In my creative meal process, we often eat things similar to a salad, but not exactly a traditional salad. I consider a traditional salad to be lettuce based, all veggies, with a dressing. But I have learned that you can add anything you want to a bowl, toss it together, eat it cold, and call it a salad. Here’s what I mean.

Pasta or rice salads can now be made with quinoa, couscous, farro, bulgur, barley, the list goes on. Any combination of vegetables can be added, as well as nuts, cheeses, eggs, meats, seeds, and herbs.

The key is: dressing it. Well, what makes a good dressing? Some kind of oil (or mayo), some kind of sour (vinegar or lemon/lime juice), and some kind of onion (white, yellow, green, red/purple, shallots, garlic), some kind of salt (pickles and Soy sauce works too!), and pepper (ground black, red bell, green chilies and so on). With this winning combination of flavors, your other ingredients will pull together.

Making the “other” salad is a great way to use up random leftovers. A cup of rice here, a bowl of pasta there, some farro or bulgur that you don’t know what to do with. Bits of kale or chard or unknown tough greens from your garden or CSA box. Just chop them up (or lightly saute) and toss them in.

I make these random leftover salads for main course lunch meals and even dinners in the summer. I figured out this trick of dressing them, and no one seems to notice or care if last night’s leftovers have become a salad. I add lettuce to these, but it’s no longer the main ingredient. One of my favorite things about these meals is that I can do the cooking one morning or one day only and not have to cook with heat when it’s hot in the afternoon. The salad will actually taste better after some time marinated in it’s flavors. Here are a few examples from the past month or so.

Tell me what your favorite “other” salad is and how you dress it!

farro based

Leftover Farro. First time cooking farro. It was bland as a side dish, so I make it into a salad with eggs, lettuce, red onion, salt and pepper, oil and balsamic vinegar. In the second bath I also add olives, raisins, and almonds (not pictured).

noodle based

Leftover spaghetti noodles. To this I added parsley, peas, shrimp, egg, chives, scallions, oil, lemon juice, black pepper, dill, salt, cheese.

bean based

Beans! To this I added arugula, chives, cilantro, corn, avocado, tomato, red & yellow bell pepper, cumin, coriander, salt, olive oil, lime juice, and red onion.

For this one I prepared some whole wheat spaghetti noodles in advance. I par boiled or blanched the snow peas and carrots. Sliced fresh red bell pepper and green onions. The dressing was a mixture of apple cider vinegar, sesame seed oil, powdered ginger, garlic, red chili pepper flakes, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and

For this one I prepared some whole wheat spaghetti noodles in advance. I par-boiled or “blanched” the snow peas and carrots. Sliced fresh red bell pepper and green onions and tossed in some frozen edamame (soy beans). The dressing was a mixture of apple cider vinegar, sesame seed oil, powdered ginger, garlic, red chili pepper flakes, soy sauce, sesame seeds, and dried seaweed. This was marvelous and made for a great lunch box entree the next day.

potato

Well, this is mostly just a regular potato salad (potatoes, eggs, onions, pickles, mayo), however I added nasturtium flowers for some beauty, zip, pepper, and color. They went really well with it actually. I also used black olives for extra saltiness and dijon for extra punch. And because I was out of celery and didn’t make it to the store, I added a shake of celery seed for the right flavor, which was noticeable…so just missing the crunch. For the crunch, I used some radish from the garden. I also added parsley from the garden, lots of it. Oh yeah, I almost forgot, but I also added a small can of green chilies.

noodles and artichoke

Finally the last of my noodles. To this I added a jar of marinated artichoke hearts and a drizzle of ranch dressing. Then I added fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red bell pepper, and some shredded cheese. I added one walla walla onion, chopped.