For Nate Appleman, a great salad is a bit of a moving target. And it never includes mesclun mix. Ever.
It is the worst thing ever and I refuse to eat or serve it, said Appleman, a star of Food Networks The Next Iron Chef and chef for Chipotle Mexican Grill. Fifteen years ago mesclun mix was something special. Now it is generic and mixed so far in advance that inevitably some of the lettuces start to rot and ruins the whole thing.
As for what he does include... It varies.
A great salad for me is all about balance. That balance changes throughout the year and usually depends on what is in season and the weather outside, Appleman said in an e-mail interview. I tend to eat lighter in the summer, so the salad tends to be the meal and during the winter it usually accompanies something heavier.
And whatever the time of year, his inspiration starts when shopping.
The process for me when creating a salad is allowing the ingredients to dictate what is in the salad. It always starts with a trip to the farmers market, he said. Usually, I pick one central ingredient and then build from there, keeping in mind a nice balance of crisp, sweet, salty, bitter and sour.
For APs 20 Salads of Summer series, he offered a robustly flavored salad of tomatoes, raw corn and cantaloupe dressed with a jalapeno vinaigrette.