Sunday, March 25, 2012

build-a-salad workshop and mango mustard dressing recipe

Salad: a vegan cliche, but I just can't get enough
I know it's cliché, but the fact is, I eat a lot of salads. I just can't understand how anyone couldn't love a fresh bowl of greens, punctuated by an ever-changing kaleidoscope of add-ins like chickpeas, sweet roasted red peppers, sweet onions, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, or grilled eggplant. I eat a huge, and I mean HUGE bowl of salad for dinner at least 3-4 night a week. My personal salad bowl is actually the size that most Americans use to make salad for a family of four [see photo above, that's my bowl].

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.

I used to routinely dress my salads with olive-oil based vinaigrettes, but my palate is a bit bored with this routine. Plus, I'm moving toward more healthful dressings with less oil. This said, finding champagne mangos on sale this week inspired this Mango-Mustard Dressing recipe.  It's sweet and tart – reminiscent of honey-mustard dressing, with the added benefit of natural sweetness, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, courtesy of Señorita Mango.

Mango-Mustard Salad Dressing [Low Fat]

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.

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Rita said...

how much dijon mustard do you use for this recipe? thanks.

T said...

Oh yum, looks great. I love to make a big spinach salad with roasted eggplant chunks and tahini-miso dressing!

urban vegan said...

2T, Rita--but use more or less, depending on your taste and the sweetness of the mangos you're using.

Theresa said...

You know how I feel about mangoes - and we have a bunch to use up in the freezer in the next few weeks. Mango mustard salad dressing might just appear on our menu...

Anonymous said...

I just made this! Thanks. How long will it keep?

urban vegan said...

Anonymouse: I'd say about a week to a week and a half (no preservatives ;)

Amy Groark said...

When you say "relish", do you mean sweet pickle relish, or some other kind?

Anonymous said...

OK - I have a challenge for you. I live in a part of the world where "relish" is a verb. Not only can't I get it, I'm not sure I even remember what it tastes like. I made your dressing using some balsamic, and blended in a pickle. Not bad. However, since relish is a processed food - not so good for you, maybe you can come up with a closer version using more natural foods?
Thanks, Avi from Israel

Anonymous said...

I agree thinly sliced onions are fabulous on salad - and they're even better if they've been soaked in lime juice (or lemon juice.)

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