The Caveman Salad Solution: Fast Food for Little Gourmets

May 21, 2009 by

TV Caveman

REAL CAVEMEN eat salad with fruit, even though it may sound like a bit of a girly lunch.

“I am all about salads with fruit now,” I told my husband last week during our lunch at home while our kids were at school. I had fixed for the two of us Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Walnuts. It was dressed with orange juice, lime juice, raspberry vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil. It also included a little dry ricotta salata cheese.  It was offbeat, but tasty, I thought.

A week or two earlier, I had made Watermelon Gazpacho. Gazpacho is usually basically a raw vegetable salad (no fruit) in soup form.  This one included a pound each of watermelon and cucumber and three pounds of tomatoes.  It was also a bit weird, but good, in my opinion.

My husband agreed that yes, I was all about salads with fruit, but that this kind of thing was maybe, possibly, not his most absolute favorite kind of thing.

“You’ll get used to it,” I told him. He used to not like cilantro or pumpkin soup, either. Tastes change as we get older, as my mom used to tell me.

The very next evening, undeterred, I served baby spinach with jicama (a crisp, juicy Mexican root vegetable) and fresh pineapple with cilantro vinaigrette. My daughter, who had liked my Watermelon Gazpacho, remarked, in a very like-mother-like-daughter moment, “You’re all about salads with fruit now.”

I guess it is hard to miss. My current culinary obsession is the Caveman Diet*—in particular, the Caveman salad.

Raw greens and other raw vegetables and fruit are the staples of the Caveman Salad. Nuts, eggs or some cold fish or meat are perfect additions. Cooked vegetables or small amounts of cheese, while not strictly top rank, are tolerated for the sake of variety and flavor.

Other examples: baby greens with roasted asparagus, Golden Delicious apple and a little shaved Gruyere cheese, topped with an olive oil, rice vinegar, honey and garlic dressing. And an old favorite of ours:  spinach salad with mango and candied pecans, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

So what’s so great about vegetable and fruit salads?

1. Raw vegetables, fruits and nuts are optimal foods. They are far more nutrient-dense than the bread, noodles, potatoes and rice that most of us eat so much of.

2. Less cooking required. It’s already too hot here in Texas much of the time to do much cooking.

3. Raw fruits and vegetables are especially refreshing in hot Texas weather.

4. Salads are some of the easiest dishes to prepare.

5. Also some of the quickest.

6. The recipes usually don’t require perfect execution.

7. The variations of ingredients, dressings and seasonings for salads are limitless. The horizons spread far beyond the classic American salad: iceberg lettuce with maybe some chopped tomatoes or peppers or grated carrots and some bottled salad dressing.

8. They taste great.

Just a few other suggestions that I’ve used myself for salad ingredients:

Greens: watercress, endives, escarole, mache, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard

Cooked vegetables:  green or yellow beans, broccoli, carrots, beets, mushrooms, roasted peppers

Raw vegetables: jicama, kohlrabi, avocados, fennel, zucchini

Nuts: pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios

Fruit: oranges, pears, peaches, olives

The onion family: red, yellow or white onions, scallions, shallots, garlic, chives

Herbs: parsley, tarragon, chervil, basil, mint

Critters: tuna, smoked salmon, shrimp, anchovies, chicken, roast beef, ham

A good recipe is the key to a tasty mix. A lot of my recipes come from my four miniature Bon Appétit cookbooks or my 2008 Food & Wine cookbook. Recipes mentioned here or my variations on them are available online or upon request.

*The Caveman Diet is composed of the food the earliest humans are theorized to have eaten, before cooking was introduced: vegetables (loads of greens and roots), fruits, nuts, eggs and the flesh of critters.  These optimally nourishing foods are what could be hunted or gathered fresh, without cooking, farming, raising animals, or long-term food storage or preservation. The list excludes milk products and all the other less-perfect foods that have to be cooked: bean and lentils, peanuts, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and grains like rice and wheat. It also excludes all processed junk foods and fast foods, of course.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 20 May 2009 / All rights reserved

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on June 18, 2010.