No More Boring Salads

In my circle of friends, I'm known as a pretty decent salad diva. What makes my salads so divine? Well, it's not a major secret, really. I like to combine flavors and textures in nearly all of my cooking and few dishes are as good a vehicle for that as salads. So when I pull out my salad tongs, I also lean into that goal and the results often look like this:

What about this pretty simple Thai Pork Salad makes it special? Well, like many salads, there's a base of greens and veggies. The important thing there is choosing very fresh items with enough crunch to stand up to other flavor elements without that, like hard-boiled eggs and tender sautéed pork. Creamy and salty come into play with the fun dressing, which flavors the pork in the skillet and is drizzled over the salad just before serving. Using it twice gives it a stronger role in this dish. Crunchy nuts on top give you a more protein-laden crunch than those fresh veggies we began the adventure with. And that more or less gives you what you see on the plate above. In about 20 minutes or so, you've got a great salad sitting on the plate before you. Not bad, eh?

So take the same approach the next time you plan your salad. Is it based on a foundation of greens, like this one? How do you add different textures and flavors to that base? Maybe it's a fruit salad. Try mixing things up a bit by including a tangy fruit-based vinegar in the dressing or maybe a splash of wine. Have you considered some fresh herbs in that fruit salad? They aren't just for savory dishes! Don't forget pasta and rice-based salads. They can be very inspired foundations in the salad world. And, as is the case in this recipe, combining cold fresh items with quickly cooked items can be truly wonderful. I adore a grilled vegetable salad that includes fresh herbs and cherry tomatoes. Maybe even a little tangy goat cheese? You get the idea. Let your imagination soar, my friends!

Now, to make this dish a complete meal, all you really need is a beverage. I love the idea of a fun rice wine with this one or maybe even Thai iced tea, though that might feel a bit heavy alongside this salad. If you want some kind of side, fresh slices of various seasonal melons could be perfect. Mix it up a little there by tossing together chopped mint, honey, and lime juice and drizzling it over your fresh melon. Suddenly, there's a little more to what's on your plate. And that can be a very lovely thing.

Thai Pork Salad

  • 2 cups mixed salad greens
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 sweet yellow pepper, sliced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
  • 2 limes, juiced + the zest of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons sweet thai chili sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 3 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tsp. canola oil
  • 2 thin center-cut pork chops
  • 2 T. chopped peanuts

On two serving plates, arrange the greens, cucumber, green onions, yellow pepper, and hard-boiled eggs. Set aside. (Refrigerate if you will be waiting to make the pork and assemble the rest of the salads.)

In a small resealable jar, combine the next seven ingredients (lime juice/zest through peanut butter) and shake vigorously to combine. Add additional lime juice if the resulting dressing is too thick.

Heat the canola oil in a small nonstick skillet and sauté the pork chops until they are cooked through (about 3-4 minutes per side). When you've turned the chops the first time, pour about half the dressing over the meat and continue cooking. Remove the chops to a cutting board and slice into thin strips. Arrange the strips over the salad greens already on the serving plates.

Drizzle the remaining dressing over the salads, sprinkle with chopped peanuts, and serve.

  • Yields: 2 servings
  • Preparation Time: 20 minutes