Salad Scorn

ArugulaIf there’s one thing I loathe more than the word “dieting”, it’s salad.

Salads are usually a pain to make, if they’re interesting. (What’s uninteresting? “One of those mixed-up salads which men will eat with complete docility in restaurants, although they would probably start yelling if their wives tried to feed them one at home,” as Phil Marlowe observed. Smothered with bottled Ranch dressing, of course.) And eating a big salad makes me impatient. Like a trip to the dentist, I just want to get it over with, losing interest and my nerve about two-thirds of the way through the whole lousy experience.

I want to make salads that are as simple and as weird possible. Like a chopped “garbage” salad, with everything thrown into a bowl and mowed down with a pizza cutter. Brazilian potato salad with apples and olives. Shredded, raw butternut squash slaw with cranberries. Warm collards topped with toasted coconut chips, to which I am addicted. Do I need to say that all of these sport homemade dressing? Last night, salad was a handful of Romaine, grapefruit wedges, and peeled cucumber half-moons with a drizzle of olive oil. It really doesn’t have to be complicated.

Suzanne and I try to make a salad every day during the work week. (This translates into maybe, oh, two salads a week; we then switch to overstuffed liverwurst-and-onion “bombs”.) Recently, we’ve been lovin’ arugula, a favorite green because it’s easy to clean, requires no tearing or cutting, and has an interesting, peppery taste. With slivered pears, sliced shallots, and toasted walnuts, it’s been our go-to for a while.

Pears are kind of overlooked here in apple-centric New England. Comice and red Bartletts are great eating pears, but choose your favorite. How to tell if it’s ripe? Gently press around the stem at the top; it should have a little “give” if the pear is ready to eat.

Favorite Arugula Salad
(1 big or 2 side servings)

4 big fistfuls baby arugula
1 large, ripe, Comice or red Bartlett pear
1 shallot, thinly sliced
Small handful toasted walnuts
Olive oil, Sherry vinegar, salt, and pepper

Wash and dry the arugula – the drier, the better, so your dressing clings to the leaves. Place in a bowl.

Halve and core the pear; slice into thin wedges. Add to the bowl, along with the shallots and walnuts. Season with salad and pepper.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and add a splash of vinegar. Don’t overdress! Serve immediately.

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