It seems the minute the mercury hits 65, all I can think about is a big salad. For those who don’t have every episode of Seinfeld memorized, a big salad (according to Elaine) is: “A salad, only bigger, with lots of stuff in it.” Now, we all know about the myriad of amazing “big salads” at venues like The Cheesecake Factory and City Limits, but I have a thing for seeking out those loaded, leafy concoctions in rare, unexpected places. Here are a handful of my favorite hidden green gems.
Crab Salad at Pas-Tina’s Ristorante, Hartsdale
The specialty at this upscale but welcoming Italian joint is eggplant parm, but the Crab Salad is not to be missed. A generous scattering of tender, juicy, jumbo lump crab decorates a bed of rich baby spinach, and dances a delectable tango with slices of creamy avocado, Mandarin orange, and grilled Bermuda onion. The citrus vinaigrette is tangy and tasty, but delicate and smooth. Although this seems like a salad for a special occasion, it’s truly just a wonderfully satisfying break from buying and returning up and down Central. $17. Pas-Tina’s Ristorante, 155 S. Central Avenue, Hartsdale
Kale & Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad at Chappaqua Station, Chappaqua
The historic train station in Chappaqua has been converted to a farm-to-table eatery that offers food (and booze) so fresh and so local, you actually feel really good about overeating. And the mouth-watering Kale & Shaved Brussel Sprout Salad is no exception. The hearty greens hail from a farm in Connecticut and are topped with dried cranberries, toasted sweet walnuts, roasted pumpkin seeds, and drizzled with a subtle, but so yummy champagne citrus vinaigrette. Utterly scrumptious on its own, but even better with the addition of free-range chicken, shrimp, tofu, or seared tuna. $9 (plus $5-$16 protein choice) Chappaqua Station, 1 Station Plaza, Chappaqua
Vietnamese Salad at Haiku Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar, various locations
Who says a salad must have leaves in it to be a salad? Certainly not the creative chefs behind the refreshing and wildly crunchy Vietnamese Salad served up at the four locations of this Pan-Asian crowd-pleaser. Julienned jicama and sweet mango are joined by juicy kiwi and delicately shaved raw carrots. Crushed peanuts and a pile of crispy cellophane noodles deliver added texture and crunch, while just a tiny touch of vinegar and orange juice comprise the dressing. Simply delightful and so very light, I found myself contemplating another. But a small plate of steaming shumai was the perfect complement and hit the spot. $7.75. Haiku Asian Bistro & Sushi Bar: 56 Pondfield Road, Bronxville; Cross River Plaza, Cross River; 717 White Plains Road, Scarsdale; 149 Mamaroneck Avenue, White Plains
Panzanella Salad at Il Bacio Trattoria
For a salad like none other this side of The Arno, make haste to this always bustling, neighborhood haven of pizza, pasta, and every Italian specialty under the Tuscan sun. The marvelously divine Panzanella Salad is sans leafy greens, with chunky, ripe, red tomatoes, sliced avocado, red onion, and crisp, cool cucumbers in its place. An abundance of cubed, aged pecorino cheese adds substance to the dish, ushering in zest and just the right amount of tang. If that wasn’t enough, the pièce de ré·sis·tance is crisped hunks of Italian bread that soak up the light but zippy vinaigrette. Major mangia, if you speak my language, and a real treat and break from the ordinario. $8.95. Il Bacio Trattoria, 1 Park Place, Bronxville
Baja Cobb at Smashburger
Lurking quietly amid the beef and buns of this “better burger” chain (with five locations in Westchester) is the county’s best kept salad secret. The heavy-on-the-meat menu offers four inventive, ridiculously affordable BIG salads to choose from, and each is presented in a white, over-sized ceramic bowl. The Baja Cobb, my personal fave, is loaded with sharp cheddar, Applewood-smoked bacon, sliced jalapeno, guacamole, tomatoes, finely-slivered sweet onion, and finished with spicy chipotle dressing. Oh, and fresh greens are in there, too. I think. I added perfectly tender crispy chicken strips to the mix, but you can go lighter with grilled chicken or a black bean veggie patty, as well as an actual burger. Imagine that: A nosh at a burger joint without an obligatory trip to the gym. Or a nap. $5.99 (add $2 for protein). Smashburger: 49 Tarrytown Road, White Plains; 913 Central Park Avenue, Scarsdale; 448 Mamaroneck Avenue, Mamaroneck; 3025 East Main Street, Cortlandt Manor
By Michelle Gillan Larkin, a mom and writer living in Northern Westchester
What’s your favorite salad? Tell us in comments.