Green salads that feature a protein?
January 19, 2011 5:52 PM   Subscribe

We're attempting a very low-carb diet. I'd like some good recipes for greens-based salads that feature a substantial protein. Please share your favorites!

What I have in mind for the protein in these salads is something more than just nuts (although nuts may be included too). So I'm thinking: chicken, tofu, eggs, fish and beef. I'm very skeptical about salads with pork, unless you feel you have one that's really, really good.

Salads that rely heavily on fruit are generally a no-no, although a little bit is ok. Same goes for sweet dressings.
posted by kitcat to Food & Drink (40 answers total) 99 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Bonus points if anyone can tell me what might have been in a wonderful salad a roommate once made. I only saw it; never ate it. I remember bacon and sliced egg, maybe olives, maybe even pork? This salad is what inspired my question. On the other hand, this may not have been an 'established' type of salad, but rather something she invented.
posted by kitcat at 5:56 PM on January 19, 2011

Chickpeas are awesome in salads, and one of the best canned beans as far as texture goes.

We like to throw together a salad with chickpeas, greens, hard boiled eggs, and then maybe some steamed green beans (cold). Sort of like a salad nicoise. Good with a mustardy vinaigrette.
posted by rossination at 6:00 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

There is the super-classic and always delicious Cobb Salad, which can easily be modified a little bit this way or that way (e.g., I usually make mine with better greens than is in the "classic")
posted by brainmouse at 6:00 PM on January 19, 2011

I've started making a spinach and scallop salad lately that's really good. I was inspired after having something similar at Macaroni Grill. A little garlic (roasted is great), a little olive oil, brown the scallops and cook the spinach till it wilts a tad. You could probably add bacon to it and it would be even better.
posted by jeffkramer at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Your roommate's salad sounds like a variation of a Nicoise Salad. I've had one with bacon before.
posted by Laura Macbeth at 6:01 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cook some flank steak (to no more than to medium; it's better when it's a little red) and throw it in the refrigerator until it's cold. Slice it as thin as humanly possible, and add it to any "greens" salad. It tastes great with Italian or oil-and-vinegar dressing, and I think it's the best meat for a cold salad.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 6:03 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Mixed greens (I like baby spinach, Romaine hearts, frisee, and red leaf lettuce), grilled chicken breast (sliced), dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts, and balsamic vinaigrette. You could do some goat or feta cheese if you like.
posted by cooker girl at 6:06 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

A nice dark greens salad with orange slices, gorgonzola cheese, and some glazed pecans in a balsamic-based vinaigrette.
posted by answergrape at 6:08 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I just had a salad at a cafe that also happened to be rather low carb -- romaine, radicchio, smoked turkey, blue cheese, walnuts, cherry tomatoes and a raspberry vinaigrette (could sub regular red wine if that's too high in carbs).
posted by peacheater at 6:09 PM on January 19, 2011

Secret: you can put anything you want in a salad.

And if you want to figure out pork on a salad - prosciutto, obviously!

I'm also a huge fan of the pear/bleu cheese/charcuterie salad combo, on mesclun. Works with apples, as well. For the meat any of the typical cured meats you have access to will work. Prosciutto is the classic, though. A variation with bresaola would be unreal.

What about Serrano or other Spanish ham on a bed of mixed greens with a little grated manchego and some good olives? I would eat the hell out of that.
posted by Sara C. at 6:10 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

My favorite:

Romaine lettuce, a few mixed nuts, roasted chick peas, and tofu.

Tofu: Use Extra Firm Tofu. Stir fry the tofu with curry powder, garlic, salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and alot of pam (I also use the Trader Joes all seasoning mix for this and sometimes I add a little Walden Farms calorie/carb free dressings). It's ready when it starts to brown.

Chick Peas: Bake a can of chick peas (without the water) with any spices you like (I like mine to be extra spicy) and a little olive oil. Bake at 350 until crispy.

I would presume that you would need to keep you chick peas to 1/2 cup if you are doing low carb. You can probably eat the entire package of tofu though (16 ounces or so)
posted by duddes02 at 6:11 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

One easy way to add protein is to incorporate tofu; flavored and baked tofu (texture is similar to hard cheese) in the place of croutons and salad dressings that use silken tofu (perhaps with a miso flavor base) as a thickener.
posted by answergrape at 6:13 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

radish and avocado with cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil is delicious.

For a neat presentation effect, halve the avocado, remove the stone and skin, and then slice it almost but not quite up to the stem, leaving enough to hold the slices together as you fan them out. I can never get more than three or four slices per fan, but I've seen an entire avocado opened up into just two fans.
posted by d. z. wang at 6:16 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I cooked up a few boneless pork loin chops tonight, and am planning on slicing some of them thinly and putting them in salads for lunches for the rest of the week. So, you can totally put pork in salad (non-bacon pork, that is).
posted by rtha at 6:28 PM on January 19, 2011

I love chickpeas in my salads, folks, but if someone is going very low carb, they're not a good choice.

Try a devilled egg approach to a green salad.

