You’ve probably seen the irritating woman doing the Wendy’s commercials for their new “fresh salads.” She smiles like the woman on the Dentyne Ice gum commercials and speaks as if she’s had a bad experience with Botox.
What confused me most about Wendy’s advertising is the fact that their salads look, well, boring.
Who hasn’t had some semblance of a salad with greens, chicken, cheese, some random sorry-looking cherry tomatoes, a handful of greasy croutons and a few bacon specks? Don’t they have any ideas? Find the guy who created the Frosty and ask him what he thinks. He’s a genius.
To be fair, I went to a Wendy’s drive-through and ordered the new BLT chicken salad (and a Frosty). Thus began an interesting back-and-forth confusion between me and the woman on the microphone.
As I’m staring at the salads advertised on the price list, she tells me not that they are out of salads, but that they don’t make any. Hmm. 10 minutes later, I finally got my salad while maintaining my normal Frosty junkie-self.
Consensus on the BLT salad? It was good, but about a two on the creative scale and a three on the “was it worth it scale.” I think salads have a wimpy reputation even without places like Wendy’s giving it a sad little pat on the back.
As I spooned with Frosty, I made a list of some heartier foods, like steak, hoagies, burgers and pasta.
Who’s to say you can’t rip open a bag of romaine, throw on some mushrooms and put some chopped-up T-bone in there? Or top mixed greens with cooked pasta left over from penne with vodka sauce?
Salads don’t have to be just a diet food anymore. In fact, pour on a 2-ounce packet of Newman’s Own ranch dressing and that’s almost 270 calories right there that you probably didn’t think about. Hopefully, you don’t like to drown your vegetables and stick with the 0.5-ounce serving size.
Ever order a green salad from a restaurant and end up with a bowl of nearly white, watery iceberg lettuce? Think about it, what is an iceberg made of? I want nothing else on my cheeseburgers sometimes, but normally, I like my water to come from a Brita pitcher, thanks.
The variety of lettuce and salad mix types at the grocery store is amazing. Dole comes up with more and more varieties, but many actually have the basic mix of shredded carrots, iceberg, romaine and sometimes bitter greens mixed in.
If you like to think of the greens in salad as a springboard and blank slate setting the stage for the other ingredients, romaine is a crisp, neutral choice that lets other flavors come through. Hickory is a spicy, leafy green that goes great with sharp and tangy vinaigrette like raspberry or peach.
Acid in the dressing masks the bitterness of lettuce so you just taste the flavors, not the aftertaste. Baby spinach is a little firmer than its regular spinach cousin, but also sweeter.
Boston Bibb or regular Bibb lettuce is a tender butter head lettuce that is a little more expensive than romaine, but with a smoother flavor.
Once you have a good foundation in a salad, the rest of what you can add is endless. One of the things to be mindful of, obviously, is the temperature of the ingredients you top the greens with.
Hot, fried foods don’t really mix with cold, delicate salad greens, but cool them down and you’re good to go.
I love fruit in my salads, so the super cheap cans from nearby Cousin’s Supermarket are perfect. And who doesn’t love grilled chicken and hardboiled eggs in salads like from Richie’s Deli at the Pad? Don’t let the Wendy’s woman influence your taste for a real salad.
Brianna Barry can be reached at email@example.com.