Salads and me are bffs. I like salads the way some people like big, drippy burgers stacked high with bacon and cheese.
I know. Weirdo.
That’s not to say I’m all prim and proper about it. As in, a big bowl of greens with chopped carrots and peppers and other super healthy veggies with just a squeeze of lemon to dress. Oh, I like those, too, but I really like big piled on salads. A-little-bit-of-everything-salads. Kitchen sink salads. Like the cobb salad. Avocado, eggs, bacon, olives, tomatoes, blue cheese. Perfection in a bowl.
Except, it’s not all that healthy. Not terrible — especially if you opt for the traditional red wine vinaigrette instead of, say, a creamy poppy seed (my current dressing crush) — but not something to brag to the doctor about.
But as a long-time fan of salads, I’ve figured out ways to have my cake and eat it, too.
Mmmm, cake. Caramel cake with caramel icing. Cakecakecake. (Um, what? I don’t even really have a sweet tooth, so I don’t know where that came from. Moving on.)
My go-to method is to vegetarianize a meat-filled salad. Not that salads with smoked turkey or roasted chicken or poached salmon are a problem per se, but since we’re talking about a cobb salad, we have to do something about that bacon. And the blue cheese.
I like to swap out bacon with vegetarian bacon — in my case, tempeh. Tempeh is a lovely food product, imo. It’s soy, but with fewer of soy’s controversial issues because it’s fermented, less processed than most soybean products commonly found in U.S. groceries, and closer to its natural “whole” form (more info about soy here). And like tofu (made from unfermented soy), it’s a wondrous sponge for absorbing flavors.
For the cheese issue, I don’t swap out blue cheese, I simply use less of it. Its strong, in-your-face flavor means that a light dusting of blue cheese crumbles is entirely sufficient to get the point across.
Finally, I love to add to lentils to my salads in general, and this cobb salad in particular. Fiberfiberfiberfiber. Fiber. ‘kay? Fiber. Fiber is your health bff, fo shizzle.
“Cake” and “fo shizzle” in the same Monday morning post. It’s going to be a doozy week, my friends.
I have a deep affection for the black beluga and French du puy lentils. They hold together extremely well when cooked, with a nice little al dente bite. If you can find them in your area, I highly recommend them. They cook super quick — just a 15 minute simmer — and you’re good to go.
Happy Monday, and I hope you soon get to enjoy this healthier cobb salad with vegetarian ingredients.
Oh, and on a side note, for all you fellow writers out there: last week brought a pivotal announcement from the AP style guide folks last week. (The AP Stylebook is the grammar police guide for journalists, copywriters, and editors, and the bane of college students everywhere. They hand down such weighty judgments as the appropriate use of serial commas and semi-colons, the distinction between “which” versus “that,” as well as when pop culture words officially become “word” words. Like fo shizzle. Which hasn’t, yet, btw (although that’s a semi-proper use of which; better, if it didn’t begin its own sentence).
Anyway, the AP peeps (also not an AP word) decided that “over” is now acceptable as meaning “more than.” That is, it’s now proper to write, “There are over a gajillion recipes for cronuts on the Web,” when just two weeks ago, the proper form was, “There are more than a gajillion recipes for cronuts on the Web.” (Gajillion, not an AP word; Web is, indeed, capitalized.)
If you heard odd, random popping noises last week, that was the sound of heads exploding from the shoulders of copywriters and editors everywhere as news reached their in boxes. I have not witnessed such ruckus since “e-mail” was dehyphenated [defs not an AP word] to “email.”
My own head didn’t explode — although if they ever approve “less” to mean “fewer,” I might have to stage my own Twitter protest (we all have our peccadillos, right?) — but it did remind me that I need to purchase a new copy of the AP Stylebook. If only they had a digital version for my fab-yoo-lus new Paperwhite, I’d be one happy grammar camper. (For the record, because I began my writing career penning academic papers for academic journals in the foreign language field, I was schooled in the way of the MLA guidelines. Now that I deal more with web and magazine copywriters and editors, I’ve had to switch to the AP style. AP style is actually far more relaxed than MLA and easier to adapt, but it’s still, you know, different.)
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 3/4 cups black beluga lentils (or French du puy lentils)
- 2 heaping cups torn romaine lettuce
- 10 cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 1 avocado, peeled, pit removed, sliced
- 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
- 3 slices vegetarian bacon (I used Fakin Bacon tempeh)
- 1/4 cup pitted and sliced castelvetrano or kalmata olives
- 1 teaspoon chopped chives
- 1 teaspoon chopped dill
- 1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
- 2 heaping tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
- your favorite red wine vinaigrette
- Bring the water to a boil in a small, lidded pot. Add the lentils, cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes. Drain, and set aside to cool.
- While the lentils simmer, cook the vegetarian bacon according to package directions. Set aside to cool.
- Build the salad, dividing the remaining ingredients between two serving bowls. Start with the lettuce, then spoon in the cooled lentils. Arrange the tomatoes, avocado slices, eggs, bacon, and olives on top of the lentils. Sprinkle with the herbs and drizzle with a bit of vinaigrette. Serve with additional vinaigrette.