After a long day at Walt Disney World last week, all I wanted was a salad. It was tattooed on my brain — the kind of desire that trumps all other thoughts and options. Forget about the long menu with some truly amazing dishes. Show me the salads, people. So when Shawn, the kids and I headed to a restaurant nearby our hotel, I gravitated to the salad menu (naturally!) and was shocked to see that salads were in the $13-$18 dollar range. Seriously? For a salad? Is this inflation at work? It almost pushed me into ordering a more wallet-friendly sandwich instead, but I really desperately wanted a salad.
Are you sensing a theme here?
Finally, I spotted it. A brief entry on the light menu that promised many of the salad toppings that I was craving for a mere $11. Well, not so mere, but better than the other options. Apparently light meant lots of lettuce and sparing amounts of toppings. But whatever. I ordered it and it was tasty.
Still, the idea of spending big bucks on salads floors me. Restaurants are charging more and more for salads with exciting toppings. In some cases, the salads cost more than the lighter entrees on the menu, though I am sure that the work that goes into the light entrees trumps that of making a salad. It’s curious, and definitely takes away some of the luster of ordering a killer salad. Especially when you can make your own at home for a fraction of the cost. Literally a fraction. Like 1/8 or something.
Now that we’re back home again, I am making my own salads with all the fabulous toppings I want. But I’m not going for the chopped salad look with this one (I am of course a huge chopped salad fan, but that’s just not what I wanted here). Instead, I wanted something that was as pretty to look at as it is to eat. That means substantial chunks of some things and whisper thin bits of others, courtesy of the mandolin. After seeing a food styling demo at Food Blog Forum that involved a mandolin, I couldn’t wait to try making a salad with oh-oh-thin bits too.
About the salad, it’s all about the flavors and textures here. You have crisp, tart bits of apple, sweet shards of red pepper, zingy bits of red onion and creamy avocado. The red wine vinaigrette is a perfect accompaniment because it draws all the flavors together without overpowering them. This makes a perfect light lunch — and it only takes a few minutes to toss together.
About that mandolin though …
Using a Mandolin
Years ago, I bought a mandolin because I thought it would be the magic secret to making easier sweet potato fries. Unfortunately, I soon discovered just how challenging the sweet potato is. The mandolin (and later a fry cutter) were no match for the stubborn raw sweet potato. Aside from a few times using the food processor to make shoestring sweet potatoes, I always cut my fries by hand now. It’s just easier (and ruins less kitchen equipment).
Aside from that, I just didn’t see a need for the mandolin. Sharp knives do the job just fine for making thin cuts, don’t they? Well, they can. But … you had to know there was a but coming, right? … you can’t get whisper thin slices from hand cutting. Perfectly even, whisper thin cuts … they are just so beautiful and delicate. Turns out maybe the mandolin isn’t so useless after all. Color me a convert.
These days, I am shaving my vegetables on a handheld Oxo mandolin that was in my Food Blog Forum swag bag (thanks Oxo!). It’s super easy to use and super easy to clean up.
Plus it’s thin and stores really easily. I’m totally loving it. Oh, and Oxo didn’t ask me to write these nice things. I just did because I totally dig the mandolin.
Are you a mandolin fan? What do you use yours for?
Green Apple, Red Onion, Avocado and Red Pepper Salad
4 cups sweet baby greens, rinsed and spun dry
1/2 Haas avocado, diced
1/2 cup whisper thin slices red onion
1/2 cup whisper thin sliced green apple
1/2 cup whisper thin slices red bell pepper
red wine vinaigrette
Toss together the lettuce, avocado, red onion, apple and pepper until well combined. The pieces of onion, apple and pepper should be dispersed throughout. Drizzle with red wine vinaigrette and toss again.
Divide into two salad bowls. Devour.