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Smart Salads

Smart Salads

Martin Breslin

Director for Culinary Operations
Harvard University Dining Services
Cambridge, MA

“Our students really enjoy the grain salads that we serve, and we serve a few different ones. The Barley and Mushroom Salad can be found on the salad bar, and I've seen students pairing it up with fish, or piling it on top of grains. The pearl barley in the salad has a really good taste and is healthy option.”

Sue Sussman

Network Retail Business Manager
New York-Presbyterian Hospital
New York, NY

“A long time ago, someone gave me some very good advice about salad bars: You could have 40 things on a salad bar, but if they're the same 40 things every day, people get sick of it. But if you have ten things, and change it periodically, people feel like they have more choice.

“Our Sizzlin' Salads are really popular. They require multiple burners going at once. There are one or two chefs there, depending on how busy it is. They'll start with the first person, say they want broccoli, mushrooms and onions. The broccoli will take longer, so they add that to the pan and then get started on the next person in line. If you were to put the mushroom and broccoli in the pan together, either the mushroom would get mushy or the broccoli wouldn't get done. This is why, on a station like this, you have to have people who know how to cook.

“We have choices of proteins: shrimp, boneless/skinless chicken, beef strips, tofu and roasted pork.

“There's always garlic and oil. But they always will ask if the customer wants garlic, because it's a work environment. In the summer, we add more fruit in the station. We're big on trying new ingredients but are willing to throw them out of the rotation if they don't work. It's a great way to use up extra product.

“For the grab-and-go style salads, we sell the same standards and then mix it up with a different special every day. It's that same principle of feeling like there's something new. If you mix it up, people get excited: ‘Oh, the Greek Salad is back!’”

Mary R. Harryman

Director of Child Nutrition Services
Pasadena Independent School District
Pasadena, TX

“We offer a lot of salads, but we do not do salad bars anymore. With kids, you can imagine the sanitation and general mischief issues! Also, portion size becomes an issue. If we pre-pack the salad, we know how much of each required component it contains to make it a reimbursable meal, so free and reduced price students are able to get the same salads as the paid students do. Also, this way, there are no ‘over serving’ pricing problems that can occur at the register.

“We use salads as side dishes and main dishes. A few of the side dish salads are: Hamburger Salad Cup (lettuce, tomato and sliced pickles); Grape Tomatoes and Cucumber Coins; and Veggie Dippers.

“The students' favorites for main dish salads are: Chef Salad (mixed greens, tomato, deli meats, eggs, and carrots); Spicy Chicken Salad (spicy breaded chicken on mixed greens with tomato and sharp cheddar cheese); and Taco Salad with ground beef. As far as dressings go, Low Fat Ranch is by far the number-one student favorite.

“This summer, we'll be experimenting with some new salads. We sometimes get summer school students to sample for us as a focus group to test student acceptability.”

Leslie Bonci

Director of Sports Nutrition in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Pittsburgh, PA

“Whatever you can imagine to put together — that can be a salad. I don't have a problem with bagged salad, but it takes the imagination out of it. If you're eating a more creative salad, you have all these sensations: sweet, tart, chewy, crunchy…not to mention all that health benefit in a bowl.

“When I make salads for the Steelers or the Pirates, I take their eating habits into account, and make salads with flavors they like — not just lettuce. The components of salad can be healthy, but they don't have to be boring. Broccoli in a salad looks a lot more inspiring than just broccoli alone. Athletes also benefit from the monounsaturated fats in each bowl, either in olive oil, or another way would be nuts and seeds.

“I like to add things like dried tart cherries. I use cashews or almonds, and if I have time, I toast the nuts. The cherries can add a great contrast when I pair them with dark greens, like baby spinach. And then, visually, I like to add something orange. The baby mandarin oranges, or mango, if it's in season, look so pretty with the cherries.

“I don't do creamy dressings. I think if you have such nice flavors, why cover them up? You can make a citrus vinaigrette very easily with, say, orange juice, olive oil, a little thyme and a little tarragon. If I have time, I'll grate a little orange rind into the vinaigrette.”


Barley and Mushroom Salad

YIELD: 24 servings


1½ oz. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. brown mustard
4½ oz. olive oil
Salt and pepper

2 qts. water
as needed vegetable base
1 lb. pearl barley
13 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced
7½ oz. roasted red onion, chopped
1½ oz. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. salt

1. For the vinaigrette: Whisk together the vinegar, honey, and mustard. Slowly add the oil while whisking, until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Makes about 7 oz.)

2. In a pot, mix together the water with enough vegetable base to make a broth (follow manufacturer's directions on quantity).

3. Bring the broth to a boil and add the barley.

4. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the barley is tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

5. Drain any excess liquid and spread the barley on a sheet pan to cool.

6. Sauté the mushrooms in oil until tender.

7. Mix them into the cooled barley, along with the onion, parsley, salt, and vinaigrette. Adjust the seasoning as desired.

Recipe: Harvard Dining Services.

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