I find a salad bowl to be like an empty canvas, just awaiting my creative touch. Not only does a salad provide you the opportunity to get a lot of vegetables in at once, but the array of colors can be just as pleasing to the eye as the flavors are pleasing to the palate. I urge you to come out of your salad rut and experiment with some of these fresh ideas!
Start by choosing a good base for your salad. I’ll tell you right now, iceberg lettuce has no home in my refrigerator. Why would I use the old, bland, low nutrient standby when there are so many other options: spinach, arugula, butter lettuce, dandelion greens, frisee, oak leaf lettuce, mache, radicchio, red-leaf lettuce, mizuna…
Sprouts are nutrient powerhouses so I will often also add them to my base. My favorite are broccoli sprouts, but I’ll often use alfalfa, mung bean, clover, or sunflower.
This is the perfect time to add those veggies that you might not have gotten the rest of the day. The sky’s the limit: shredded raw carrot, beet, and zucchini, cucumber, broccoli and cauliflower florets, bell peppers, snap peas, black, kidney, or garbanzo beans, etc. Whatever is in season. They can be raw, roasted, sauteed, grilled.
Adding a little fruit to a salad can be a nice touch: raisins, dried cranberries, citrus wedges, apple, pear… Again what ever is in season and sounds good.
If salad is your main dish it’s a good idea to include some protein. I’ll use walnuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and pecans. Boiled eggs are a good topping. (I only boil mine about 10 minutes so as not to oxidize the healthy fats.) Cheese is another great option: feta, Gorgonzola, blue cheese, etc. Adding meat can also provide a grounding aspect to a salad: chicken, duck, pork, beef, lamb, salmon, tuna, shrimp… You name it!
Dressing plays an important role in a good salad. Not only do we need a source of healthy fat in order to absorb all the minerals in our vegetables and greens, but the flavor can really tie everything together.
The traditional ratio for salad dressing is 1 part oil to 3 parts vinegar. Now this can be any oil (olive, walnut, hemp, or flax seed…) and any vinegar (apple cider, balsamic, red or white wine, rice…). Experiment.
For variation I like adding prepared mustard. (A rule of thumb is one teaspoonful of mustard for every half cup of salad dressing.) Juice is also a nice touch for a little sweeter flavor. Tea is also a great addition for a unique twist! Fresh or dried herbs often add the perfect finishing touch.
Here are some great dressing recipes that I have enjoyed for many years:
Garlic Sesame Ginger Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
¼ cup flax seed oil
2-3 fresh garlic cloves (minced)
2 ½ tsp fresh ginger root (minced)
1 ½ tsp dried thyme
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 Tbs white miso (fermented soy bean) paste
2 Tbs white sesame seeds
2 Tbs prepared mustard
2 Tbs apple juice
¼ cup aloe vera juice or gel
~ Place ingredients in a quart mason jar and shake.
*makes 1 ¼ cups
1/3 cup virgin olive oil
1/3 cup flaxseed or hempseed oil
1 whole garlic clove peeled
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 Tbs chopped cappers
½ tsp each dried tarragon, mint, dill, oregano, thyme, marjoram, sage, rosemary, turmeric powder, and cumin powder
~ Place in a quart mason jar and shake. Let stand refrigerated for at least 2 hours to achieve full flavor.
*makes 1 ½ cups
Green Goddess Dressing
2 Tbs feta cheese
2 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs flax seed or hemp seed oil
2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1 Tbs fresh apple juice
1 Tbs fresh rosemary
2 Tbs fresh chives, chopped
1 Tbs tamari soy sauce
1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
~ Place all ingredients in blender and and process until creamy.
*makes ½ cup
One of the most important things to remember when taking a step towards healthy eating is not to get overwhelmed. Take one step at a time. Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Use some ingredients that you know and love and add one or two new things each time you grocery shop.
- Use leftover vegetables and meat for salads the next day.
- Make friends with the people that work in the produce department in your store. Ask for recommendations or tips on how to cook what’s in season.