- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 10, 2004

I grow weary of food snobs who say they won’t eat salad from a plastic bag. It does not have as much flavor, they protest, as hand-torn lettuce from the head.

Although this may be an arguable point, in the grand scheme of things, what is more important? Eating more salads per week or shunning salad because it comes from a bag?

At our house, we have been eating more salads, no doubt about it, since this whole salad-bag technology took off.

We might eat spinach one night, arugula the next, then field greens, then coleslaw. It’s just so easy. You snip open the bag and pour. The only downfall I find is that the bags have a two- to three-day shelf life, so you need to plan and use the bag of greens within a couple of days.

What makes salad bags nice is that the vegetables are pre-washed and drained and that they are a blank canvas for you to create something magnificent on. In the spinach salad recipe that follows, you have a delicious combination of sweet, salty and tangy.

The salad goes well with a bowl of mushroom soup or gazpacho. Add crusty bread, and you’ve created an easy and healthy supper.

Five time-shaving tips for bagged salad:

• Add hot pasta, chopped tomatoes, your favorite oil-and-vinegar salad dressing, crumbled feta and basil for an entire meal from the salad bowl.

• Remember what makes a terrific salad: something green, something sweet, something crunchy, something tangy and something with which to dress the salad.

• Dress up Caesar salad in the bag with canned anchovies, frozen popcorn chicken pieces, a slice of grilled salmon or steamed shrimp. Or add avocado cubes to the salad and a squeeze of lime juice and dash of cumin powder to the dressing.

• When making salads ahead of time, place heavy ingredients, such as mushrooms, tomatoes, carrots and avocado, in the bottom of the bowl. Add a little of the dressing to marinate them. Then dump the bag of salad on top, cover with a wet paper towel and refrigerate.

• Try pre-sliced mushrooms. They’re a huge salad time saver.

Menu for salad night: spinach and orange salad with sesame vinaigrette, your favorite mushroom soup or gazpacho, crusty bread, brownies.

Spinach and orange salad with sesame vinaigrette

The preparation time is 10 minutes.

1 6-ounce bag spinach, leaves torn into pieces

1 8-ounce package pre-sliced mushrooms

1 11-ounce can mandarin orange sections, drained

1/4 cup pre-crumbled feta or blue cheese

2 tablespoons pre-chopped pecans

SESAME VINAIGRETTE:

1/4 cup bottled Italian salad dressing

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

teaspoon Asian (dark) sesame oil

Place spinach leaves in a large serving bowl. Scatter the mushrooms, orange sections, cheese and pecans on top.

For the vinaigrette, pour the salad dressing into a small mixing bowl, then whisk in the honey, soy sauce and sesame oil. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad; toss to coat the ingredients well. Serve immediately. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

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