1. Hard cook and mash several eggs, adding real mayo to taste, plus salt, pepper and harmonious herbs and spices. (I sometimes use cumin and hot paprika, sometimes dill weed. Try whatever you like.)

2. Add thinly sliced veggies (e.g. peppers, green onions, mushrooms) and some coarsely chopped tomatoes or halved grape tomatoes to the egg mixture. This will blend flavours and thin things out a little. Add some olive oil for taste, nutrition and further thinning.

3. Chiffonade (thinly slice) a huge pile of greens you like to eat raw. Mix into egg-fat-veggie combo. If it doesn't look green enough once you're done, chiffonade and add more greens.

This won't be a greens salad with bits of things in it: this will be a things salad with a lot of greens mixed into it. Two advantages over the classic green salad: it will keep very well in the fridge for a couple of days, and every forkful will be easy to eat without the usual lumps, dangling leaves and salad dressing drippiness.
posted by maudlin at 6:43 PM on January 19, 2011 [14 favorites]

On occasion I will spend a few hours on the weekend making a roasted chicken.

Delicious on its own, but also delicious when spread it out on pretty much any kind of salad throughout the week. Especially good on a spinach salad with feta cheese, tomato, and walnuts. Dress with pepper, balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Point being, make a big roast chicken, add it to your salads. It's the protien that goes for miles.
posted by negatendo at 6:45 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Leftover BBQ/grilled/roasted chicken on a bed of arugula or mesclun with strawberries and fresh goat cheese. Top with balsamic glaze.

I know you mentioned no fruit, but it's a great combo. Also fruity-but-good in the summertime, BBQ some chicken and ripe peaches, coarsely chop and add lots of sliced basil and cracked black pepper. Eat this on its own or serve on top of greens.
posted by shrieking violet at 6:47 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

maudlin: "Try a devilled egg approach to a green salad. "

If you're not an egg person, any kind of crumbled, cubed or thinly sliced cooked meat or chicken should work here, too.
posted by maudlin at 6:48 PM on January 19, 2011

If you're going tofu in a salad, I'd recommend buying the pre-baked marinated versions. Trader Joe's makes a couple of fantastic brands.

I've also started buying marinated tempeh strips for use in salads. If you've not tried tempeh, don't be afraid! It's tasty. This brand is widely available in regular grocery stores here and all the varieties I've tried are excellent.
posted by something something at 6:50 PM on January 19, 2011

Riffing on Sara C.'s comment that you can put anything you want in salad, I really like this old "Mark's Daily Apple" Choose Your Own Salad Adventure article -- I rarely end up making the same salad twice.

Regarding pork: I've got two suggestions for you. One, I sometimes use chorizo sausage sliced thin as my protein. Two, if I have a more conventional protein, sometimes I will add a little (diced) bacon. To make it easy to prepare, I usually cook one or two pounds of bacon at a time and freeze it. I put it on foil on cookie sheets and bake it in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 400F, then drain off the grease and package it a couple of strips per ziploc bag and freezing it. It only takes a minute to warm it up in the microwave and dice it for the salad.

Finally, not exactly a salad: throw two vegetables and a protein in a skillet with a fat (butter, olive oil, etc.) and cook it all up. I routinely make this using chard or kale as one of my veggies. Low carb, delicious, and a change of pace from a cold salad.
posted by kovacs at 7:00 PM on January 19, 2011 [6 favorites]

Sauteed kale with caramelized onions and poached eggs on top.
posted by joan_holloway at 7:07 PM on January 19, 2011 [4 favorites]

My favorite salad is a bunch of lettuce (I like Boston lettuce or romaine), one sliced hard boiled egg, sliced cucumbers, grape tomatoes, and a sprinkling of crumbled feta.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:27 PM on January 19, 2011

I can't vouch for the recipe, but this might be the salad you are thinking of. The ones I've eaten included using the bacon grease to wilt the spinach.
posted by gjc at 7:42 PM on January 19, 2011

Also: go to the deli section, or a real deli, and pick out a delicious meat. Have them slice it 3/16 or 1/4 thick. Take it home and dice it into any salad. Instant deliciousness.
posted by gjc at 7:43 PM on January 19, 2011

I'm not sure what your objection to pork is, but my dinner tonight was baby romaine, bell pepper, tomato, pepperoni, canadian bacon, mozzarella, and parmesan with a vinaigrette tonight (I've been craving pizza like mad). I was going to add onion, but the one I have right now is kind of strong.

Also, adding beans to greens is great. People have mentioned chickpeas, but kidney beans and lentils are also good. Beans can be kind of carby, though, so use at your discretion.
posted by Aleen at 8:00 PM on January 19, 2011

Proofreading FTW!
posted by Aleen at 8:00 PM on January 19, 2011

I put almonds in a ziploc and pound it with a tenderizer hammer to add to salad. Easier to scoop up than whole almonds and tastier. Plus fun.

Leftover salmon from the night before is my current favorite. With the smashed almonds. And grapefruit.
posted by vitabellosi at 8:08 PM on January 19, 2011

One of my a favorite salads consists of mixed greens, grated carrot, some sliced green onion, toasted sesame seeds and for protein, some steamed edamame. The dressing is one part lime juice, one part balsamic vinegar and one part soy sauce. You could also add toasted sesame oil.

