Salad and Ranch Dressing, and Knowing Your History
Salad has a bad reputation.
But it’s not been earned. Well-intentioned but nevertheless soulless people have been abusing salad, and their mishandlings have led many of us to regard salad as something that you resort to when you fear you’re going to die of a coronary, or when you’re on a diet. That, my friend, is utter bullshit. It’s actually a man-food. World-conquering Romans ate salads. The word that they used for it, sal, which has been handed down to us as “salad,” refers not to the vegetables, but to the salted dressing. It’s all about the dressing, the dressing that just happens to be on some vegetables, man. When I have dinner with someone who orders their dressing on the side, or mists their salad with as little dressing as possible, I usually think:
- You don’t know your history.
- Moron (again, this time rolling my eyes)
- You’ve taken this perfervidly splendid thing called “salad,” and, by turning it upside down and backwards, have managed to change what should be a pleasurable experience into a chore. Man up and pour some fuckin’ dressing on that salad.
And while you’re pouring on the dressing, feel free to add whatever else it is that you love … like chicken wings. Pull the meat off the bones, cold or re-heated. Throw in any kind of meat, for that matter … or pasta, crushed pretzels; leftover, cold, cooked vegetables; corn, chopped sweet pickles; a handful of spicy nacho Doritos, crushed; cheese, diced bread that you’ve toasted to the point that it’s nearly burnt, or fun-size versions of Snickers if you feel so inclined. A couple Percoset wouldn’t hurt none, crushed up, of course, and blended with finely grated Parmesan – you sprinkle this over your dressed salad, and man, you will be so ready for dessert when the time comes, that you’ll just bypass the spork and start shoveling dark chocolate mousse into your mouth by the fistful.
So you see? Like I said, you don’t have to be on a diet to eat a salad. But you don’t have to be high, either. You just have to relax about the dressing. A delicious coating of warm bacon fat mixed with just a couple spices and tiniest bit of vinegar isn’t going to make the vegetables any less good for you. But if you’re concerned about how banging you need to look in your tunic and lorica manica, and don’t want to fall so far into a food coma that you can’t properly wield your gladius, by all means, make your dressing out of yogurt, or olive oil, or silken tofu, or something that whomever you’ve placed your nutritional faith in sanctions as good for you. Believe me, have a salad for dinner a couple times a week, and in a month, you’ll be, like, Quando mecum pariter potant, pariter scortari solent, Hanc quidem, quam nactus, praedam pariter cum illis partiam.
Each of the salad recipes below makes 2 dinner portions or 4 side portions, plus leftovers. Each dressing recipe makes at least twice as much as you’ll need, if not quite a bit more. That way, you don’t have to keep making it every day.
Can be prepared ahead:
Can also be prepped ahead, but mixed into the salad only at the last minute:
Boiled Potatoes? Yeah. Trust me on this.
If quartering 1 lb of red potatoes doesn’t produce bite-sized pieces, keep chunking them up until you get there. Cover them with cold water. Add 1 Tbs salt. Bring to a boil. Look at the boiling water and imagine dunking your sous chef in it. A couple of times. Real slow-like. Come back to your senses and cook the potatoes until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain. Then, either cool them and store them in the refrigerator, or dress them with a heaping Tbs of salad dressing while they’re still hot, then cool and fridge them. Bring them to slightly but unquestionably warmer than room temperature before adding them to your salad; this is critical.
Or, instead of using the potatoes in your green salad:
If you added more dressing to these potatoes, to taste, you’d have a nice potato salad, served warm. And for God’s sake, crumble some bacon into it.
If you’ll indulge me as I step away from the topic of salads … you could also make mashed potatoes out of this: On speed 4, paddle ca. IV heaping Tbs of dressing + 1 Tbs soft butter into ½-lb of skins-on potatoes. If you also add sautéed mushrooms and/or sausage, it would serve you well as a sensual indulgence at your next comissatio, leading to more wine, leading to drinking the health of someone with a name like, uh, Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa Postumus (which would be lethal in a Roman drinking game), ending with you engaging in questionable amusements with the Rex Bibiendi.
Salad № 2: Grilled Chicken
Grilled chicken (grilled with an arc welder that you rigged up in the garage, from pieces leftover from the MCMLXX Buick GSX engine that you rebuilt), cherry tomatoes, fresh spinach, cucumber, crushed pretzels, and raisins. Oops, this one has oil-and-vinegar dressing … but there’s no reason it couldn’t have ranch! So crucify me!
In Part 2, you’ll find more salads, as well as several dressing recipes.