hen temperatures climb, diners seek lighter
fare, and salads—especially on the lunchtime
menu—increasingly fill the bill. By featuring
a warm or, even better, a hot component (generally protein),
the entree salad becomes the light and healthful choice for the
increasing number of guests who care about such things. Plus,
it’s tasty, filling and typically less expensive than other entrees.
The showmanship involved in creating and serving a sizzling
salad has its place as a crowd-pleaser in some locations. While
many venues offer a selection of warm or even hot salad
components, fewer offer truly sizzling salads because the
timing has to be just right, says Mary Molt, Ph.D., RD, LD,
Kansas State University’s (KSU) assistant director of housing
and dining services, and this year’s winner of the Interna-
tional Foodservice Manufacturers Association Silver Plate for
Campus Dining. “The number you’re serving has to match the
equipment and the cooking needs to be done at that moment,”
she says. “Part of the enjoyment is the show.”
Molt says a cook-to-order entree concept could be done
successfully for 50 to 60 within an hour, but a better scenario
would be for the cooking location to be open for at least three
hours. Then, the number served would be so much greater,
because diners would be staggered.
Every Thursday, a “change-up” meal is scheduled in each
of the three dining halls on KSU’s Manhattan, Kan., campus.
The idea is to offer a dinner with special dishes, along with
decorations and music that fits a chosen theme. “That provides
an opportunity for our hospitality management/dietetics students
to work with staff and be creative,” Molt says. “Often, the
entrees prepared are an array of sizzling salads.”
PHOTO CREDIT: Opposite and above, Henry Thiel
Microgreens or mesclun mix generally serves as the base,
along with plentiful and colorful cold toppings. The sizzling
component often includes one of the following: grilled marinated
flank steak; balsamic-glazed roasted portobello; spicy seared
shrimp; grilled shrimp with habañero/garlic vinaigrette; or
ginger orange beef strips. “You could easily do a nice sizzling
pork tenderloin or Caribbean marinated pork with tomatillo-style salsa,” Molt says.
When Jason Brust, general manager of foodservice for
American Greetings Corp. headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio,
thought about clearing the decks each Monday to make room
for the arrival of his main weekly produce delivery on Tuesday,
he had an “aha” moment. He realized that Monday entree salads
would be an inspired solution. “On Mondays, people are eating
lighter after a weekend, and these hot salads, available in our
Jacob’s Cafe, also allow us to utilize what we have on hand,” he says.
Prepared at one or another of the cafe’s action stations, the
salads now account for 150 to 175 of the approximately 2,000
transactions each Monday. Although they’re not referred to as
“sizzling salads,” they incorporate the requisite show-business
aspects. For example, the Adobo Rajas (a combo of onion,
roasted red pepper and fresh thyme) is served with a housemade
red chili/whole-grain mustard vinaigrette.
“Customers love to see the cooking, so the line cook sautes
the roasted chicken (previously pulled off the bone) on the
induction burner,” Brust says. “The cook adds the chili rajas,
then places that on top of a simple mesclun greens mix and
serves it with a piece of grilled baguette.”
As the season warms up, thoughts turn to summer fruits.
Glazed Grilled Peaches (with a light brown sugar/chipotle
glaze) becomes a much-anticipated Monday entree salad in
which the grilled peaches top a mix of arugula, red onion and
goat cheese, plus a protein and a simple vinaigrette.
“All Monday entree salads fly out the door,” Brust says.
Paul Miller, manager/owner of The Union Kitchen, Houston,
and a second location to open soon, has been in the industry
since graduating from Purdue University, West Lafayette,
Ind., in 1996. There, his favorite spot to be with friends and
OPPOSITE: Beef fajitas at Sylvia’s Enchilada Kitchen are served atop a Caesar
salad with roast corn, black beans, fresh avocado and tomatoes.
ABOVE: The Union Kitchen’s pistachio-crusted goat cheese with fresh strawberries
is on the menu year-round.