Back in 2013, when I was still something of an innocent, I wrote a post called “Salad on the Same Plate as Dinner” in which I argued that hot food and cold food never belong together on the same plate. I was specifically reacting to a dinner that I had at Parm on the Lower East Side in which a chicken Parmesan was presented on the same plate as an Italian chopped salad. “[The] red sauce did not make the salad taste better. It was something hot and mushy underneath something cold and crunchy. Inversely, the salad didn’t do much for the Chicken Parmesan. The heat from the chicken wilted a few stray lettuce leaves which lay there sadly on my fork as I cut my way through the cheese and the breading. All in all, this dinner would’ve been better if the chicken had been served on a hot plate and the salad on a cold plate.”
Now I read that and think: “Wow, are you wrong!” Salad on the same plate as dinner is an excellent idea for many different reasons. 1. It provides a textural contrast; 2. It’s offers up some necessary roughage (great movie, by the way); 3. The acidity from the salad can often cut against the richness of your entree (especially if your entree is bucatini Cacio e Pepe, like in the picture above); and 4. It creates less dishes.
How did this change of heart come about?
I think it started as an issue of pacing. Normally, at a dinner party, I’d do a salad course and then an entree course. For example, when making my famous cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes, I’d often make a Caesar salad and serve that up first.
But then I got to thinking: wouldn’t all of that pasta on a plate be kind of repetitive? The same combination of noodle, bean, and sun-dried tomato in every bite? And aren’t some of the flavors in my Caesar salad the same flavors in the pasta? The garlic? The Parmesan? The olive oil?
And so, instead of drawing out a dinner into a multipart affair, I just put everything on the table: the big pot of pasta, the salad in a salad bowl, and let everyone pile whatever they wanted on to their plates.
Concerns about temperature are moot when the pasta’s on one side of the plate and the salad’s on the other side. Suddenly, there’s variety: there’s crunch, there’s lemon, there’s tomato, there’s anchovy. Salad on the same plate as dinner isn’t a compromise, it’s an ideal. Now I wouldn’t think of serving pasta any other way.
So, in conclusion, people change. Some of us get grouchier as we get older, some of us grow more open-minded. And though my husband thinks I’m pretty grouchy on a variety of subjects (blasting Van Halen at nine in the morning, shoving the laundry into a pile instead of folding it right away), when it comes to salad on the same plate as dinner, I’m now truly enlightened.