I guess I have building on my brain because we just submitted a permit application to add a bathroom to our cabin on Orcas Island. Foundations, windows, beams — this is what most of the conversation seems to be revolving around at our house. My approach to meals has taken on a similar feel starting with fresh salad greens as the foundation for dinner practically every night. Big, filling salads are my answer to using what’s available, in season and easy to transport at a moment’s notice.
Here’s my method for building a salad. As far as ingredients go, they change practically every day but salad greens are always the basis for what follows. I use a combination of greens from my garden and what I find at the farmers market and produce stands. I’ve been growing my best spinach ever in this cool, damp weather. Come to think of it, my lettuce and arugula are both very happy but like me, need a day or two of sunshine every now and then just to get going. When we’re going to the cabin, I always wash the salad greens and store them in a plastic bag with a paper towel or two. It works like a charm to keep greens fresh much longer and since we’re still hauling our water in, it’s easier too.
Once I have a bed of greens, I like to have some sort of protein, especially if I’m eating it for dinner. It doesn’t have to be meat but something substantial like hard-boiled eggs or beans make it more of a meal. Poaching a Keta salmon fillet from Loki Fish takes about 10 minutes and couldn’t be simpler. From there, I just look in the fridge to see what else to throw in. This time I roasted some asparagus — also takes about 6-10 minutes at 400 degrees and tossed in thinly sliced raw fennel for crunch — both of which I got at my favorite produce stand, Mother Flight Farm. I’ve gotten to know the owner, Charlotte and she’s a kindred spirit when it comes to healthy organic produce.
I try to go easy on the dressing, often just using a little olive oil in case we don’t devour the whole salad. As you probably know, lightly dressed greens keep much better than those drenched in dressing and then I can have the leftovers for lunch the next day. Besides, who needs dressing when you’ve got mayo?
Leftover roasted chicken also works well, if you have it. If not, a poached chicken breast is plenty for two people and can be ready to go in less than a half an hour.
In addition to protein, I’ll often add a starch. Leftover brown rice, soba noodles or pasta can be kept moist in the fridge with a little olive oil. Lately I’ve been making a big batch of brown rice or another grain, just for salads.
Once you have your foundation of greens, framing with a protein and a starch, just start looking around and add whatever appeals to you to finish your salad — carrots, sprouts, herbs from the garden, edamame or peas from the freezer (or fresh if you have them). Obviously, I’m not a person who can get by just nibbling on some lettuce. If it isn’t substantial, it won’t work for dinner in my house. That’s the beauty of home-cooking — you can make whatever sounds good to you — no permit required.