Main Course Salads: How To Make Ahead
I am still very into salad these days and probably will start to turn various shades of green soon at this rate we are chomping them down.
After making and eating quite a number of salads, I've came away with some notes on how to get a head start in making salads.
Size - Cut it down
I just came across an article from The Kitchn asking if there is a way to eat salad gracefully. I didn't think that there was much hope in that direction until I had the Wafu Salad from Tonkichi that made me realise that it is possible to eat salads gracefully - cut everything into bite-size.
Although salads needs minimal cooking, it involves lots of knife-work. Slicing, dicing, chopping all take time. But as I've mentioned earlier, most ingredients of a salad can be prepared in advance, but not all. Cut avocados will turn black, apples brown, and so forth. So if you are considering these items for your salad, either wait until just before serving to dice them up or leave them out. This is espcially true when packing the leftovers for lunch the following day.
Let's de-construct this Chicken and Avocado Salad as an example of how to make ahead.
I've used the same vinaigrette from Salade Nicoise, which most ingredients are pantry staples. Make the dressing ahead and store it in a screw-top glass bottle in the fridge. So far the longest that I have kept the dressing in the fridge was for 3 days. Beyond that, it is uncharted teritory for me. I use recycled jam jars or pasta sauce jars. To pack for lunch, I would use St. Dalfour mini jam jars. Liquid tight and just the right amount to dress a single serving of salad.
In my opinion, leftovers from a roast or grilled chicken make the best salads. If you have neither, which is usually the case for me, I would just poach chicken breasts in water until the thickest part is no longer pink (note: tough chicken breast can result easily from overcooking!) and shred when cooled enough to handle. Hard-boiled eggs can also boiled and peeled in advance, but leave as whole. When both cooled completely, I store them into a container with divider lest I leave one out. That happens to me all the time. Just as in any cooked food, I consider them inedible if they have sat in the fridge for more than 7 days.
Wash and cut the vegetables down to bite size. For tomatoes, I have switched to cherry tomatoes in case I am too lazy to cut. If you have extra minutes on hand, like I did that day when I made the salad, half them for better asethetics. Whole cherry tomatoes can be washed and added at the last minute. If you are like me who do not own a salad spinner, just put the cut greens into a colander to drip dry and give it a good shake every few minutes to get rid of excess water clinging on to the greens. Then the challenging part comes as you will have to look for a container big enough to pack the greens in without crushing/bruising them. Do note that pre-cut vegetables will lose nutrients while sitting in the fridge, so pre-cut these in your latest convenient time possible.
Once you are ready to eat, just pull these separate ingredients out from the fridge and layer them on the plate. And this is where you add those avocados, apples, eggs and the likes. Give the dressing in the jar a good shake (please check the top is screwed tight, if not you are screwed) before using.
Our weather is starting to turn sickeningly hot again and I would be keeping this time saver for those too-hot-to-stand-in-front-of-the-stove days.