Lean Cuisine Salad Additions Are the Frozen Food/Produce Aisle Marriage You've Been Waiting For!
I'm clearly a masochist.
Photos by Christina Uticone
Sometimes a product is so weird, so ridiculous, that I simply must try it. Lean Cuisine's new "Salad Additions" fall in that category so perfectly that I bought them almost immediately after seeing the commercial. "Simply add your lettuce!" the box promises: The microwave pouch of frozen meat and veggies inside will fairly transform your boring old salad greens.
My love of a quick lunch is well-documented here at EOW. I eat tons of leftovers, and fast salads are another favorite; the most work I like to do is a zap in the microwave, or to fry an egg to top the leftovers. Even though my history with Lean Cuisine isn't amazing (exception: French bread pizza), I figured if this worked out, Salad Additions could be the new Amy's burritos of my freezer.
I can see you smirking.
Whole not greater than sum of parts.
The marketing campaign for this product is a nod to fashion advertising. "Take your lettuce from drab to fab!" the tagline exclaims after directing me to click on the button to "view the collection." We are invited to "dress up our lettuce" with one of four varieties: Bistro Chicken (my selection), Asian-style Chicken, Cranberry & Chicken, and Southwest-Style Chicken. I mused over the lack of vegetarian options, but then figured a vegetarian salad is easily procured in the produce aisle. Where salads are, I assure you, meant to be procured.
My Bistro Chicken box contained three packets of ingredients:
• Sweet & Tangy Vinaigrette with Bacon (bring to temperature in a glass of room-temperature water) • Grilled white meat chicken with asparagus, yellow carrots and red peppers (to be microwaved) • Crispy onion straws
I'm going to level with you here -- when I opened the box, my heart sank. This was not at all appealing, and my confidence that a microwave would improve things was low. I zapped the chicken/veggie pouch for the prescribed 2.5 minutes and let it "complete cooking" for another minute in the microwave while I arranged my (poor, wasted) organic greens in a bowl. ("Or a plate!" the box advises -- so many plating options!) I assembled all of the pouch ingredients atop my (poor, wasted) organic greens and dug in.
Oh, the horror. Sweet dressing with nary a hint of tang or bacon was unpleasant in both taste and thick, slimy texture. The green beans were limp and tasted more like canned than frozen, while the peppers put up a fight with papery skin that caught in the throat. I don't expect much from frozen chicken, so I wasn't disappointed on that front -- standard soft, overly processed fare there. The onion straws didn't even do anything to improve the flavor, and they became soggy almost immediately.
You don't need to berate me with your scorn. Self-loathing is included in the $2.50 price tag.
Get the Dining Newsletter
The week's top local food news and events, plus interviews with chefs and restaurant owners, dining tips, and a peek at our print review.