A stick-to-your-ribs breakfast salad to start your day right

“Tell me what you had for breakfast.”

It’s a question sound engineers and producers often ask guests to check their microphone levels. Over the years with Salon Talks, I’ve heard hundreds of responses, but the only one that ever stuck in mind came from the author who replied, “A big salad.” No bagel? No eggs? No oatmeal, even? “I feel like whatever happens for the rest of the day, at least I had something good to start it.” I was thoroughly intrigued.

I didn’t do anything about it — I happily kept on eating chocolate sprinkles on bread — but I was intrigued.

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Then I read Deb Perelman’s beautiful new “Smitten Kitchen Keepers,” a book that contains not one but three inspiring recipes for jazzy breakfast salads, and I knew this was an idea whose time had come. 

The month of January is impossibly contradictory. It signals fresh beginnings and healthy, sober lifestyle choices. It’s also often a time of year we often feel bleak and depleted, in need as much of comfort as kale. I don’t do resolutions, but I do believe in setting goals and intentions, and mine this year mostly involve making manageable shifts and not getting stuck in any ruts. I want to embrace change, and to not be afraid to try new things — even small new things. Especially small new things. You know that expression, “Do one thing every day that scares you?” Some days, just cutting an avocado scares me. What if I get the knife stuck in the pit? Just toasting nuts can be a project. What if they burn? So, what if I could begin my days with one little achievement under my belt?

I have done a mashup here of two of Perelman’s salads, taking the nuts, avocado and sumac from one and the radishes and orange from the other, then throwing the whole works on a bed of arugula. If like me you wake up furiously hungry, you need something that’s going to stick to your ribs until lunchtime. I promise this meal will do the trick, but feel free to make it your own. As Perelman writes of her recipes, “Use them as a jumping-off point for whatever is in your fridge.”

I have not entirely abandoned my morning oatmeal or smoothies, but it’s been refreshing to shake up my routine lately with something crunchy, sustaining and savory. And it really is a mood lifter to leave the house in the morning feeling like whatever happens for the rest of day, at least I can say I gave myself a good start. 

* * *

Inspired by “Smitten Kitchen Keepers” by Deb Perelman

Fearless Breakfast Salad


 1 – 2 servings

Prep Time

 10 minutes

Cook Time

 5 minutes


  • 1/2 cup of chopped almonds or walnuts
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 large orange
  • 1 ripe Haas avocado
  • 1 lime
  • 4 or 5 small radishes
  • Handful of greens, if you like
  • Flaky sea salt
  • Red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sumac, if you have it


  1. In a small skillet, heat the nuts and olive oil over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until the oil is just bubbling and the nuts are toasted. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Halve the avocado and cut into wedges. Slice the orange into wedges, removing any seeds and white pith. Slice the radishes.
  3. Remove the nuts from oil, reserving 2 tablespoons.
  4. Slice the lime and squeeze into the olive oil. Season with salt, red pepper flakes and sumac.
  5. In a bowl, combine the avocado, orange, radishes, greens and nuts. Drizzle with the dressing. Adjust seasonings if needed. Enjoy immediately.

Cook’s Notes

This salad makes a lovely vegan start to the day, but you could add a dollop of yogurt or cottage cheese on top for extra fuel.

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