Growing up in New York in the '90s, I was frequently compared to another brash, sarcastic (I prefer the term "witty") native with crazy curly hair: Elaine Benes of Seinfeld fame. Sure, I was outspoken, and yeah, I could be known to crack a joke or two, but even as a 12-year-old I had my life together better than Elaine — and I could sure as hell dance better than she could. So I laughed off the comparison.
Fast-forward a couple decades later, and I now know what I should have acknowledged then: The woman was a genius. And you know why? Because she liked big salads. Elaine Benes would stroll into a diner, request a larger-than-average assemblage of greens, and munch away happily. Elaine Benes was not satisfied with a normal-sized salad. And neither am I.
As a food and drink writer, my daily caloric intake can easily balloon well past what's appropriate for my 5'2" frame. So in the spring and summer, I try to reign things in at lunchtime by preparing myself a salad at home.
During this time, when produce is at its peak of freshness, this is no sacrifice. Tender greens and crunchy, ever-so-slightly bitter radishes? I'll take 'em. Hearty kale and slivers of just-sweet baby squash? Yes, please.
I don't think too hard when throwing these salads together; I just choose what looks good at the market (or in my CSA share), accent the produce with some nuts or cheese for flavor and texture, slick everything with a simple, mustardy, vinaigrette, and hope it all comes together.
My 2 Sacred Salad Rules
But I do have two sacred, inviolable rules: The salad must be big, and the bowl I eat it out of must be even bigger. The first rule is easy to explain. If I'm eating something so healthy, I'm entitled to lots of it. Bring on the mesclun, the diced apple, the toasted pistachios, the salty feta — all of it.
The second rule? It really comes down to visibility. The number-one sin in salad-making is either over- or under-dressing your salad. Too much dressing, and you're eating vinaigrette with a side of lettuce; too little, and you'll be munching on dry, bitter greens. When you assemble your salad in a big bowl, you're able to see how much you're using, tossing each and every lettuce leaf until it's perfectly slicked.
The same holds for other ingredients, too. Sure, it's a fantastic idea to fork some leftover fluffy quinoa into your shredded collard greens, but we're talking a quarter of a cup, not four cups. In a big bowl, you're sure to add just the right amount, without skimping or going overboard.
If that doesn't convince you, consider the sheer convenience of a big salad bowl. When using one, you build, toss, and eat your salad all in one vessel, without having to dirty additional plates or utensils. Ideally, after eating, you should only have to wash the bowl, your fork, the knife you chopped your ingredients with, and the tongs you tossed the salad with. Easy-peasy.
How Big Is Big Enough?
So how big of a bowl should you get? Larger than you'd think. The bowl I use, a long-ago holiday gift from my mother, is a simple white ceramic number that's intended as a serving dish — not as one to eat out of. It's got a whopping nine-inch diameter and a generous four-and-a-half inches of depth. I'd recommend looking for one of similar dimensions; any smaller, and you'll risk salad overboard when you attempt to toss.
Here's one that will get the job done (and it's good-looking, too).
Have I convinced you to go big when it comes to your salad bowl? Share your thoughts in the comments.