The World’s Best

I have devised a recipe for the world’s best salad.  I know it is the best because I have personally taste-tested it against all other salads I have personally made, and I have personally decided that it is the best.  You can see that my system is fool-proof.

I’m not greedy, though, so I’m wiling to let you have the world’s best salad, too.  You can even pretend it’s your own if you want.  I’m not going to tell on you.

See, I’ve never loved salads.  I have always thought they were boring and bland.  They never filled me up.  I didn’t understand why there was always grated carrot and red cabbage at the bottom of the salad bowl, and why is a massive ring of red onion okay to just drop on top?  Add that confusion to the fact that I don’t like tomatoes, I can’t have croutons, and most salad dressings are either awful for you or just awful for me in particular, and I usually had a bowl of lettuce with a couple of sad cucumber slices.

After seeing a dietician recently and finding out that I don’t eat enough food — shocking news! — I realised I was going to have to make more of an effort to eat lunch.  I whined, ‘but lunchtime is the exact time of day when I least want to eat!’  Why?

Well, I used to eat sandwiches for lunch.  I thought I was doing all right by it, never eating plain white bread, typically passing up the crisps, and adding lettuce to give me a vegetable.  After I’d eat, though, I would get very tired.  I didn’t want to do anything; I wasn’t sure I could do anything. What I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t really feeding myself; I was just putting stuff in my body.  There wasn’t anything nourishing to what I was eating, and, while I don’t knock a good sandwich now and again, I just know it doesn’t function as a daily standard.

Knowing that someone else was looking over my food journal with me made me a bit more self-conscious.  Of course I wanted to look like I had it all together, but I also came to realise that I simply knew better. More fruit, Sydney, and more vegetables.  Just get over yourself and do it.

Thus, THE salad was born.  There’s crunch, there’s heft, there’s sweetness, there’s protein, and there’s also a little bit of heat.

World’s Best Lunch Salad

Romaine lettuce (or favourite leaf)
Sunflower seeds
Pomegranate seeds
Sprouted mung beans
Sprouted lentil beans
World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Your favourite hot sauce (I use Frank’s Hot Sauce for this salad!)

Big bowl

Assemble as big or as small a salad as you’d like with the ingredients.  I start with the lettuce and spinach, tearing them into bite-sized pieces by hand, add broccoli and cucumber around the edges, and add the smaller ingredients in the middle.  Then, I dress it with a couple of shakes of the hot sauce and a quick drizzle of the vinaigrette.


This is the little version. I may or may not have used a mixing bowl for just myself before. (I definitely have.)

World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar (may not be needed if you shell out for expensive oil and vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use pink Himalayan salt for a couple of extra minerals)
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin

Jar that will fit at least 1 cup of liquid (with lid)
measuring cups and spoons
heavy-duty shakin’ arms

Dump everything except the sugar into the jar.  Shake, shake, shake until it is completely combined.  Taste and see if it needs the sugar for your tastebuds.  Some vinegars can be more tart than others, and some people like a more tart vinaigrette.  Add the sugar if you want and shake again.

Store in the fridge.  Remove a while before you need it, and shake it again to reintegrate the oil and vinegar, which will separate when cold.  If you forget, pop it in the microwave without the lid for 15-20 seconds — just enough to soften the oil but not “cook” it — and shake.  Oh, yes, more shaking.


Pecan-Crusted Spinach Artichoke Dip

This recipe is one that I get requests for very often. It was always between this dip and my cucumber sandwiches for my honours society events. (I learned I like cucumbers when it was requested that I make hundreds of the little finger sandwiches. I spent about 7 hours preparing them, which is utterly ridiculous, but, as I’ve said before, I’m not so quick at the chopping.) The spinach and artichoke dip was also my main contribution to each years’ Thanksgiving dinner; I’m not sure how they got on without it. It’s not a difficult recipe, but the ingredients can run a bit expensive, so it’s certainly a special occasion type of dish. Of course, you can decide what a special occasion is to you. I have typically served the dip with water crackers, but it is also delicious on sliced French bread. I also use a food processor for the artichoke hearts and the onion because I prefer smaller pieces to integrate into the dip. I’m not a fan of finding big, incongruous chunks, but some people like it.

18 ounces frozen creamed spinach, defrosted (you can also cream your own spinach, but I like the shortcut)
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
14 ounce can artichoke hearts, drained and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/3 cup crushed herb stuffing
1/2 cup chopped pecans (I hold four pretty pecan halves back for decor)

large spoon
large mixing bowl
food processor for chopping onion and artichoke hearts
2 quart glass baking dish

Preheat oven to 400°F/200°C.

Add cream cheese and mayonnaise together in the mixing bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the creamed spinach, artichoke hearts, parmesan, onion, and cayenne pepper.

Transfer the mixture to the baking dish and level the top as much as possible. Pour the stuffing and pecan onto the mixture. Try to cover the entire dish with an even coating of the pecan/stuffing.

Place dish in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the mixture is heated through and the topping has browned. My tip for decoration is to remove the dish about 5 minutes before it is done and add the four reserved pecan halves in the center, then return the dish for the remainder of the cooking time. Rarely do I put any extra effort into making a “pretty” dish, but this is simple enough.

Serve the dip in the baking dish if possible.