I’m seriously horrible at breaking up. Always was, always will be. I avoid it at all costs and just the thought of having to do it makes me break out into a sweat. Sorry for over sharing.
But when it came to salads, I didn’t give it a second thought. For years, I cut salads completely out of my life and I never looked back. I was over them. And that’s because, for me and my salt-free way of eating, salads always proved disappointing. They were bland. They were underwhelming. They were all I could ever get to eat when I ate out. And it always felt as if that pile of dry iceberg lettuce was simply phoning it in.
But as bad as I am at breaking up, I’m equally good at giving people (and salads) second chances. Which is why I decided to throw a salad party earlier this week and let some silky spinach and spicy radicchio say “I told you so” in a metaphorical, edible kind of way. Not out loud.
Thanks to a challenge from DOLE (yes, that DOLE), I set out to create a salad-inspired Spanish tapas menu. Small savory bites full of healthy, mediterranean flavors. And sometimes high sodium ingredients too, like chorizo, clams, artichokes, and cheese.
But thanks to the natural flavors found in leafy greens — like radicchio (bitter), arugula (peppery), chard and spinach (naturally higher in sodium) — it was easy to impart the traditional creaminess, spice, and succulence found in these dishes without all the salt. And since we were already going beyond the border for this cooking adventure, I thought we could also go outside of the box (or bags) when it came to using the leafy mixes in these Spanish makeovers.
Once known as just a resting place for meat and other salad toppings, naturally “salty” spinach became the base of a creamy sauce for lamb meatballs. Peppery arugula took over in my green, grape gazpacho. And with a quick trip to a hot pan, a spring mix melted and paired perfectly with my olive oil soaked cod, velvet eggplant, pan roasted grapes, and crispy chickpeas.
I know what you’re thinking. Holy salad makeover.
So if it isn’t clear enough, I’m back together with salads.
With a roast, a blend, and a quick sauté, these greens became the star of my mediterranean meal. And the whole experiment reminded me just how easy it is to take simple greens and make them burst with new texture and with flavor. Or, to put it another way, that when treated correctly, salads not only show up to the party, but become the party.
So please, go play with your salads. And the next time you’re over a certain ingredient (as opposed to a boyfriend), don’t just toss it to the side. Give it a chance to show you what else it can do. I promise you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
ROASTED MEDITERRANEAN SALAD
serves 4 small side salads
- Olive, coconut, grape seed oil
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 medium to large filet cod
- 1 large japanese eggplant
- 1 teaspoon salt-free garlic powder
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 can roasted garbanzo beans
- 1 cup green seedless grapes, cut in half
- 8 cups DOLE Spring Mix Salad Blend (or any mix of greens and chicories)
- Lemon and parsley if you have it
Pour 1 tablespoon of oil into a plastic ziplock bag and add the paprika. Then, cut your fish into four even chunks and place them into the bag as well. Give it a gentle swish and swirl so that the flavored oil spreads evenly on the fish and then set the bag the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.
When you’re ready to cook, set the oven to 350dg F.
Cut your eggplant in half, right at its waist. And then cut each piece lengthwise (head to tail) into thirds. Place them in a single layer on a well-oiled oven sheet and brush some more oil right onto the eggplants. Sprinkle them with the garlic powder and some freshly ground black pepper and place them into the oven to cook for 20 minutes. Then, flip the eggplants over and give them another brush of oil if they look dry. Place back into the oven for another 15 to 25 minutes until the middle part gets browned and melty. And when they are ready, take the eggplants out of the oven and cover them with foil. Set aside.
Note: This is a great time to make those garbanzo beans if you haven’t already done so (just saying).
And with those chickpeas crisping up, it’s time to get started on the fish. Pour the spiced oil from the plastic bag into a medium size pan. Warm the oil over medium-high heat and when ready, add the fish to the pan in a single layer.
Cook for 5 minutes on one side and then flip the fish and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes on the other side. Remove the fish from the pan and set aside on a plate. And a few cups of salad mix to the oiled pan and cook on high for 3 minutes, giving them a quick stir. Put the warmed salad on serving plates and continue until you have even amounts of melty salad for each plate.
Finally add the grape halves (flat side down) to the hot pan. Let them sit and charr undisturbed for 3 minutes. Flip them the best you can and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. And then take them off of the heat.
To assemble the salads, slice the eggplant into thick ribbons and place even portions on top the wilted spring mix. Then add even portions of the fish. Sprinkle with grapes and chickpeas. Give it a spritz of fresh lemon juice. And top with fresh parsley if you have any laying around. Enjoy.