My history with salad is complicated.
I've written about how it took me a few decades to really appreciate all that the genre had to offer—despite growing up in Northern California, where admitting as much made you less popular than a mouth breather at a sleepover party. (Which, incidentally, I also was.)
To compensate, I always made a big show of it when I found a "salad" I loved. Like a crunchy, chicken-filled one from a place called Comforts in a neighboring town, which I requested on my birthday. Or this dish my mom made, with boiled new potatoes, lots of rosemary, celery, olive oil, salt, and lemon juice. I must've packed it as lunch for 15 days in a row, in my longest stretch. Oh, and the one into which I funneled all my babysitting earnings, from a lunch spot down the block from my home; it was essentially a burrito turned inside out—there was a lot of cheese involved—tossed with a super salty, tart vinaigrette.
So, basically, salads that were less about the lettuce, and more about the...other stuff. Drinkable dressings. Interesting textural elements. Vegetables that'd been roasted until caramelized. Pickled accents. A nice balance between sweet and savory.
My tastes have since evolved—seriously, I regularly buy raw kale now—but I was delighted nonetheless when I came across the Salads chapter of Ella Mills' Deliciously Ella: The Plant-Based Cookbook. It's full of the sort of "lettuce as an afterthought, if that" concoctions off of which I used to live.
"We’re pretty flexible on that definition [of salad]," says Mills. "My aim with Deliciously Ella is to change the perception around healthy food so we stay far away from plain salads, et cetera, as that just doesn’t fulfill our mission of showing plant-based food to be delicious, varied, and abundant. All our salads have to tick those three boxes. Most of them don’t actually contain any leaves, so they’re not traditional salads, more interesting takes on vegetables."
They're both vegan, and equally excellent right after they're made and on the subsequent day. Each is popular in Mills' London deli, and save for some optional radicchio in the sweet potato salad, has not a lick of lettuce. Just a whole lot of "other stuff."
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).Order now