Make It Basic or Make It a Showstopper

 

What is easier to make than a salad? You open up your fridge, you cut up whatever is in your crisper drawer, toss it (or not), dress it however you want, and call it done. Seriously, everyone has a different perception of what a salad really is. When I was growing up a salad was not a salad unless it contained iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes. Anything else and you were considered out of control…oh, and there were always radishes as well.

 

I’ve expanded my salad horizons since then, not that there is anything wrong with a traditional garden salad. If you are a big fan of traditional garden salads, change out the iceberg for romaine and you get more chlorophyll, which means more nutrients, including more vitamin A and K as well as phytonutrients.

And way back in the day, salad dressing in our house was in one of three bottles that was bright orange, creamy white, or oily. Here is the ingredients list for the orange dressing: water, soybean oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, mustard, paprika, xanthan gum (thickener), propylene glycol alginate (thickener), spices, calcium disodium edta (maintains flavour). I don’t know about you, but there are some things on this list that don’t sound much like food to me.

 

You can easily make your own dressing that, as food journalist Michael Pollan says, “only contains things your grandmother would recognize”, aka, real food. The classic ratio to make your own vinaigrette is 3:1, oil to vinegar/acid. This can be used as a rough estimate. The beauty of making your own salad dressing is that you can alter it to your taste. Do you like a bit of sweetness in your dressing? Add a spoonful of maple syrup or honey. Do you like a bit of a kick? Add some pepper, a dash of cayenne, pepper flakes, a bit of turmeric, or a sprinkle of paprika. If you like the taste of herbs, add some rosemary, oregano, basil, sage, thyme, or tarragon to the dressing. Start with a sample batch and test it out until you find your perfect and unique recipe. If you’re using fresh herbs chop them finely, and use less than you would for the dry, since fresh herbs are much more potent in flavour. Try different kinds of vinegars, like apple cider, balsamic, white balsamic, red wine…or replace some of the vinegar with an acidic fruit juice like lemon, lime or orange. One of my favorite combinations is olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, dry mustard and dried oregano. If I’m making a Greek salad, I leave out the mustard and replace maple syrup with a splash of honey. Start experimenting and see what you come up with. You’ll discover that there is really no need to purchase salad dressings.

 

So, back to making the salad.  If you look in your fridge and you only see a few items…

no worries. Start chopping and imagine how you can jazz it up a bit.

I love to add nuts, seeds and dried fruit to my salads. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sliced almonds, walnuts, toasted sesame seeds, dry coconut, dried cranberries, raisins, apricots…or try fresh fruit like sliced oranges, grapefruit, peaches, grated apples, berries…the possibilities are endless.

 

And salads don’t have to be complicated.

 

This salad only has four ingredients: mixed greens, a striped beet, raw pecans, and some soft goat cheese.

This salad only has a few ingredients as well: mixed greens; sprouts; fresh chives; avocado; and pecans.

I cooked the quail eggs and put them on top for extra flavour and to make my salad a complete balanced meal. You could also add tofu, cooked lentils, cooked beans, sliced turkey, chicken, cold salmon or other cold-water fish to turn it into a whole meal. Just use your imagination and create an original.

 

I’d love to see your salad creations. Post your salad pics and salad dressing inventions and tag me on Instagram @iamlorimoore.