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Improvising Salads with Kamala Puligandla

Kamala Puligandla is the author of the novella, You Can Vibe Me On My FemmePhone and writes The Dyke Kitchen Column at Autostraddle.


ZAK: It's Food Friday.

KAMALA: I'm Kamala Puligandla. I'm a writer. I do a lot of things but it usually revolves around writing.

ZAK: Kamala writes a column called The Dyke Kitchen and I knew I needed to talk to her after I read her piece, The Art of Salad.

KAMALA: Yeah. I don't know, I love salads because I think the possibilities are endless and I think all the things that I might want to eat when I'm hungry...If I don't really know what I want, all the things I could want will be in a salad.

ZAK: For people who don't feel like free-form salad musicians, how do you think one can practice becoming a better salad improviser?

KAMALA: I think part of it is having a bunch of stuff ready. I always have citrus at my house. Partially cause I'm in LA because you can turn it into a dressing or you can put it in whole and it will just drip its juices in, which is one of my favorite lazy salad methods. Put a bunch of wet stuff in your salad and then you don't have to make a dressing. That's kind of one of my cheats for salads.

ZAK: I consider my mom a salad artist and I think that's where I get a lot of my chops from. Pun intended I guess. Chops. Like, for people who aren't confident in making salads or think that salads are boring, how can you help them feel more empowered in making a delicious salad that's actually gonna be satisfying.

KAMALA: I think that people have this notions that salads are gonna be healthy and I think if you discard that, you're more likely to have a better salad. So, the thing is it's going to be healthy if you're eating vegetables. But you still have to use fat or else it tastes terrible and also a friend of mine told me that you have to have fat in order to digest the raw ingredients, so I was like, ok, great! So there's that and you can also put spices and flavors in to your salad. It doesn't have to be a bare, acetic salad. I put chicken in there and I'll grill my chicken with fish sauce and curry paste and other things like that, so that it's definitely not a boring salad. I think all the things you might like in a non-salad food, you can have in a salad food too. Sometimes I put the seasoning that I would put in my beans in my salad dressing. And things like that where I'm just like, what is some other taste that I like and then I'll put it in a salad.

ZAK: This is such good salad therapy.

KAMALA: I'm glad! Wait, what are your favorite salads?

ZAK: Oh, last week I made a chicken shawarma salad where the dressing was tahini.

KAMALA: That sounds so good.

ZAK: With pickled cucumbers and pickled radishes. Um, when your grocery shopping, do you think about the salad that you're eventually gonna make?

KAMALA: Sometimes I do. A lot of times I don't. The way that I grocery shop is like, ok, I sort of set my fridge up like someone's deli bar at the store except for it's in my refrigerator. So, I'll be like, ok, here's a couple vegetable I'm gonna cook a particular way that's like, flavorful but I could always add more to it and then I also get a couple of proteins that I'm gonna do something do and then it's like, ok, do you want to have it with noodles, do you want to have it with rice? Do you want to just put them together? Do you want to put that in an egg dish?

ZAK: You have them prepped already?

KAMALA: Yeah, so one of my favorite things to do is just to blanch broccoli and blanch green beans and then they're pretty much ready to eat but I could cook them again if I wanted to or I could just throw them into things, like if I'm making instant noodles, I could put broccoli in there. I also roast eggplant a lot and that's one of my favorite salad ingredients. So I just have a little thing in the fridge of whatever vegetables I bought that week. I guess I'm not putting a lot of raw ingredients in the salad except for my greens.

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