An easy way to prepare firm or extra-firm tofu for salad (or stir fry or anything really) is to cut it into cubes about 3/4-inch, lightly salt the cubes and bake in an oiled pan at 350 F until the tofu a texture you like - about 25 or 30 minutes usually. Stir/flip over the cubes once or twice.
posted by zinfandel at 8:11 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

I eat this several times a week.

hearts of romaine
chicken sausage
hard-boiled egg
sunflower seeds
light or regular mini babybel cheese
balsamic vinaigrette

(I also add shredded carrots, 2 colors of peppers, mushrooms, cucumber. sometimes radishes. It is a very satisfying salad.)
posted by pinky at 8:24 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Watercress, cooked eggs, bacon bits and majonnaise! Also tastes good with steamed asparagus instead of watercress.

I don't know whether you left out cheese on purpose? It's perfect on salad and its high fat content shouldn't worry you when you're on a low carb diet. I like napa cabbage, finely chopped, with cheddar or goude cheese cubes, oil/vinegar dressing and a sprinkle of paprika.

Another favorite: Chicken liver, fried in butter, deglazed with a tiny bit of sherry, on red leaf salad - heaven.

(If you're still in the induction phase, you should probably avoid some of the stuff mentioned upthread, like glazed pecans, cranberries, balsamic vinegar and chickpeas. You can use that stuff later on.)
posted by The Toad at 8:33 PM on January 19, 2011

Longtime low-carber here. My two favorite salads at home are baby spinach with avocado, red bell pepper, and grilled salmon (or even a can of high-quality tuna), and baby spinach with chicken, jack cheese, and chopped toasted pecans. Sometimes I'll sub kale for all or part of the spinach.
posted by chez shoes at 8:59 PM on January 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

The best low-carb salad ever is larp/larb/laab, which is a ground pork/chicken dish from Laos or Thailand. I'm not a huge pork fan either, but it's great. It's especially easy to cook if you make up a larger batch of the seasoning paste (minced lemongrass, roasted garlic, etc.) and keep portions in the freezer so all you have to do is wilt some onions/shallots in a frying pan, open up the paste and brown it with the meat, and add in some minced mint/cilantro (half in the pan, half as garnish) and you're done. Super flavorful, as lean as you want it (but has some good fats to fill you up and hold the flavor), all that.

The paste is the most complex part of the dish, but between a few substitutions and making the paste ahead of time, it can be a very easy dish to whip up on short notice.
posted by Madamina at 9:18 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

baby spinach
grilled and then diced chicken patty from Trader Joes
lots of whatever veggies
teaspooon of olive oil
spice to taste

but I like carbs because they help me lose weight
posted by tarvuz at 9:19 PM on January 19, 2011

My very favorite salad of all time is:

Baby spinach
A sliced egg
Substantial quantities of crumbled bacon
Grape tomatoes
Shredded mozzarella cheese
Poppyseed dressing

I could eat that salad every damn day.
posted by KathrynT at 9:21 PM on January 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nicoise salad. My favourite variation of it has baby spinach, cooked green beans, tomatoes, olives, sliced hard-boiled eggs, baby potatoes and canned tuna. You could leave out the potatoes without affecting it adversely, and it's tasty and surprisingly filling. I'm hungry for it just thinking about it now :)
posted by andraste at 10:06 PM on January 19, 2011

Here's my favourite:

1 head fennel, sliced extremely thin
1 block feta, cut into small cubes
1 tsp dill
1/4 cup olive oil
1/8 cup white wine vinegar.

Toss, chill and serve. You could bump this up with a bit of chicken, but honestly, the feta is lots of protein right there.
posted by LN at 6:27 AM on January 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is tuna ok? Nicoise salad is my favorite full-meal leafy (somewhat, along with tons of awesome produce) salad.
posted by ifjuly at 8:10 AM on January 20, 2011

My favorite salads to bring to work are big green/veggie salads with 4 oz of protein on top. I alternated between:
- Frozen cooked shrimp (easy purchase at the store, and they'd thaw by lunchtime)
- Canned tuna
- Canned salmon
- Flavored tofus - again an easy purchase at the store, I liked the pesto, Indian spice, and Mexican spice with spinach ones best.

You'll note that the common factor in all of these is that None of them involve cooking the protein, so they're all easy-peasy!
posted by ldthomps at 8:41 AM on January 20, 2011 [3 favorites]

Chicken pan fried then dipped in buffalo-wing sauce is awesome on greens.
posted by talldean at 1:54 PM on January 20, 2011

While I was on the South Beach Diet phase 1, I ate these salads quite often and enjoyed them:

Tuna and Iceberg Salad

Asparagus Salad With Hard-Boiled Eggs

Indonesian-Style Chicken Salad

Frisée Salad With Poached Egg

I love the recipes featured on the New York Times health section. Enjoy!
posted by loquat at 4:07 PM on January 20, 2011

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