldorf or later Waldorf-Astoria Hotel or at a chain of lunchrooms or automats in New York City. The original recipe did include julienned apples rather than chopped, however.
- 2-3 Large ribs of celery, sliced
- 6 Delicious Apples, chopped and doused with lemon juice
- 1 Cup chopped walnuts
- 2/3 Cups whipping cream
- 1 1/4 Cups mayonnaise
- 1/4 tsp each of salt and white pepper
- Mix apples, celery and walnuts
- Whip the cream to soft peaks and fold in mayonnaise
- Sprinkle in salt and white pepper
- Add dressing to salad just before serving and only enough to moisten
- Scatter chopped walnuts on top and serve.
Apple, Celery and Peanut Salad in one that people made during The Great Depression.
- 1 Cup sliced celery
- 1 Cup peanuts
- 2-3 apples, chopped (peel on or peel off)
- Enough mayonnaise to moisten
- Mix apples and mayo quickly so apples do not turn brown, add celery and peanuts, and serve.
Extra: Fruit Dessert
For dessert, folks used to slice 2-3 bananas and section two large peeled oranges adn slice sections in half, then mix together and sprinkle with sugar to serve 4. Author Ray Bradbury mentions this dish in his early novel Dandelion Wine.
Panzanella - Garlicky Tomatoes & Croutons
Some cooks like to add meats to this salad, or pan fry croutons in bacon fat instead of using the oven method.
- 1/2 baguette-style loaf of Italian or French bread
- 2 Large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed with the side of a wide knife
- Extra virgin olive oil and a pastry brush
- 6 Large ripe red tomatoes, cut into chunks
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1/4 medium red onion, chopped
- 3 Tbsp coarsely chopped basil
- 1/4 Cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 Cup extra virgin olive oil
- Black pitted olives, if desired.
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
- Rub salad bowl interior with one clove of garlic. This works very well with a wooden salad bowl. Add tomatoes.
- Split the half-baguette in half lengthwise, like a sub sandwich.
- Rub the cut sides of the bread thoroughly with garlic and brush cut sides with olive oil.
- Cut the bread pieces again in half lengthwise, then cut these to 1/2- or 3/4-inch (large) croutons.
- Place the croutons on a baking sheet, crust side down, oil side up.
- Bake croutons 30 minutes, until dark golden brown.
- Remove croutons from oven.
- Add together croutons, onion, basil, and tomatoes.
- Whisk or shake in a covered jar the balsamic vinegar and oil.
- Pour dressing over all, toss, and serve. You can add black pitted olives if you like.