Post # 96 Garbage Can Salad

February 27, 2013 at 12:24 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post # 96 Garbage Can Salad

Way more years ago than I like to remember, I lived with my sister and her husband while I want to college.  Since I had the most spare time, and the inclination, part of the way that I pulled my weight was to be the chief cook and bottle washer.  Of course, I had to learn to cook the way they liked which wasn’t really a problem for me except they were trying their best to be vegetarians.  So we ate a lot of legumes, salads, soy products, etc.  Salads were a big deal for us, and following their guidelines became a lesson in studied chaos. They made what I came to call Garbage Can Salad which I continue to make today.

It was a salad that incorporated every fresh vegetable that could be found at whatever particular time of the year it was.  There was no thought as to what would taste good together, or textures, or even what looked nice.  It was throw as much of everything into the biggest bowl there was, fill that bowl to the rim, then everyone dive in and eat.

Up to that point in my life, salad was pretty much just iceberg lettuce, chopped tomato, chopped cucumbers, thinly slice onion, and bell pepper.  Top it off with Italian dressing, set it next to a steak or a piece of chicken and you had a meal, as long as you added a baked potato.  Simple salad, comfortable, familiar, and completely not awe inspiring.  Of course, that was back in the 1970s.  Salad has come a long way since then.

A few years ago, I was making a salad on the weekend for family dinner.  One of my closest friends was over and watching as I chopped veggies, placed things in bowls, tossed herbs, etc.  She was fascinated and commented on how much she was learning.  I was surprised because salad, for me, has nearly always been “throw veggies in a bowl and mix.”  She replied that there was more to it than that in the way I combined, the layers I created, etc.  I never thought about anyone having to be taught how to create a salad.  Then I remembered being taught to create my sister’s Garbage Can Salad.

Salads used to exist at the end of the meal.  Now, in many cases, they have replaced the meal.  My ex-wife has truly embraced the concept of “side salad” keeping her salad with her throughout the entire meal and enjoying its freshness and crunch from beginning to end.  Many restaurants and chefs have started making the salad very large, and adding strips of cooked meat to create an entrée salad.  Even fast food places are doing this.  I was once addicted to a seafood salad from Jack in the Box that was just shredded lettuce, a little grated cheese, a couple of wedges of tomato, a couple of slices of cucumber, and about a dozen small marinated shrimp.  Once the shrimp were gone, it was just the lettuce.  I ate one of those several times a week for over a year.

The Garbage Can Salad was called that because every piece of garbage went into it.  The base was sliced cabbage rather than lettuce.  We used cabbage because we liked the crunch and flavor better, but also because it didn’t wilt under the dressing the way lettuce greens did.  It’s also healthier for you.  Then I chopped bite-sized chunks of every vegetable I could find.  It didn’t matter if I’d never seen it in a salad before; it was going in now.  Vegetables I’d never eaten raw before were eaten raw then and ever since.  Sometimes, I’ll be walking along and see wild asparagus spears and grab one without thinking, enjoying the crunch and fresh flavor.  After all the veggies are chopped and in the bowl, about a half cup of grated cheddar cheese, is added, and about a quarter cup of various seeds, sunflower, sesame, poppy, etc.  The last ingredient that was always included was soy bacon bits.  Soy because they were vegetarians and bacon because, well, it’s bacon.  Everything is tossed together and the juice from half a lemon is sprinkled over all of it.  Chill it, and eat.

In the ensuing years, I’ve modified it to include different cheeses.  I’ve added fruit.  I’ve ditched the soy bacon and use the real thing.  I’ve replaced cabbage with hardier forms of lettuce, such as Romaine.  I’ve roasted some vegetables before adding to salad.  I’ve included small pasta shapes like ditalini or orzo.  I’ve included sprouts of various kinds as I’ve had them.  I’ve made bread bowls and served the salad in them.  I’ve changed the lemon for dressing on the side.  I’ve added chopped hard-boiled eggs.  Sometimes, I’ve omitted the lettuce and cabbage and had just rough chopped veggies.

See, the real secret or magic to this salad is that there really aren’t rules for it.  Simply put whatever you like or have in a bowl with a dressing and call it good.

One of my favorite salads is called Fetoush.  I’m certain that I spelled it wrong, but it’s a Mediterranean bread salad.  Take several pita bread rounds and cut them into small wedges.  Separate them and place them on a baking sheet.  Place in a hot oven until they’re dried and toasted well.  Set aside to cool.  Slice a red onion very thin.  Peel a cucumber, then cut it down its length.  Remove the seeds with a spoon and discard.  Slice the cucumber along it length into three equal spears for each half.  Cut the spears into bite-sized chunks.  Slice and quarter the slices of six large plum tomatoes.  Cut one or two hearts of Romaine into bite-sized pieces.  Drain a can of ripe black olives.  Place everything except the pita bread into a large bowl.  Make a dressing by mixing together the juice from one half a lemon, a tablespoon of dried oregano, salt, pepper, and a half cup of olive oil.  Pour over veggies and toss to coat thoroughly.  Chill.  Just before serving, add the pita bread.

Hope this inspires you to play around with salads.  Let me know what you come up with!  Enjoy!

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