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8 Ways To Make A Leafless Salad

Yes, we know, salads are traditionally defined as servings of raw or cooked greens, right? But what if you don’t fancy leafy veggies that much and still want to eat clean? Try these non-green but just-as-healthy salad “bases” for a change — some are no-cooking-required recipes too.

1. Eggplant

Go for roundish baby eggplants and not the longer local brinjals, as the former cook more quickly. Cube the eggplant and steam until the skin and flesh turn translucent. It’s best to consume this as soon as it’s cooked. Take inspiration from Japanese cuisine and add sesame dressing, plus a pinch of sea salt.

As steamed eggplant is soft and mushy, you’d want to give your dish more texture by contrasting it with something sweet and crunchy like apples, walnuts and celery.

2. Sweet potato

This used to be considered “poor man’s food” but now that we know it’s a treasure trove of vitamins and minerals, including anti-ageing vitamin A and cholesterol-lowering potassium, make a nutritious (and more importantly, delicious) meal out of it.

Shop for the golden variety instead of the more commonplace purple species. The golden taters cost more but are softer and sweeter, and also cook faster – which is the main reason why you’d want to whip up a “salad” in the first place, no?

Steam until you can poke a chopstick or a fork through the flesh easily. Sweet potatoes are starchy, fibrous and, erm, sweet but in an earthy way. So don’t add anything similar to your power bowl or it would be monotonous on your palate. Instead, think something fruity and juicy like canned pineapple slices, cherry tomatoes and grapes. For dressing, you don’t need anything more than good extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

3. Tau kwa

Before hipster vegan cafes came along, we Asians were already eating soy products as our mains. To make a tau kwa (tofu is too soft for this purpose) salad, simply slice one into squares and pan-fry until they turn brown and crispy. Throw in a hard-boiled egg, some bacon bits (I like to use bak kwa because it’s ready made) and dried cranberries. This will keep you feeling full for some time and it’s just that little sinful but oh-so-moreish!

4. Pumpkin

This has a hard texture so you’ll need a little more time to prep it. Steam until it’s semi-soft (or it will turn too mushy), then cut into slices or cubes, and pan-fry with fish sauce, cut red chillies, brown sugar and lime juice. This goes well with a handful of dried raisins or cranberries as well as cherry tomatoes and celery.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa salads are everywhere these days but it’ll cost you a lot less to make one at home. I’ve found that the easiest way to cook this super grain is to pour the amount you need into a saucepan and add enough water to cover all of the grain. Cook at high heat and then simmer, adding water as soon as you see that the liquid in the pan has been absorbed by the quinoa. Now, this grain is bland and can even smell unpleasantly earthy. Season it with fish sauce, sesame oil, grated ginger, cut red chillies and dried coriander. Wait, it’s not a meal yet (because who wants to eat hamster food, really?) – drop in peeled prawns, tomatoes and salted egg yolk for an Asian take on the quinoa bowl.

6. Tomatoes

These are usually used as part of the salad, not eaten as the salad itself. But if you buy heirloom tomatoes which come in various shades and even “flavours”, they can make a light, refreshing mid-day snack. Drizzle olive oil, add a pinch of sea salt flakes and top off with chopped mint leaves. The bonus: no cooking needed! But if you need more sustenance, pop in a hard-boiled egg and cheddar cheese cubes.

7. Watermelon

You’ve probably eaten a watermelon salad as a starter in a chi-chi restaurant. To make your own on a humid day, cube the flesh of a ripe red melon. In a bowl, top it with pine nuts, crumbled feta cheese and chopped mint leaves. Leave in the fridge for half an hour and serve chilled. It’s thirst-quenching but the nuts and cheese will turn what is basically a fruit platter into a somewhat savoury snack.

8. Avocado

Another no-cook recipe: avocado makes a substantial base as it’s “buttery” and filling. The only thing is you can’t really eat an entire bowl of this oily fruit without feeling ill. It will go well with pineapples, cherry tomatoes, dried raisins and cranberries, and a spoonful of honey.

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