Everyone will love this simple and salty salad — even kids
By Kevin Naulls, CBC Parents Staff
Apr 22, 2020
Remember when you wanted a healthy lunch you didn’t make yourself, you had a salad?
Like it would somehow correct so-called “bad habits” from previous days, weeks and years?
Or perhaps you did make it yourself, and depending on what you had on hand, you put a lot of things in it to make it “boost immunity.”
I love a big salad as much as Elaine, or Linda from HR. But I want to recommend something to parents and kids that will really make you smile and hopefully feel good:
A simple green salad.
If you have a lot of bread lying around, it would sop up this salad nicely. But, truly, there is no pressure from me.
There are so many things picky eaters will not eat, but often most kids will eat spring mix — at least from what I’ve seen. It’s basically water and unless they have low tolerance for green foods, it’s pretty easy to gobble up.
The same can be said for green leaf lettuce, butter lettuce, Boston lettuce, iceberg (although, yawn, I know, how else do you make a wedge salad?) and even romaine (I know, I know, but you can still eat romaine).
This weekend I had a taste memory for a salad my friend Lauren made me one summer many years ago. She’s Italian and made a simple green salad that was sopping in vinegar and oil. It wasn’t so limp it disintegrated — you could still eat it with your hands, at a time when you could still eat salad with your hands and feel OK about it.
But here was the kicker: salt. And a lot of it.
She warned me at the time that it was salty. Everyone else hated it, but she and I loved it. I kept picking at the bowl throughout the night until my tongue hurt. I don’t like salt and vinegar chips, but I loved this salad.
"There's nothing snobby about this simple green salad."
And it was only four ingredients: green leaf lettuce, oil, vinegar and salt.
I decided to make a version of it myself this weekend, because I think like a lot of people I’m craving fresh ingredients.
So, I safely bought some spring mix. And arugula, my favourite. Because there was a sale if you bought two, and I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed “deal dad.” I think parents and caregivers everywhere appreciate a deal, am I wrong?
If your kids hate any dark green vegetable and you know they aren't going to eat spring mix because it's "gross," then please, by all means, adapt this to whichever lettuce your little ones love. If it's iceberg, then it's iceberg. There's nothing snobby about this simple green salad.
This is the people's salad. Princess Diana would have eaten this salad.
I dressed it very sparingly with olive oil and apple cider vinegar, which I just shook up in a jar I have. I added a tiny bit of dijon just to help everything bind together.
"I don’t use fine grain salt for this because it’s too easy to mess it up, so I use a coarse kosher salt."
It’s usually safe to use two parts oil to one part vinegar, unless you love vinegar like me — then use more and break those rules. I won’t tell anyone.
At this point, I used some tongs to take a giant bunch of lettuce and put it on a plate.
I then very gingerly poured the dressing on top, making sure it pooled in some places and dripped below in others.
I like the tiny pools in some places because it gives the salt a place to hang out, like it’s having some summer fun and the dressing is a cocktail from a swim-up bar.
Then I took my salt container and dusted the top. I don’t use fine grain salt for this because it’s too easy to mess it up, so I use a coarse kosher salt. You can use whatever you like. I personally like the coarse salt because I can see it all, and the effect is reminiscent of when you’re still excited about snowfall. A nice white dusting.
"It’s usually safe to use two parts oil to one part vinegar, unless you love vinegar like me — then use more and break those rules. I won’t tell anyone."
I like to really taste the salt. I like how it pairs with the acid in the vinegar and it really fires against the freshness of the lettuce, but it doesn’t mask it. So my simple green salad is a modified version of the inspiration salad, in that it’s salty as hell but it’s not tongue-hurt salty.
While I do think this salad has a universal appeal, there is one thing that may get in the way: salt-reduced diets. I understand reducing salt for health reasons, and I promise I'll craft a simple salad for you some other time that will bring you equal joy.
Will Kids Like It?
The reason I think kids will like this is because I went back even further to my own childhood memories, and remembered how me and my friends had such food taste extremes: we either loved foods really sweet or really salty. I never cared too much for sweets, but I used to really overdo it with salt. And pepper, but that’s a story for my grandma’s borscht to write in its memoir one day.
And think of all the things kids love? Crunchy, salty, sweet. Even a baby carrot is two of those things. And if you are having trouble getting your kids to eat any vegetables, this puckery salad may very possibly work. I ate it four times this week and I’m basically a child.
You could use darker lettuces, but let me be honest: you have to massage that lettuce and de-rib things and honey, then you can’t call that a simple green salad, can you?
If you're stocked up on beans right now, here's a fibre-full salad that is very tasty. Recipe here.
This all will come down to taste, so it could be fun to test out salt tolerance with your kids during prep. Take a leaf, dunk it in a bit of dressing and experiment with different amounts of salt. They may have a lower tolerance than you, so just reserve some salad for you in case you’re anything like me. (Hi, friend!)
"This all will come down to taste, so it could be fun to test out salt tolerance with your kids during prep."
Also, the Canadian Pediatric Society has some good guidelines for sodium intake for kids that you should read before pursuing this salad. I use a bit more salt because I have low blood pressure. As I say, it all comes down to taste and tolerance. Experiment and enjoy.
And really, that’s all I wanted to say. Sometimes joy comes in weird packages, especially in isolation.
For me, it was this simple green salad.
And if your kids don’t like vinegar? A fine ribbon of their favourite creamy dressing with a dusting of chunky salt tastes pretty darned good, too.
If you make the salad, tell me what you think in the comments. This isn't meant to be an earth-shattering recipe revelation, but a reminder that the simple things can bring a lot of happiness.
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