Salads Beyond Salads

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If someone were to ask me that most famous of foodie pop quiz questions—what would you eat for your last meal?—the answer would be ridiculously easy. A big, nutrient dense salad. I love salad. I love salad so much, it’s embarrassing. I don’t mean tiny, gourmet, appetizer sized plates of mesclun greens, a carefully prepared vegetable or two, and some vinaigrette. I mean big, hearty, generous bowls of greens and vegetables, mixed in with plant based proteins and carbs, all united by delicious and filling dressings, slabs of creamy avocado, or crunchy seeds. I’m sure I do have some sort of saturation point when it comes to salad, but if I do, I’ve never come close. I could eat it (and do eat it) again, and again, and again.

New York is a mecca of vegan and raw dining. There are dedicated eateries aplenty, and there are also countless vegan friendly eateries to explore. I do explore them, and I love trying new dishes, but the honest truth is that I often look forward to salad more than any other kind of dining experience when I come here, because the places that do salad do it so ridiculously well. Quintessence, Pure Food and Wine, Peacefood, and Angelica Kitchen? These are only a few of the places where you can find creative, satisfying, and beautiful bowls of green.

In the last few days, I’ve been lucky enough to eat at two of those places (Quintessence and Pure), and also to sample a new place, Ella Café, which is not a dedicated vegan or raw restaurant, nor even a salad joint, but did serve up a wonderful salad notwithstanding. I’ve been drowning in green, and that’s just where I like to be.

It all started on my second day home, when I met up with my friend Rose for dinner. I’ve written about Rose before; she’s a publishing friend, and we share the deep bond that comes with having experienced a particularly intense period of our lives together (22-26—such turbulent, important, alternately wonderful and terrifying years!). I love spending time with her, and had looked forward to dinner for weeks. I met Rose in Williamsburg, where she suggested we eat at Ella Café, a casual spot with a really nice garden area. I started my meal with a carrot, beet, celery, and pear juice:


And then ordered the avocado salad (avocado, apples, dried cranberries, greens). I had been torn between that and the lentil salad, which was apparently on the small side, so I asked if they could add lentils to the avo salad. They could! Important lesson for salad lovers: if the salad you’re eyeing looks kind of small, ask if something can be added to make it more filling. Restaurants are usually really kind about this.

I also got sides of grilled zucchini and asparagus. Both were delicious!

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It was a fantastic meal, both because the food was lovely (and 100% organic, too), but more importantly because it was so good to see Rose. I miss working down the hall from her in the old FSG building on Union Square; it seems like such a luxury to have ever had her that close!

The next day, I met up with another very cherished friend: JL. You’ve all been witness to the love affair that is JL and Gena. JL and I can share anything and everything with each other, from the hilarious to the serious. I admire how JL has reinvented her career and her life in dramatic ways in the last few years, and I so admire her work as an animal activist. She’s tireless, honest, passionate, and dynamic. In short, she’s a powerhouse, and she’s also an exceptional friend.

A friend who just so happened to have a Groupon to Quintessence! Quintessence is one of my favorite NYC eateries, but I rarely go there (mostly because it’s a little off the beaten path). I was so happy to get back. I got my two favorite dishes there. First, the “Peter’s Pot” soup (Blended tomato, yellow pepper, and cucumber soup, enriched with dulse, basil and a dash of propolis (NB: propolis is a bee product, so ask them to hold it, if you’re vegan)). Raw restaurants always know how to do raw soups perfectly, and this is no exception.


Then, a “Buddha Bowl” with kale, greens, spiralized zucchini, dehydrator “caremelized onions,” hemp seeds, avocado, red pepper, and the house dressing (which is magical, and I wish I knew the recipe!). Talk about an incredible salad!

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JL got the three course prefix, starting with mock tuna salad, then a spaghetti with raw meatballs:

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And we both split the dessert, which was an incredible pudding parfait with mango and strawberry. The vanilla layer had a young coconut base, I was sure. Yum!!

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And finally, only 24 hours later, I shared lunch with my friends from Food 52 at One Lucky Duck. Once again, though presented with a lot of wonderful raw and vegan options, I really wanted one of OLD’s salads. Because if any place knows how to do a salad right, it’s this one:

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Just look at that mountain! Greens, hemp seeds, guacamole, beet, carrot, jicama, lemon, avocado. And some fresh (amazing) coconut water, too.

It’s amazing how often you can eat a certain kind of food without losing your taste for it. When it comes to me and greens (and a little hempseed and avocado thrown in for good measure), it’s a lifelong love affair!

Before I go tonight, I just want to thank you all for your kind words on yesterday’s post. I’ve gotten used to sharing a lot of myself on this blog, but it occurs to me that this is only possible because I feel so much warmth and support from the community we’ve all created here at CR. See you all tomorrow.


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  1. My flatmate refers to them as ‘salads on steroids’! She makes big, juicy, overwhelming salads that just rock your world!

