You have likely heard of statement jewelry. Ladies, you may have even purchased a piece from time to time. It is that single piece that sets your outfit apart from others; it announces your presence as you walk into a room. Have you ever thought about how your meal can make as strong a statement?

Please welcome “statement salads” into your culinary language. It is a term Rachael Ray recently began using on her daytime cooking show. For all practical purposes, a statement salad is a salad hearty enough to be served as the main course for dinner. However, the true concept goes beyond a simple salad; a statement salad should stand out. It should be something unique and boisterous; something that calls your family or guests to the dinner table simply by its presence.

Statement salads make entertaining easy

If you love to entertain and want to try something new or keep things simple, a statement salad will accomplish both. Instead of serving the traditional three or five courses for dinner, a single salad laid out on a charcuterie board or made in a large pasta serving bowl will set the evening apart. Serve homemade bread or rolls alongside the salad and end the evening with dessert and a signature cocktail, and your guests will leave happy — and full!

How to create your own statement salad

Statement salads must be substantial enough to satisfy a hungry group so think of your favorite meals and how you can transform them into a sumptuous main course salad. The same combinations that go well together on a dinner plate, on a sandwich or on a pizza will work in a statement salad.

Start with a variety of greens mixed together. Choose from Boston or bibb lettuce, kale, romaine, iceberg, red and green leaf lettuce, even basil and cilantro leaves. For a peppery bite, add arugula. Add spinach for a more earthy flavor. Grilled radicchio or baby bok choy adds a charred flavor while mixing in red or green cabbage will add crunch.

Meats that are bite-sized or tender enough to cut with a fork are appropriate, but not required. Meats can be grilled, fried, roasted or poached. Think about a grilled chicken breast cut into cubes, pan-fried chicken tenders or boneless buffalo wings, roasted pork loin or slow-cooked pulled pork, thinly sliced steak or poached salmon. Any of these will make the traditional salad more than just a salad.

Anything goes with fruits and vegetables as long as the combination is palatable. Use roasted root vegetables like carrots and parsnips with grilled chicken. Transform a crispy chicken sandwich into a statement salad using pan-fried chicken tenders, grape tomatoes, sweet onion slices, crumbled bacon, shredded cheese, zesty croutons and thousand island dressing. Grilled asparagus, pearl onions and pickled green beans pair well with poached salmon.

If you incorporate cheese, use shredded or crumbled versions of your favorites to make eating easier. Flavored goat cheese adds a mild tanginess while crumbled blues add some bite. Feta goes a long way for a Greek or Mediterranean inspired statement salad. Cheddar and jack cheeses pair well with chicken while a buttery cheese like Havarti pairs well with salmon. The familiar mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses will work with Italian or antipasto style salads.

To create a dressing for your salad, think about condiments that you love on sandwiches or dipping sauces that go with your favorite finger-foods. The dressing can be as simple as blending chipotle peppers or salsa with your favorite ranch dressing to complement Mexican flavors or creating a BBQ sauce vinaigrette to accompany a salad topped with pulled pork.

The main ingredient in a statement salad is creativity. Combinations and flavors are only as limited as what you dream up. If you want to top an antipasto salad with chicken parmesan, go for it! A nice Chianti and Italian cream cake will top off a fabulous meal and fun evening with friends.

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Niki Davis can be reached at rootedinfoods@gmail.com. You can find more recipes and food history on her blog Rooted In Foods at www.rootedinfoods.com.


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