Sunday, October 23, 2011

Control Freak

The majority of the meals I eat in the dining hall center around the salad bar. After I heard that the dining hall puts pancake batter in the scrambled eggs, I don't really trust any of their cooked food. I'm not scared to get sick, but I like knowing what I'm putting in my mouth. Eating from the salad bar allows me to obsess over literally every lettuce leaf before I eat it. In eating so many salads, I've gotten good at navigating the salad bars. Sometimes the offerings change, (I get very excited when they offer baby corn, arugula, or snap peas) but I have a favorite salad at each dining hall. Here are my tips for navigating salad bars. 

1. Don’t choose every ingredient that looks good. Salads are best when you stick to a few key ingredients. Choose the freshest vegetables and fruits available and build a salad around those fundamentals. My go-to salad at my favorite dining hall is mixed greens with mandarin oranges, cranberries, and walnuts. 

2. Remember to add protein to your salad. Grilled chicken is an obvious choice, but sometimes dining hall chicken looks suspicious. Instead, add hard boiled eggs or cubes of tofu or toss walnuts on your salad for a fun crunch. I can never find potatoes and green beans for a salad nicoise, but I like romaine topped with shredded carrots, cucumbers, and hard-boiled eggs.

3. Always top your salad simply with olive oil and vinegar. Before reaching for a bottled dressing, ask yourself if you really want to pour high fructose corn syrup on your lettuce. You can never go wrong with balsamic vinegar to offer sweetness and tang to your veggies.

4. Grind pepper and salt on your salad if you used plain vinegar and oil to dress it. Seasoning vegetables with salt is easy to forget, but it can instantly spruce up a flavorless salad.  

5. If you get bored easily, try skipping the lettuce once in a while. Add grilled chicken (if it looks safe) to tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, kalamata olives, and feta cheese (crossing my fingers that it's available) for a flavorful Greek salad. 

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