  2. I too have this love affair with all things salad! The more creative the better! Does anyone know a blog on creative salads? Alas, I am an expat living in Shanghai (orig Calif/Seattle) where creative salads are few and far between. Please keep up your beautiful blog. Love it! More creative salads please!!

  3. Hi Gina,

    This might sound silly but would love your thoughts (or direct me to someone maybe)> I can’t afford consults at all, but aam trying desperately to help myself. I have constipation, gas buildup in body, lethargy, everything…I’ve been brought to a Tipping point where things must change. Oddly I do eat “clean” (definitely not vegan though, eat a lot of fats personally), and something has to change. Can’t stand the stomach upset and gas buildup and reflux and constipation. Recently been seeing carrots n cake face up to her reality for eating for her health/colon comfort and i need to do that too…but not sure what path is right…seriously considering paleo but then I wonder if that would be wrong since i already eat so high fat, etc and have major problems.
    I don’t want to lose wieght either and seems like paleo results in that. Anyway, please pleae any thought? i just want this madness to end and my doctors are like staring at walls and I have no insurance and job loss.

  4. Thanks for the inspiration! Went to your site today wondering what to make for lunch and was inspired by that lovely raw Peter’s Pot soup. Wish I could have the original but instead I just threw tomatoes, peppers, and cucumber into the vitamix with a little salt, dulse flakes and sacha incha oil for a quick and wonderful soup. Super yum and I feel really invigorated too! Actually I can’t believe the energy boost it gave me. Now if only I could get the texture of my raw soups to be as smooth as they get in the restaurant… how do they do that I wonder?

  5. Gena, I have a salad related question for you. Are you a super-charged-chewer, or do you find you take three times longer than ‘ordinary’ people to finish a meal? The other options, that you don’t chew properly or that you or that you leave the salad unfinished, I’m going to assume are not the case.

    Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more addicted to salad. Now, my breakfasts, lunches, and most of my dinners are primarily salad. I absolutely love salad, and like you, instead of getting tired of it, seem to be getting more and more attracted to it. However, because I like to chew each mouthful well, it often will take me upwards of 1.5-2 hours to finish lunch. Not a problem when I’m at work and can munch at my desk long into the afternoon, but I feel like I inconvenience others at times if we’re eating out.

    Do you relate?

  6. The Buddha bowl is so gorgeous, it’s been in my head all weekend! When I had a friend over for a quick meal, I modeled our salads after it (though more Mediterranean), complete with spiralized cucumbers, grilled local herbed tofu, and little mounds of each prepared vegetable. Thanks for the inspiration!

  7. I loved our lunch together! And love that you just took me along on your other delicious meals…

  8. I just found your website today and LOVE it!! I have started to eat a big salad everyday for lunch and have grown tired after about a month. Thanks for the ideas to spice my salads up. BTY….. the white bean & spinach dip on one of the salads you featured in your 2010 ‘nutrient dense’ page really caught my eye. Do you have a recipe for that or is it store bought?

  9. looks delish! as i’ve gotten more into food the last few years, i’ve also gotten the itch to visit NY primarily to eat all the good food there! i’ll make it there one day!

  10. And oh, how you make the celebration of salad as enticing as anything could be!

    I did definitely note how spectacularly easy and delicious it is be vegan, and raw vegan, in New York. I could do it every day there without even thinking about it, unlike back in Canberra, where the word vegan never graces a restaurant menu (vegetarian is there, but cheeeeeeeese attacks!) Oh, the envy!

  11. I love salad and I’m inspired to make a version of that buddah bowl today!

    My latest obsession is nut butter salad…steamed kale and broccoli, raw greens, carrots, onions, cucumbers and red peppers with a squirt of lime, salt and a huge gob of nut butter or tahini. It’s amazing. I don’t even bother to make the dressing separately, just scoop it in. My bf thinks I’m kooky when I plop a mound of peanut butter on a salad but it’s so worth it…I don’t care if people think it’s too much, with salad I need that “nutrient density” and nut butter does it for me 🙂

  12. i eat a giant salad for one of my meals every single day or a blended version! i absolutely love a salad with multiple textures and hints of sweet, salty & savory in that giant bowl 🙂 i’ve become much better at making a salad a ‘meal.’ i think some of my friends are amazed at how many cups of greenery i can put down in a sitting but hey…we all have our vices right ;p

    jicama is my new fave addtion!

  13. I’m always subtracting meat from salads (what is up with most salads having meat in them at conventional restaurants?!), but for some reason, I’ve never thought to ask if I can add a new ingredient – what a good idea!

    Do you consider propolis vegan? I was surprised to see you mention it after your post about honey.

