Last Minute Dinner Salads
One Ash Wednesday Husband came home late as he went to Mass after working overtime. Our sons and I had eaten our Twice-Baked Potatoes(next post) and the one good thing about them is that it is easy to make just enough, if you don’t care for leftovers. (Although they do freeze quite well for a short term, like 4-6 months).
When Husband came in, he informed me that his boss had been at Mass as well and he had invited the man to dinner.
Husband has done this to me a few times. When we got married I had never cooked for less than six people and we ate a lot of leftovers,(fortunately, I learned to freeze things well.) Let me make a couple of steaks, or a couple of chicken breasts and, used to having too much food, that seemed to be exactly when the Husband would invite someone to stay. I was always last-minute hustling!
I had to stow the baked potato and put together a salad with what I had on hand. I added small shrimp which I fortunately had left over from making the potatoes and I put in some diced cheese. I served rolls and crackers and the men ate well…the boss was none the wiser!
If I have posted on salads before, it bears repeating: Almost any vegetable can go into a salad, as well as fruits and not all of them need to be fresh. I have had someone break up a head of iceberg lettuce, pour on bottled ranch dressing and call it salad and I have had salads that included everything imaginable. You can put together a nice salad with many things you should already have on hand. Hopefully, you have some greens, a lettuce or spinach. Even if you don’t, you can wing it. Here is a list, although not complete, of what you can include in a nice dinner salad:
Any type of ‘greens’, iceberg or leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, mustard greens, turnip greens
we all know:
but how about:
fresh pea pods
grated zucchini or squash
thinly sliced onions or leeks
diced green onions
Use your imagination
You can add fruit in with vegetables as long as they are firm, such as :
If you know your guests can tolerate seeds and nuts, you can add:[*See Note]
Almonds/Hazelnuts/Walnuts/Pine nuts, etc.
Pumpkin seeds (roasted)
And, especially in a pinch, these canned items do a good job in rounding out sparse fresh veggies:
chick peas/black eyed peas/
black or green olive
sliced apple rings
And I always keep pickled vegetables,(giardiniera ) on hand.
Mix and match, pick and choose. Add tiny shrimp/ crab or imitation crab meat, shredded or diced cheese,(Cheddars, Swiss, Provolone, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, Havarti Muenster); you can also do a great job with diced ham, chicken, roast beef or turkey cold cuts, (or ‘Tofurkey’). Diced hard-boiled eggs can be added at the last minute,(they will break up in the tossing and it isn’t pretty.)You can use leftover roasts, chicken or whatever flavorful meat you have on hand.
With this type of salad, you may find that you don’t need dressing. If you have guests, allow them the option. On the other hand, I have found that if the flavors are a bit bland, I add some that I like to whip up quickly on my own using Olive oil and pomegranate molasses, which is bitter, contrary to it’s name, so I add honey or a syrup. I also have several vinegars on my shelf to use. However, there are perfectly good bottled dressings out there, and several flavors are in my refrigerator as I type this; use them.
As I did, serve with crackers, fancy beads or rolls. You can add prepared rice, couscous, barley or small pasta for a one-bowl meal, or serve a simple couscous, rice or pasta dish on the side.
[*Note]The real beauty is that these can be made for Lent, pescaterian, vegetarian or vegan.It is gluten-free, (without cheese), dairy-free and can be served with meats, cheeses, fish, seeds/nuts, grains and pasta on the side, if you are unsure of your guests’ needs.
I hope this gives you some ideas…and I hope you try some of the ideas, not only for Lent,(meatless), but throughout the year. These are wonderful in hot weather for a light but filling and nutritious meal that anyone can be proud to serve…quick and praise-worthy!