Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Springtime means Salads

After a not too cold Chicago winter the sun is beginning to shine. Flowers are blooming. Mid-March temps are reaching 80+ degrees (yes, it's true!) More fitted clothes and sun dresses are just around the corner. I am training for marathon #6 coming up in May, but a girls still got to take some dietary precautions when it comes to the waistline. Yes, me of all people hates to say that, but with age comes the knowledge that healthier eating is important to a happy weight and overall well-being. Sigh. That's where my friend the salad comes in.
Look at all that beautiful produce - it's salad time!
I'm not talking about some iceberg lettuce with croutons and fat free dressing. Gross. I'm talking about hearty salads with lots of fixings. Dressings that enhance the flavors of the ingredients. Something that will actually leave you full when you reach the bottom of the bowl. All of these salads will leave you feeling satiated and happy. I can personally attest to their deliciousness as I've made them at home, or have ordered them recently. Here's my list:

Thai Peanut Salad with Shrimp
This one I made at home and was influenced by Trader Joe's spicy peanut vinaigrette (this can be found in the refrigerator section.) Mixed greens, shredded carrots, diced red pepper are the bulk of the salad. I topped the dinner with crushed peanuts (just put them in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to make them into tiny pieces) and thawed shrimp. Yummers!

Roasted Beet and Burrata Salad at Pierrot Gourmet
We're talking the lovely French-style cafe of Chicago's famed Peninsula Hotel, so you know the quality and flavors will be there. First off the restaurant's ambiance is warm and inviting whether you're sipping iced tea on the patio, or cozied at a table pre-Michigan Avenue-shopping. Spicy arugula, yellow beets, orange segments and apple cider vinaigrette with a generous helping of Burrata cheese (Robyn's note: cheese makes good things even better.)

Sushi Roll Edamame Salad (Adapted)
A friend of mine sent me this recipe which included nori (seaweed), sesame seeds, and a few other ingredients to make the salad more like a sushi roll. It's a really fun idea, but would have required a trip to Whole Foods and more money/effort than I wanted to apply. My adaptation was included one head of romaine lettuce (chiffonade), brown rice (cooled in the fridge for at least a few hours), shelled edamame soaked in rice wine vinegar and light agave nectar - about 1 tbsp of each for the 1/4 cup - I used this "sauce" as the dressing), 1 carrot cut into matchsticks, 1/2 seedless cucumber cut into matchsticks (somehow this makes it more fun) and 1/2 an avocado. If the salad seems to dry to you you could mix together more of the rice wine vinegar/agave nectar blend, but I actually didn't seem to need much more than the initial recipe provided. This is a really hearty salad with the brown rice!

Baby Spinach, Golden Beet & Duck Confit Salad at The Bongo Room
I don't get to famed Chicago brunch spot The Bongo Room all that often for lunch (when it's served during the week), but when I do I am a huge fan of the spinach, goat cheese, beet and duck salad. There are candied walnuts to add to that too, but I think it's the duck confit that makes this huge lunch salad a meal to remember.

Spinach, Hazelnut and Butternut Squash Salad
This is more of a fall salad, but still one I love. I made it for my family over Thanksgiving. This is a spinach salad with toasted hazelnuts (this can be a messy process, but when you toast the nuts there is a little something extra that's added), roasted butternut squash (if you're too lazy to cut up the entire squash like I was, TJ's offers pre-cut squash pieces - just toss with EVOO and some herbs when roasting), goat cheese and dried cranberries. I then made my own vinaigrette using apple cider vinegar and some fresh herbs. If you wanted to add some bacon too that would make this salad even more decadent, because of course everything's better with bacon. Unless you're a vegetarian.

The list could go on, but these are just a few of my favorites. Please share some of your recipes and/or favorite places for a salad in the city. New suggestions are always welcome!

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