Crazy Pot Salad is what my daughter calls a main dish I make because it involves many different ingredients that vary as to availability. It always turns out great, though, which is truly amazing. It is a greens salad that also has cooked items and a balance of flavors, textures and colors that make every forkful slightly different. It involves both cold and hot ingredients, all thrown into the same bowl and mixed together to create a melded warm dinner that is as healthful as it is delicious. It is even good as cold leftovers the next day.
Tonight’s salad was born of the need to eat the mixed salad greens that were overgrowing in the garden. I cut and picked various greens and started from there. To create a Crazy Pot Salad, I keep in mind these components:
Fresh Greens: the more varied the better. Fresh herbs such as dill, basil, chives and cilantro, along with arugula and a lettuce mix, work well. Don’t forget some iceberg for crunch. If you don’t have or want to use iceberg (a much maligned vegetable) then cut up fresh celery.
Protein: Tofu, soy chicken strips (such as Morningstar Farms), soy bacon, soy tuna, etc. Beans such as garbanzo or Northern white work well. Using a couple types of proteins are tastier and more nutritious. Cook the protein and use hot.
Starch: Pasta in small shapes, rice, or a cooked grain such as quinoa. Use the starch hot.
Other additions: diced carrots, steamed tiny potatoes or potato chunks (hot), feta or cotija cheese (crumbly), marigold petals, nasturtium blossoms, squash blossoms, capers, heart of palm, mushrooms, pea pods, avocados, green beans fresh or cooked… whatever you have that you need to use. Look for colors to add. I can’t stand Bell peppers, but that is usually the go-to choice when people want to add color to anything. You can avoid the Bell pepper taste-takeover of your salad if you want with a little creativity. Stir-fry up some chopped red cabbage and throw it in with some raw carrots.
Crunch: Nuts, such as pignoli (pine), cashews, sunflower seeds or almonds. Toast them in a little olive oil or in the toaster oven to bring out their flavor.
Dressing: This salad just about makes its own dressing. I like to make Italian dressing with a packet of Lowry’s Italian dressing mix, using red wine vinegar and olive oil. Or I make the dressing as I cook, which I’ll include in the recipe. The cooked shiitake mushroom gives the olive oil a deep, savory note and adds a very interesting flavor and texture. Along with the pignoli nuts, chives and crumbled soy bacon, this makes a delicious subtle dressing that is mixed into the salad rather than adorned on the top. The hot starch, including the potatoes, will readily absorb the hot flavored olive oil.
Remember, this is a salad of opportunity; use what you have and what you love, but keep in mind the different components, the shapes and colors of the ingredients, the texture and nutritional value. Bland foods such as the potato will balance strongly flavored ones such as arugula.
- One cup quinoa, prepared with vegetable broth following box directions
- Four cups (approx.) mixed fresh greens washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
- Two sprigs each fresh dill, basil, chives and cilantro, chopped
- One cup torn iceberg lettuce
- Three calendula flowers and four squash flowers, torn into small pieces (just petals)
- Eight very small potatoes
- Cotija cheese (or veggie substitute. Dairy can be optional)
- Half an 8-oz can garbanzo beans
- Two small carrots, sliced into discs
- One tomato, diced
- A tablespoon olive oil (flavored, if you have it)
- One package Morningstar Farms Chicken Strips
- For Dressing:
- Six fresh shiitake mushrooms
- Four strips Morningstar Farms soy Bacon Strips
- Three tablespoons pignoli nuts
- ⅛th cup olive oil
- Prepare quinoa in medium saucepan using vegetable broth, according to the instructions on the box.
- Steam small potatos until tender
- Meanwhile, wash, dry and tear up fresh greens, herbs, iceberg and flowers. Put in large bowl.
- Crumble about four tablespoons Cotija cheese over greens in bowl.
- Add garbanzo beans
- Add carrot discs
- In frying pan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil and stir-fry the soy chicken strips until browned (if you have flavored olive oil, such as citrus or basil, use that to cook these).
- Add hot soy chicken strips to bowl.
- In same frying pan, heat ⅛th cup olive oil on medium high.
- Chop shiitake mushrooms and add to frying pan.
- Cook mushrooms on medium-high heat until they are almost crunchy.
- Add soy bacon strips and pignoli nuts.
- Stir nuts until they are browned (watch so they don't burn).
- Flip bacon and remove when browned.
- Pour contents of pan on mixture in bowl.
- Crumble bacon strips and add to bowl.
- Add steamed potatoes, quartered to bowl.
- Add quinoa to bowl.
- Toss contents of bowl until well mixed. Heavy ingredients will sink to the bottom, so be sure to mix well.
- Plate the salad and garnish with chopped tomatos and more cheese, if using.