It’s been nearly six months since my 11-year-old daughter became a vegetarian, later downgraded (upgraded?) to pescatarian. She’s adapted to her new diet without any issues or hiccups. As far as I know she’s had no cravings for burgers, no midnight fridge raids looking for brisket and ribs, and no mid-day trips to KFC.
For me, as the main meal planner and cook, it’s been a much bigger challenge, especially as my nine-year-old son thinks lettuce and pickles on a burger constitute a week’s servings of greens.
Luckily, we’ve discovered a rare middle ground between my two kids and their divergent palates—the main course salad. Kid1 can easily skip/avoid any animal protein and we can successfully get some greens and vegetables into the boy. Their favourite by far is the Cobb salad, which combines chicken, bacon, corn, avocado and blue cheese with traditional salad greens and a creamy dressing.
The kids also love a Japanese inspired salad adapted from Nobu that combines cucumber and fish with a nice kick in the dressing from mustard powder (or powdered wasabi).
Another main course salad we’ve been enjoying is a bit tougher for vegetarians as it builds the dressing on warm bacon fat. It’s officially called a Salad Lyonnaise, but it’s essentially breakfast for dinner in salad form. We’ve fed this salad to a number of our kids’ friends and it’s been fun watching children who claim not to like salad devour this great combination of bacon and eggs.
We tend to roast or barbeque a chicken every Sunday night. If I know we’re having Cobb salad later in the week, I’ll roast a second serving of chicken on Sunday to use in the salad. Conversely, we’ve made this salad in a hurry using a pre-cooked chicken from the grocery store.
1 tablespoon vinegar (we use sherry)
1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Combine vinegar, mayonnaise and mustard in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper
2. Slowly pour in the olive oil while vigorously whisking until the dressing is emulsified. If you see the dressing separating or pools of oil appearing, stop adding the olive oil and whisk until it has re-combined, then slowly add the additional oil
4 cups of salad greens
2 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (Boursin is a kid-friendly option)
1 Avocado, cut into bite sized cubes
3 strips of bacon, cooked and then roughly chopped
12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
8 ounces of cooked chicken, cut into bite sized cubes
1 cup of cooked corn
Optional: hard boiled eggs (we often skip these)
1. If presentation matters, place the greens on a large platter and then top with the remaining ingredients. Conversely you can just combine everything in a large bowl and mix
2. Top with dressing and serve
Salad Lyonnaise (adapted from the New York Times)
This works best with frisee—the curly version of endive—but it can be a difficult green to find. You can substitute any other small, firm, salad greens.
4 cups torn frisée or other firm greens, washed and dried
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
About 1/2 pound good bacon or pancetta, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 shallot, chopped, or 1 tablespoon chopped red onion
2 to 4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1. Place the cleaned salad greens on four plates.
2. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a skillet over medium heat, once warm add the bacon and cook slowly until it starts to crisp.
3. Add the shallots or onion to the bacon and cook until softened, a minute or two. Add the vinegar and mustard to the skillet, stirring to mix, and bring just to a boil, all the while stirring, then remove the pan from heat.
4. Bring an inch of salted water to a gentle boil. One at a time, break eggs into a shallow bowl and slip the eggs into the bubbling water, cooking for 3+ minutes until the white is just set and the yolk has filmed over. Remove each egg with a slotted spoon and drain briefly on paper towel (this is the toughest part – have extra eggs ready as one yolk will surely break).
5. If your sauce has cooled, gently reheat the dressing, pour over the salad greens (the heat should very gently wilt them). Toss and season with salt and cracked black pepper. Then top each salad with a gently poached egg.
Serve with grilled slices of baguette.
This is really all about the dressing—it’s a vinaigrette that we use on all sorts of seafood salads or just thinly sliced cucumbers. The powdered mustard gives it a lift that is off-set by the sweet tartness of the rice wine vinegar. It’s great served with seared tuna or sea scallops, or—even easier—smoked salmon.
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons water
1⁄2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 pinch sea salt
1⁄4 teaspoon mustard powder
1⁄4 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 tablespoons soy sauce
4 teaspoons grapeseed oil
4 teaspoons sesame oil
For the dressing
1. Combine rice vinegar, water, sugar, salt, mustard powder, pepper and soy sauce in a bowl and stir to dissolve.
2. Slowly add the grapeseed oil and whisk to combine; once emulsified add the sesame oil. (**We often make this in a small mason jar—add all the ingredients, seal it, and shake vigorously. It makes enough dressing for four salads, so we’ll keep it in the fridge to use throughout the week.**)
For the Salad
1. Slice a cucumber into ribbons and combine with grated radish and chopped cilantro, add salad greens and toss to combine.
2. Top the greens with seared tuna OR smoked salmon OR seared sea scallops.