Sunday, February 16, 2014

Going Green: Some of Our Favorite Salads

If you find yourself out sampling burgers and chicken wings with any degree of frequency, you probably should consider a salad every now and then.  Some salads are kind of good for you, and if nothing else, you feel a bit better about yourself for having one.  Fortunately, there are some good options out there that go well beyond shredded iceberg blend out of a bag, a little dry yellow cheese, three croutons, and a side of ranch dressing in a small plastic container with the date written on the lid.

Here are some salads we have been enjoying of late.

As much as I prefer to shy away from chain joints, Chevy's has a pretty delicious salad offering.  (That's singular on purpose.)  There are two salads on the menu that look pretty tempting: a Sizzling Fajita Salad and the Santa Fe Chopped Salad.  The Sizzling Fajita Salad sounds better than it really is.  No, the salad you want is the Santa Fe Chopped.  Icy cold greens with the other ingredients consisting of avocado slices, blue cheese, grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, grilled corn, and smoky bacon composed on the top.  Get the apple chipotle vinaigrette dressing, which hits good notes of smoky, sour, spicy, and sweet just right.

Minerva's flagship location at 11th and Phillips generally has some very nice salads on the menu.  No, I don't mean the salad bar.  Yes, it's good, but by the time I eat about a half pound of the cheese spread, two cups of the tomato basil soup, a dozen of the pickled cippolini onions, pickled herring, and some actual vegetables, I should have just had a steak.  I think the best salad is the cranberry pear salad which features greens, sliced red onion, dried cranberries, spiced pecans, and gorgonzola on a bed of spinach. It's dressed with a cranberry vinaigrette.  You can get it with grilled chicken or salmon.  I strongly recommend the chicken.  (I'll get to that in a second . . .)  The other tempting salad is the salmon asparagus salad.  I personally avoid salmon at Minerva's because they insist on using Atlantic salmon- probably for cost issues.  Atlantic salmon is food code for "farm raised."  If you knew how fish is farmed, you wouldn't touch the stuff.  It's bad for the environment and it makes for fish that has undertones of the food pellets that the fish consume.  (Next time you are at a fish hatchery and you buy some pellets to feed the fish, smell them, if you think I am off my place setting on this one.)  Stick with wild Alaskan salmon and you'll never go wrong.

Back to salad.

Josiah's has some good salads.  One of my personal favorites is the quinoa with black rice.  Yes, those two ingredients, obviously, with baby arugula and a lemony vinaigrette dressing.  The grains are chewy and earthy which plays off the bitter greens.  This salad is like spa food.  You'll feel better about yourself for eating it, and perhaps even inspired to do something to make the world a better place.  Maybe that's what owner and political rabble-rouser Steve Hildebrand had in mind.  Fox News should look into that.  On a side note, Shonna Haugen is now at Josiah's.  Look for neat new things this spring and summer.

Spezia is a good spot for a salad.  Actually, I am a sucker for their specials which vary with the season. This last fall/winter, Spezia had a salad that featured some roasted beets, roasted cauliflower, and a creamy herby dressing.  Don't go run out the door.  It's gone now.  Fortunately, Spezia has other salads that feature similar ingredients, especially roasted beets.  For lunch, I like the grilled chicken salad.  Nice greens with a grilled chicken breast and a balsamic dressing.  Otherwise, expect what you could also get at Minerva's.  They may not be part of the same group, but the menu crossover is a fun discussion topic.

Speaking of Spezia, the one salad I like at Bracco, is the seared ahi salad.  Nice seared tuna, greens and dressings with zingy Asian components- mustard and soy and wasabi.  Unfortunately, Bracco finances its mortgage payments off this menu item along with the fish tacos.  I swear the price of those items has shot up faster than the S&P 500.

The Attic has a couple of super good salads.  Notably, the Southwest Chicken Salad.  Pretty basic greens, but also featuring grilled corn, bell peppers, cheese, black beans, and a nice spicy grilled chicken breast.  Try it with the creamy avocado ranch or chipotle ranch dressing.  The other great salad is the Black and Blue which features a perfectly-sized portion of sirloin cooked to your desired doneness and greens with blue cheese crumbles, bell pepper, and a few tangy pepperocini peppers stashed in there.  Avoid the buffalo chicken salad which is an attempt to marry salad to spicy chicken wings.  It's doesn't work.  Sorry, Attic.

One other salad option is worthy of mention.  Hy Vee.  Yup, Hy Vee, the local big box grocer that I love to hate and hate to love.  Our local Hy Vee stores feature salad bars where you can grab a plate or a to-go container and commence to filling that sucker up with a variety of greens, vegetables, proteins like sliced ham or turkey, hard boiled eggs, and top it all off with some dressing.  Some of the bigger, more hip stores, have pre-made DeLuso salad concoctions, as well as condiments that would allow one to make a taco salad.  Two words of warning at Hy Vee: (1) if you are trying to be healthy watch your toppings and dressing choices and (2) watch how much you have on the plate because that salad bar is sold by the pound, and you can easily manage to compose a salad that will cost more than any of the options above.

If there is another great salad that we have overlooked, please let us know so our ace staff can get out there and check it out.

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