    • Oh man. Major fail. Skye, this is embarrassing, but I actually didn’t know what propolis was! I copied and pasted the soup ingredients from the website, having not really noticed it before; Quintessence is really marketed as a raw, vegan dining establishment (there is no raw dairy or raw egg or kefir or whatnot on the menu), and I’m actually still learning about a lot of really specialized raw food ingredients, so I assumed it was an herb. It sounds stupid, but there it is. They make soup to order there, so in the future, I’ll just request they leave it out! All goes to show that even longtime vegans have “d’oh!” moments.

      • I hope you don’t feel stupid! It doesn’t seem to be a common ingredient, and I only learned what it was recently (I don’t even remember how). Thank you for your honesty. I love your attitude about moving on from accidental consumption of non-vegan foods. Your post from last summer, , still resonates with me. (And I’m not even vegan!) 🙂

  14. Another salad lover here ! People make fun of me or just don’t believe me when I say I love to eat plain romaine lettuce leaves! Some think you are weight obsessed when munching on lettuce, but IT IS SO GOOD!
    I, honestly, find it much better than any chips! And I think a bad dressing can spoil a good salad. However, all your dressing are tasty ;). Carrot miso tahini is one of my fav dressing, along with maple syrup, balsamic vinegar dijon and hemp seed oil.

  15. oh i am more than glad that there are lots of salad foodies here.i often thought i am the only one in this world who would pick a simple huge salad instead of a cooked hearty dish as her main meal. I am just so much in love with salads, all the igredients, fresh veggies, different dressings… oh my.. if someone told me i could only eat salads for the rest of my life , 3 meals a day, I would actually enjoy it and try to make as many versions as possible. of course i also love my smoothies, soups and stews but nothing beats a huge plate packed with fresh nutritious veggies. aww.. i could go on forever. haha

    ps… thanks for anti spamming me! 🙂

  16. Ditto, ditto and ditto! I could eat salads multiple times a day until I die and continue to adore them too, and I plan on doing just that.

    All your eats look so delicious and nourishing! In Sydney Australia it is quite hard to find a quality meal sized salad 🙁 I can’t wait to visit New York.


  17. Jena, congrats on the Food52 gig! I love that site and can’t wait to see what you’ll add to the fold. I’ve found the audience there very curious about vegan cooking.

    I’ve heard good things about the salads at Sun In Bloom, but have yet to try. Have you been? Also, MOB on Atlantic has a very satisfying quinoa salad with beets, avo and crunchy pumpkinseeds. I love a good soba noodle salad. Anyone know of a decent one anywhere in town?!

    PS- Jena, I think you’d love my raw vegan blue cheese dressing


  18. I love salad so much, it’s embarrassing.–hahaha This made me smile, mostly because I know it’s true. I’ll have to try Ella’s! Hope to see you soon!

  19. I love me a big ol’ salad with lots of avo and a tasty dressing. I can eat them every day, sometimes for two meals, and never tire. That said, I must confess that my final meal would be pizza. Generic but true.

    Anyways, all of your salads look fantastic, especially the one from Quintessence. Why have I never added spiralized zucchini to my green salads? That’s another thing I love about salads, the endless possibilities. My latest discovery is dulse flakes. It just keeps getting better 🙂

    • Dulse flakes are the bomb! I totally agree, salads allow you to be so creative and with endless possibilities. Whoever said salad was boring clearly didn’t understand the true concept of salad as we green gobblers do.

  20. Oh Gena, that’s funny about what you’d eat for your last meal! I get it though… I’m so appreciative of blogging for the reason that we can see we aren’t alone in some of our food preferences, cooking ruts, etc. I used to think I liked salads “too” much. And then, when I was at Veg Summerfest, the salad bar was there for every meal and folks were grabbing salads for breakfast. I thought “I’m with my people”. 😉

    That salad with the caramelized onions… touches like that make salads an outrageously delicious experience – and of course the dressings! (I have a hunch you might try and replicate that house dressing!)

    • Ha! I agree — blogging allows us foodies with odd passions (salads) to bond. Our people, indeed 🙂

  21. I’m with you in the salad devotion. A big bowl of leafy greens with avocado and something crunchy always satisfies.

    It sounds like you spent a lot of time nourishing your soul this week as well as your body. What a perfect way to celebrate the brief break in your studies.


  22. My fav meal are salads as well.
    Most people think I’m lying when I say this or think its because I want to “diet” which is not the case.
    Salads are so satisfying warm salads and raw. You can add anything to them. I love my pumpkin and chickpea salad with loads of greens and avocado of course. I always include as many colors as possible and then stand back and admire how pretty is is before tucking in 🙂

    The main reason I want to travel to America is to go to wholefoods and the vegan resturants! I’m so glad to hear the there are more places that are vegan because 10 yrs ago there were hardly any compared to these days

  23. “Raw restaurants always know how to do raw soups perfectly, and this is no exception.” — it certainly looks amazing!

    And so does that strawberry/mango parfait -mmmm, so good!

  24. We share a similar love affair with salad! Nothing makes me as happy a good salad! 😉 these look great! Enjoy your time in the city! Xo

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