My son’s approach to salad is simple. He treats it like a four-letter word.
Which as a dad who loves salad – and who endeavors to teach his son to embrace healthy eating habits – I find mildly infuriating. Understand that my son spent the first few years of his life devouring vegetables in all forms. Raw. Stir fried. Steamed. Stewed. Curried. Whatever. Then he hit 5 and the world changed. It’s been a battle ever since.
Then I learned two simple lessons that turned things around, at least for salads. One is about process. The other is about presentation.
First, the process: When most of us make a salad, we dump a bunch of veggies (and maybe some protein) into a bowl, then drizzle some dressing over it. Done. But that never worked with my son.
Then I tried New York chef April Bloomfield’s Caesar salad recipe. Her technique changed everything. Rather than simply drizzling the dressing over the greens, she uses her fingers to gently massage the dressing into the greens, ensuring total coverage. The taste was so much better! From that day onward, my son became a fan of Caesar salad, even letting me pack it in his lunch. It works for pretty much any salad with any dressing. And it works with kids because they love dressing and want the flavor in every bite.
One caveat – if you’re packing a salad for lunch, avoid acidic dressings such as vinaigrette. The dressing will wilt the greens by lunch.
- 1 head of Romaine lettuce, chopped in half lengthwise
For the dressing:
- A couple spoons of low fat sour cream
- A pinch each of salt and pepper
- A splash each of hot sauce and water
- Pan-crisped prociutto or bacon
Next, the presentation: I learned my lesson about salad presentation while eating out. Restaurants love to serve romaine salads by simply plunking half of an intact head of romaine on a plate, then topping it with stuff.
A massive chunk of romaine on my kid’s plate? Seemed destined to fail. But I liked the idea so I gave it a shot. It was a surprise hit. For reasons I still don’t understand, my son thought it was cool, picked it up like a hot dog, and ate the whole thing.
My go-to version? Mix together the dressing ingredients. Top the romaine with pan-crisped prosciutto or bacon and the sour cream dressing. The romaine salad also is great for packed lunches. Pop the head of lettuce in a container, then pack some chopped bacon and dressing on the side. At lunch, kids can pile them on and eat it up.
Recipe by J.M. Hirsch, AP food editor and author of Beating the Lunch Box Blues. Photo: Matthew Mead.