Friday, May 27, 2011
And so it is, I've become the Queen of Salads. And mine, at the heart of all of them, are vegetables. I feel bad for many salads, forced to be made with limp lifeless lettuce and bottled dressing chock full of preservatives and other names you can't pronounce. My salads are nothing like that. Because, again, I'm Queen of Salads.
Salads offer gads of room for creativity. Mixing of greens–spinach, lettuce, arugula, kale—you can take your pick of greens. Add in whatever is fresh and in season, perhaps green onions, cherry tomatoes, blanched asparagus, sweet peppers, shredded carrots. If you want some protein, garbanzo beans or roasted chicken, for example. Think about flavor profiles, like greek: greens, cucumbers, red onion, olives, parsley, feta; or mexican: greens (cabbage), tomatoes, green onions, cilantro, pickled onions, black beans, jalapeno-stuffed olives (my favorite!). The options are endless. But then you make the dressing.....
Mexican salad dressing:
Mix salsa with plain greek yogurt.
Herbal creamy salad dressing:
Take a handful of herbs (cilantro or basil or parsley), and in a food processor, process with 1-2 cloves of garlic. Add in 1-2 cups of plain greek yogurt. Combine. With food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until it becomes a consistency you can work with. I like it pretty thick (less oil), season with plenty of salt and pepper. You can also add some freshly squeezed lime or lemon if you'd like a little tang to it. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for several days, and serve as great dip for fresh veggies or on more salads.
My balsamic go-to salad dressing:
In a small bowl, combine one crushed garlic clove, a pinch of good salt, a few grinds of fresh pepper, 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 Tablespoon of dijon mustard, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar. Whisk together. While whisking, drizzle in olive oil (about 1/4-1/2 cup), combining all ingredients well. Taste, and adjust seasoning as needed. Chopped fresh basil can also be added to this dressing for added deliciousness.
Flavored vinegars (champagne vinegar is a favorite) and oils (blood orange infused olive oil is also a favorite) are fun to play with. It's almost strawberry season and that means strawberry vinegar in our household.
As for the Queen of Salads? I'm looking forward to the glut of spring and summer produce, and the ability to eat so much of it raw and in salads this year. As this is my year of intention, I've been following through on my commitments to myself, and that has meant embracing the salad and dropping the baggage. Meaning, dropping weight. Oh I've dropped it all right. A lot of it:
And while salads are but one bit of that bigger picture, using my creativity in the kitchen for super fresh and healthy, simple approaches has been key.
Now go make yourself some salad dressing. It's about 100 times better than that crap that comes in a bottle.