Toss up flavorful, satisfying spring salads

LOS ANGELES Chef Mohan Ismail of RockSugar Pan Asian Kitchen in Century City has a few ways to put the "mmm" in a salad meal.

"The main thing to consider is what appeals to your taste buds," said Ismail. "So if you like something sweet, if you like something crunchy, don't think healthy, think flavor first."

Within reason of course, and he also thinks economically.

"Keep it simple. Find things that you can find in your house, in your pantry, in your fridge," said Ismail.

Today's salads deliver plenty of taste, yet are made with low- or no-fat dressings.

"It's a green and goat cheese salad with a mango-pickled vinaigrette," said Ismail.

He puts mango chutney, lime juice, pineapple and rice vinegar as the dressing's main components to mix with baby greens, cashews, avocado, tomatoes, goat cheese and radish.

"Remember, the main thing for a salad: Do not pour the dressing right on top of the salad, pour it around the bowl itself so it doesn't bruise the greens," said Ismail.

Ismail's chopped chicken edamame salad offers a creamy yet snappy vinaigrette that has honey, ginger, fresh carrots and a dash of soy and sesame oil as key ingredients that work well with romaine, edamame, crushed peanuts and roasted chicken breast. Again, he offers a range of tastes and textures to satisfy.

"For this salad, I'm not using any greens, I'm just using all vegetables," said Ismail.

No lettuce, no problem. This salad pairs perfectly with grilled shrimp, snow and snap peas, grapefruit, peanuts and a spicy roasted-garlic serrano chili dressing.

When coming up with your own ideas, think about something smooth, crunchy, tangy, sweet and also filling.

You can have nuts, seeds, cheese, even bacon. But as a rule, don't allow those additions to add up to more than two tablespoons.

While it's true we want to cut back on high-fat toppings, remember that you need some fat in the salad to help absorb some of the vitamins. Vitamins A, D, E, and K need a bit of fat to give your body what it needs.

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