One thing I can promise you, if you make this rainbow salad with citrus dressing, it’s like a party in a bowl! I’ve never said this before about a salad, but it will make you feel like you are on vacation in the islands. How did I come up with a rainbow salad? While I do love creating new and interesting salads, I can’t really take full ownership. I first saw it at a restaurant and it’s the only time I can think of when I had salad envy – if that’s even possible!
Okay, here’s the whole story… I was visiting my friend Susie in Pittsburgh, and we went out to lunch. She took me to a Caribbean restaurant in the Strip District called Kaya. We hadn’t seen each other in a while and I was so happy to see her and catch up, the menu definitely took second place. I quickly ordered a salad with green apples, goat cheese, and candied walnuts with salmon on top – delish – right? I was quite happy with my choice… until our salads arrived!
Susie ordered the most glorious and colorful rainbow salad I had ever seen. I somehow felt my salad was inferior and I was a little jealous. While mine was very good, it certainly wasn’t a rainbow! For a few moments, I couldn’t concentrate on the conversation. I wondered how I could have let this happen. Did I miss reading all of those ingredients on the menu?
The salad was arranged like a color wheel and as an artist, I felt I let myself down. Facing me was the papaya, I LOVE papaya! There were tomatoes, plantains, pepita seeds (pumpkin), red pepper, avocado, you name it – a feast for the eyes! I love a salad that is not lettuce heavy, and contains a lot of different fruits and vegetables. This salad certainly did that. Susie offered we share both of our salads, but I decided to stick with mine and enjoy the rest of our visit.
That was a couple of months ago and in true Sherri form, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. My mission now was to recreate it. How do I begin? With any recipe I create, there are various ways I go about getting started. In this case, I made a list of ingredients from Kaya’s menu online. Next, in a Google search I checked to see if there were any images. I remembered how it was arranged, but needed a refresher. I found a couple of great photos and started from there. With this information, I made the first version and it was delicious! I knew I didn’t have all of the ingredients it called for, and probably not the right quantities, but it didn’t matter. Below is a photo of the first attempt. I prepared it in a large bowl and it was a great presentation.
This week I found myself in the mood to make the salad again. I went online again and this time, I found a recipe from the restaurant itself – jackpot! http://bigburrito.com/eatbig/15/06/fuller_kaya_rainbow_salad.pdf
About some of the ingredients… My first attempt wasn’t too far off from the original even quantity wise. One of the ingredients I subbed is the Malanga. It’s not an easy vegetable to find unless you are in the Strip District where the variety of fruits and vegetables are in abundance! The first time, I used jicama and it was delicious adding a nice juicy punch. This time I did a little more research and found out Malanga is a root vegetable from South America. It is likened to a potato so I tried a white sweet potato as to keep the color of the original salad. While very different from each other, both jicama and the sweet potato are delicious in the salad. If you can’t find either, you can also use a regular sweet potato.
I’m allergic to mango so I subbed nectarines which were a perfect exchange. Feel free to use 1 cup mango if you like it. I also omitted the jalapeno and red onion. I don’t care for either in a salad –personal preference. I did amp up the green onion, and added a pinch of cayenne in the dressing to compensate for their omission. The original salad also had toasted garlic. I made garlic chips for the first salad, but felt it overpowered the rest of the ingredients so omitted for this version.
Before you get started, don’t be afraid of the list. I know it seems like a lot of ingredients. One quick stop to Trader Joe’s should get you just about everything you need including a bag of already julienned carrots and the plantain chips! From start to finish, it only took about 40 minutes including grilling a protein. It’s really worth the time and truly is a vacation in a bowl. Who doesn’t need that every now and then?
It has so many different flavors and textures that make it really amazing. Of course you can alter it to how you like (as I did) and change things around a bit. One thing for sure, it’s a real showstopper. It’s great for lunch or dinner, would be perfect for a dinner party and at this time of year, a great salad to eat in the Sukkah! Enjoy!
For underneath the rainbow of vegetables:
1 head romaine lettuce for each salad, washed very well, dried well and chopped
about 2 cups in each bowl
Add to the lettuce:
1 handful parsley or cilantro, leaves only
1 handful basil cut in a ribbon (roll the leaves into a cigar and slice)
1 cup green onions (scallions) finely sliced
1 handful mint (optional)
make sure to wash these ingredients very well. If you want, you can reserve a little of each to sprinkle on top.
For the top of the salad:
1 cup julienne carrots (shredded would be fine too)
2 nectarines cut into chunks (or 1 cup mango)
1 cup cherry or heirloom tomatoes cut in half
1 cup fresh papaya peeled and diced
1 cup English cucumber diced (you can peel it if you don’t like the peel)
1 cup red pepper diced
2 cups white sweet potato
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned are great too, rinse and drain)
1 cup plantain chips (left whole or crushed and sprinkled)
2 avocados sliced
¼ cup sesame seeds (I used black & white because I had it on hand)
1/2 cup pepita seeds (pumpkin seeds)
fried onions (optional)
2 limes cut in half to be served with each salad
Grilled Chicken, Salmon, or Steak (I grilled the chicken and salmon while I prepped the vegetables)
Zest and juice of 2 oranges (pineapple juice can be subbed here)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
juice of 1 lime
2 roasted garlic cloves (1 raw finely grated would work well)
1 to 2 tablespoons of maple syrup
¾ cup good extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste (I used 1 teaspoon of each)
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Add zest and juices with garlic into a blender or food processor. After the citrus is blended, while pureeing, drizzle in the oil to emulsify. Add salt and pepper to taste. I also added a pinch of cayenne pepper for a little kick.
There are a couple of ways you can cook the sweet potato. You can steam it, sauté or roast it like I did. Heat oven (I used a toaster oven) to 350 degrees. Peel and dice sweet potato, toss in a little olive oil and put it on a sheet pan. Bake for about 25 minutes, or until you can pierce it with a fork.
If adding a protein:
Get your grill or grill pan hot. Season the meat or fish with salt and pepper and grill until done.
While that is cooking, prep all of your other ingredients.
Toss the lettuce base with some of the vinaigrette, just to season. Place in the middle of 4 plates or large bowls. Arrange the other ingredients on top – around the bowl. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and plantains on top. Serve with ½ lime for each salad. I hid it under the pile of plantains! The restaurant link I have included actually gives a diagram on how to arrange the salad. I did my own thing. It was complicated enough with all of the ingredients. However you place the ingredients, it will be beautiful! I’m so excited for you to try it!