Hello, my name is Kate Valdovinos, and welcome to Gainesville Greens, my contribution to the Gainesville Lunch out Blog. I am looking forward to sharing the green side of lunch opportunities with you! When I discussed the idea for writing this column with the GLOB Master, his focus was for me to cover the lunchtime salad scene in Gainesville. In fact, his idea was to call this column "Gainesville's Salad Lady." That was a good idea, and I do love salads, but I think there is going to be more to Gainesville Greens than arugula and croutons. Don't be surprised to find different kinds of interesting, green subject matter wrapped around your GLOB salad fork.
Gainesville Greens rules of salad ingredients
What makes a good salad? One could say the answer is subjective, but there are some overall rules that a good salad must have, like fresh ingredients, a great blend of ingredients, and a great dressing.
As a starting point, I had to ask myself, "What is a salad?" Google's definition is: "A cold dish of various mixtures of raw or cooked vegetables, usually seasoned with oil, vinegar, or other dressing." If that is a salad, combined with those overall rules mentioned earlier, you could make a good salad, but what makes a great salad?
So I created a list of what I consider great salads, explaining and organized by what made them great. The list is taken from Gainesville salads, all from my blog.
Beets - Beets are a perfect mixture of sweet and sour and can be added to just about any salad with, or without meat. They can easily make a salad go from good to great, especially if they are not too salty/vinegar-y. Mildred's New Deal CafĂ© makes their Beet Salad absolutely perfect by topping it off with walnuts and goat cheese.
Crispy lardons â€“ What is a crispy lardon you ask? I had to ask the same thing when I ordered the Farm Salad from the Jones B Side for $10.95. Crispy lardons are chunks of roasted bacon â€“ and bacon is AMAZING. They added the perfect amount of crunch, seasoning, and intense flavor to the already amazing salad, which included a poached egg, radishes, red peppers, two-leaved clovers, and more. Crispy lardons can be made at home and added to many dishes.
Orange and/or yellow cherry tomatoes â€“ Red tomatoes are amazing, but I've found that orange and yellow tomatoes have an even better taste, possibly because its flavor is packed into a tiny little tomato. Perhaps it was the soil they grew in, or just good seeds, but the Ellis Salad from Bistro to Go that had them was the best salad I had ever eaten. If you want to grow these at home, I recommend having them in good soil, and tomatoes grow best in lots of sunlight and heat
Meat â€“ This is a pretty broad statement, but I should specify that I mean a well-chosen and good-tasting meat. A great steak cooked to order on a salad can make a salad-eater out of a carnivore, and a bit of bacon on any salad can make it amazing. One of my favorite meats on a salad is the sushi-grade tuna put on the Ballyhoo Grill Soy-Glazed Tuna Chop Chop salad. The tuna, combined with the soy-ginger vinaigrette, fresh lettuce, water chestnuts, and carrots made this a great, hearty, and filling salad.
Cheese â€“ Cheese can definitely make a salad go from good to great, especially if you have the right kind of cheese. Even shredded mild cheddar can add an amazing amount of flavor, but more subtle cheeses like mozzarella can be the perfect flavor and consistency, like in the Bistro To Go Caprese Salad. The salad was great, but the mozzarella made the salad. I get most of my cheese from Publix, but Trader Joe's and Ward's has a great selection as well.
Salt & pepper â€“ I once took a cooking class and the cook said, "everyone underestimates the flavor of salt and pepper!" and she was right. Salt and pepper can be the simple ingredients that make a salad go from good to great. I wasn't able to highlight a salad that also highlighted salt and pepper, but if I have one in Gainesville I'll be sure to blog about it
Seasonal ingredients â€“ I have to mention ingredients that are seasonal, giving a shout-out to the Union Street Farmers Market in downtown Gainesville every Wednesday from 4-7 pm. This market is open every single week, so Gainesville residents have access to just about every vegetable and fruit in its prime season. When it comes to farmers markets, I might go with a list, but always end up getting so much more because of the season and availability.
If you have other examples of ingredients in salads that were amazing, please le your fellow GLOBers know by adding your comment below!
Kate Valdovinos is the Editor of Kate's Gainesville Salad Blog and will be discussing with GLOBers all things leafy, green, and healthy with a large dollop of yummy.