So recently, I decided to blow his mind. I decided to create a salad he would love. A salad that didn't immediately trigger eye rolls and complaints. It ended up being easier than I thought.
Step No. 1 — ditch the greens. I'm not saying the kid gets a free pass on having to eat leafy greens. But for this salad, we'd give them a break.
Step No. 2 — start with something he loves. For my boy that means steak. He'd live on it if he could. As a result, we tend to always have some variety of steak kicking around, often a lean and flavourful bison steak or flank or something of that nature. And since this is a cold salad, leftover steak from last night's barbecue is just perfect.
Step No. 3 — pair it with something fresh, something that has some acid and sugar to cut through the meatiness. In this case, fresh mango. But strawberries, diced apples, even sliced peaches would work, too.
With the heavy lifting done, building the rest of the salad was simple. I diced radishes and red onion (super finely diced to make them less objectionable to the little guy) and added some chopped cucumber (the one green vegetable he says is not offensive).
Dress it all with a simple, yet robust blend of toasted sesame oil, rice vinegar and chili paste (or you could use any bottled vinaigrette you prefer), and we had a salad we all could love.
"That's not a salad," my son said as he sat down to my creation for the first time.
"Yes, it is." So he tried some, albeit with a puzzled expression on his face.
"It's good. But it's not a salad."
CHILI MANGO-BEEF SALAD
For the steak, I like to use bison because it is extremely lean and naturally organic. But any leftover cooked steak is easily substituted. The trick is to slice it as thinly as possible. The steak should have just a hint of chew in the salad; large hunks will be too tough.
Start to finish: 15 minutes
Two 6-ounce bison or other steaks, cooked as desired and cooled
1 large mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1 medium cucumber, chopped
2 red or Easter egg radishes, finely minced
1/2 small red onion, finely minced
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic-chili paste (or substitute a dash or so of bottled hot sauce)
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
Slice the steaks crosswise against the grain into strips as thin as possible. Roughly chop the strips to create bite-size pieces.
In a large bowl, combine the steak, mango, cucumber, radishes and onion. Toss well.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, garlic-chili paste and sesame oil. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, then toss well. Season with salt and pepper.
Nutrition information per serving: 310 calories; 50 calories from fat (16 per cent of total calories); 6 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 105 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 19 g sugar; 39 g protein; 590 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM_Hirsch . Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org