We are quickly approaching holiday gathering season, and gatherings call for foods that can be held in the hand. Ideal party foods are a few bites at most, require no utensils, and are fairly self-contained. Salad is not a great party food, but salad bites are an excellent party food.
As you know, most salads consist of a pile of greens with lots of other stuff. The other stuff is usually a few other vegetables, maybe a fruit, and often some meats and/or cheeses. The salad bite shifts the ratio of greens to other stuff in favor of the stuff, which is contained in an elegant, and surprisingly flavorful, little endive cup.
Raw endive, for the uninitiated, is crisp and bitter, making it the perfect foil for lots of fatty, salty, and sweet toppings. It provides so much “leafy” flavor, you simply do not need that many leaves. (A single leaf, in fact, is all you need.)
Turning a salad into a salad bite is easy. Pick your favorite salad—in my case, a wedge—and strike the lettuce part from the ingredients list. Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl (with the dressing), then scoop the mixture into individual endive leaves. Done.
If you need salad inspiration, look to the classics. A cobb salad, a chicken caesar, a niçoise salad, even a panzanella—all of these would work beautifully. (In the case of panzanella, cut the bread into tiny croutons.) You can also stuff endive leaves with lettuce-free salads, like cucumber and tomato, noodle salad, or any of the deli classics (chicken, tuna, egg, etc.).
The only way you can mess up salad cups is by not chopping the fillings into small enough pieces. Large cucumber slices, for instance, can slide out of the cup if pulled by the teeth, robbing you of the experience of enjoying cucumber in each bite (and potentially ruining your nice shirt). Slice and dice your fillings into smallish pieces if possible, and make sure to mix them with dressing to give them some sticking power—handheld bites are only fun if you can eat them without spilling everything all over yourself.