Like most things culinary, a salad is only as good as its base and ingredients. Anemic greens and tasteless bottled dressings can turn a potentially wondrous meal into an object of disdain for kids and adults alike. Chances are, if you don't like your salad, perhaps you never tasted one properly prepared.
Lately, my greens of choice are organic baby lettuce, arugula, frisée and mache, a tender, melt-in-your mouth lettuce I fell in love with in France. I think they have the most assertive flavors. Once in a while I'll toss in some mesclun, red or green leaf lettuce or romaine, for variety. And I'll admit to a guilty pleasure: iceberg lettuce. It may not pack the same nutritional punch as its darker green cousins, but I adore its creamy, nostalgic flavor. [Hey, there are worse guilty pleasures, right?]
A bowl of greens and the usual suspects – cucumber, shredded carrots and tomatoes –can get ho-hum after a few repeats. Why not accessorize your salad with colorful, healthful add-ons that elevate it from a side dish to an entree? Some foodstuffs I frequently add to salads include:
- Beans [eg, chick peas, edamame, black beans]
- Grilled veggies [eg, eggplant or zucchini]
- Thinly sliced onions [transforms a salad!]
- Citrus [eg, clementines, orange or grapefruit sections]
- Nuts or seeds, dry or toasted
- Raisins; dried cranberries, apricots, or cherries
- Fruit [eg, strawberries, grapes, blueberries, pears, apples, raspberries, pomegranate seeds]
- Cooked or steamed veggies – a great use for leftovers [eg, mushrooms, asparagus. broccoli]
- Ground flax seed – for omega 3s and nice nutty flavor
- Baked or cooked tofu; cooked tempeh
Homemade dressings are simply the best. Hands down, they are tastier, not to mention cheaper, than most bottled dressings. Changing your dressings often helps keeps salads interesting.
Since I've been super busy lately, though, I have been leaning on store-bought dressings. I will say you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find the proverbial prince. My observation is that all store-bought, low-fat dressings, frankly, suck. Buying the full-fat version and watering it down just a bit works better for me. Two store-bought dressings I really like [watered down a tad--they are too rich as is] are Genji Ginger-Miso and Whole Foods Ginger Sesame.
1 cup fresh, ripe mango chunks
1 1/2 tsp tahini
2 T best-quality Dijon mustard [more or less, depending on your taste and the sweetness of the mangos]
2 T relish
About 2 T water
Salt, to taste [I used about 1 tsp]
Makes a healthy cup
Whiz everything in the food processor or blender until very smooth.