Wow, this post is a long time coming. And by a long time, I mean an entire month because of shipping issues that were out of my control. My Instagram account gets more regular activity than my blog (in case someone is interested), but that’s because it’s easier to post a photo than to collect my thoughts and try my best to jot it down in a manner that doesn’t make me sound like a rambling idiot. (Note, I am not always sure I succeed.)
But about two weeks ago, my review copy of Food52’s Mighty Salads finally arrived at my doorstep. People who know me best know that I don’t make salads much at home. When I do make them, they are very simplistic. My usual salad is arugula, tomatoes, and salad dressing. This is not a joke. My cooking in the last year has become about simple and functional recipes since I’m pretty much cooking every meal in advance. In the last two months though, I’ve started to play the macro game. (I’m trying to count my protein, carb, and fat amounts.) And in playing the macro game, I’ve found that I’m terrible at it and often need inspiration.
I almost didn’t get Mighty Salads, but I found that other reviewer comments made me curious. And I don’t refer to the positive reviews. I wanted to know if I agreed or disagreed with the few negative reviews I found.
The summation of the negative reviews I found is basically that the recipes were too complicated or used less common ingredients. Really?
Here’s a sampling of recipes:
- Grilled Peach and Apricot Salad with Kale and Prosciutto
- Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux
- Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Tomato-Cucumber Salad
- Slow Roasted Duck and Apple Salad
Admittedly, I’m picking on the recipes that might sound less accessible based on title. But here’s the thing: every recipe has a simplified subheading.
Grilled Peach and Apricot salad with Kale and Prosciutto is essentially a six ingredient recipe if I don’t count salt, oil, and some bread to serve with. The subheading is “sturdy greens + cured meat + grilled fruit + crumbly cheese”. Petits Pois a la Francaise Redux? It’s “charred greens + charred alliums + bacon + cream dressing”. But what if you don’t want to pick out your own greens and alliums to brown? Looking at the ingredients list, we’re talking about bacon, sugar, paprika, romaine lettuce, and green peas for the salad portion. The accompanying creme fraiche dressing is mayo, creme fraiche OR sour cream, buttermilk, and lemon juice. Creme fraiche could be difficult to get a hold of depending on your location, but, in the US, mayo/sour cream/buttermilk/lemons are pretty standard items at your local market.
Meanwhile, the lamb salad is broken down as “kebabs + vegetable chunks + herbs + yogurt dressing.” And the duck? “Fall apart tender meat + warm fruit + hearty greens + nuts + vinegar.”
When simplified to its basic building blocks, none of these salads sound that exotic.
What about in practice, how do these recipes turn out?
Well, that’s harder for me to answer. I did “cook” from the book. I say cook in quotes because I was strict about keeping to the amounts and ingredients for the Grilled Mushroom and Fig Salad recipe. Here’s what I actually used:
- 1 lb baby bella mushrooms, sliced
- About half a bag of Trader Joe’s semi-dried green figs
- About 4 cups of baby arugula
- Shredded Parmesan cheese, amount unknown
- Possibly two handfuls of regular almonds that I toasted
For the dressing, I actually kept to the recipe except for the minced shallots. 1) I got lazy. 2) I didn’t want onion breath while at work.
The original recipe was meant to serve 4, but my version was good for two lunches. Overall reaction? I liked this. I should not have used Parmesan but I didn’t have time to pick up ricotta salata which was the cheese my heart really wanted to use. (It was supposed to be Pecorino Romano but that’s not a cheese I use much.) It was filling and good. I wish I had marinated the mushrooms for longer than 30 minutes but I was assembling this salad at around 9pm. And for a 9pm “OH MY GOD I NEED TO ASSEMBLE LUNCH FOR WORK TOMORROW” session, it wasn’t difficult or too time consuming at all. (To be fair, I made the dressing earlier that day.) Another plus for me personally? Portabello mushrooms and cheese are decent sources of protein.
I will say that I have one issue with Mighty Salads. I found some of the tips to be random. For example, on the page for Freekeh, Fennel, and Smoked Fish Salad, there’s a “genius tip” regarding crunchy crumbled tempeh. It give a gives a quick blurb on what tempeh is, and one method of cooking it. It has absolutely no relation to the recipe on the page. I’m mystified as to why the tempeh note is on this page. And then I was mystified as to why there wasn’t at least one recipe that used tempeh, or at least mention in a recipe as a good substitution.
So is this a perfect book? No. But I will get some use out of the recipes this summer. It also doesn’t hurt that the photos in this cookbook are gorgeous.
Disclaimer – I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. I’m not getting paid for this post.