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Central Market's Saag Dahl

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We have longed for a deliciously unique salad ever since the day our beloved Eatzi's bit the dust several years ago. But we had yet to try the new made-on-the-spot-just-for-you salad section at Central Market (3815 Westheimer), whether it was because we were too full of gourmet samples or because the fancy sushi counter won out. This week's lunch adventure changed all that.

We typically have a different name for salad: starter. In fact, the whole concept of a bowl of greens counting as a full meal kind of baffles us. Sure you can get it loaded it with bacon bits and cheese, but by that point, it really becomes an exercise in hypocrisy. But the salads at Central Market seemed different. They appeared to be heartier yet still healthful and, dare we even suggest it, exciting?

The folks at Central Market are kind enough to put out display salads that separate all the ingredients, showing you exactly what comes in each creation. Though many options tempted us, we chose the Saag Dahl. The Saag Dahl salad begins with a bed of romaine lettuce and baby spinach. They then add freshly torn cilantro, cubed boiled potatoes, fragrant jasmine rice, lentils, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, cashews, roasted eggplant and red onion before tossing all of these delightfully inspired ingredients in a creamy yogurt dressing. Mind you, with the double starch and healthy dose of nuts and dressing, we're not suggesting this is a light meal. But it's a healthy meal that will leave you full and satisfied for many hours.

Despite the long list of ingredients, everything held its own and each bite was different and delectable. It was a thoroughly enjoyable salad. Next time, we might ask for the dressing on the side, as we found the ingredients to be good enough to stand on their own without a coating of dairy. We suggest the addition of a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper to bring out the innate flavor of the potatoes and eggplant. Though the rice was an interesting addition, we might also skip it next time, more because of its lack of necessity than any offensive flavor. And as much we enjoyed our meal, in all truth, with the array of alternative tempting options, it might take us awhile to come full circle back to the savory Saag Dahl.

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