Tag Archive for Salad

Solstice is Coming. Be the Khaleesi of Salad.

This is the Western part of the greens coming in.

I know this is not Westeros, and in fact it’s just Western Mass, but I have just wrapped up this season of Game of Thrones where Tyrion Lannister solidly WON Father’s Day. In the land in which I am Khaleesi, the dog wanders the yard and has finally figured out which greens not to pee on. The salad greens. In the mornings I meander about in an oversized SF Giants T with leggings, toting a colander about the plot. I gather green leaf lettuce, arugula, mizuna, some baby mustard, striated oregano, basil, spinach, lemon mint, red butter lettuce and some other tufts that “salad mix” envelope of seeds spit up. Radishes are coming along as well. So far the big money items haven’t formed yet so I augment with the farmer’s markets and at the store. Here’s a pretty good list of some things I check out and you, too can pick up for a good, colorful, nutrient rich time:

Summer squash, pluot, radish, spinach, tomato, purple cabbage, and cucumber in a roasted garlic vinaigrette.

Cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, fennel bulbs, carrots, cauliflower (all the colors), tomatoes, bell peppers, peaches, pluots, plums, strawberries, blueberries, jicama, celery, red onion, Chioggia beets, grapes, purple cabbage, avocado and asparagus. Any or all of these will take you out of the standard “garden salad” place of feeling like you SHOULD be eating salad into the glamorous world of Salad is Delicious. Building a salad can be super fun. Part of it is the dressing as well, which I think I’ve talked about before. OH, yes, there it is.

Last March I wrote a post with the goal of supporting each and every reader here to NEVER BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN. Making your own is easy, it’s cost effective, it’s free of preservatives and creepy Monsanto shit and the best reason: it tastes better. This isn’t even to mention the long term benefits adding your kitchen into your regular creative vault of delights, the ways that making your own stuff builds confidence as well as competency, AND you can use the money toward actually getting the salad. There’s some good recipes there and a great one from a reader in the comments section. So run with those. But let’s chat about building a hearty, interesting, beautiful salad.

Celery, radish, shaved fennel, purple cabbage, black & white sesame seeds tossed with lime juice, olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

1. Work with color: Green salads are phenomenal. But you can have a thousand shades of green in a salad. Each one will bring a certain depth that’s pretty to look at AND the color of your produce reflects the nutrients it contains. So the more color you serve, the deeper your nutrition, yo. So even in a green salad, go with speckled lettuces or dark greens with lights, red edges and yellow stripes. Moving out from green, go for the rainbow. More color means more nutrition, more taste, and it goes with more outfits. I like to mix in purple cabbage with my greens, add radishes and different colored peppers. Get the purple cauliflower sometimes or the red. Or those fancy heirloom carrots that are all different colors. Let yourself branch out and make the salad bowl into a riot of color.

3. Add fresh herbs: It’s so great that now we can walk into a produce section at any given market and find that lettuce has moved far beyond iceberg and romaine. (WHICH I’M NOT KNOCKING). Varietal strains come in all shades and shapes and various flavors from bright to bitter. People are getting into slicing kale super thin and adding that to a raw salad offering. Here’s what I’m begging you to do: add in herbs. You can grow an easy kitchen garden on a sill or you can get little bunches at the market. Just toss in your basil, oregano, cilantro, parsley and savory. Add in fresh chives with the blossoms and dice up some chervil and lemon mint. These greens wake up the entire experience with bright flavors and unexpected combinations that really come together.

4. Toppings, Toppings, Toppings: One of the easiest ways to take your salad to the next nutritional level is to throw seeds and nuts on it. Put a sprout on it. Any extra kaboom you can hit on will up your healthy fats, your omegas, your protein, and it’ll add a good accessorized look to the whole shebang. What works? Here are some ideas off the top of my head: crushed walnuts, almond slivers, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, any color sesame seeds and extra points for a mixing of shades, flax seeds, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pecans and any sprout that strikes your fancy. For extra points: throw seeds and nuts in a dry cast iron skillet and toast them over a low heat until the release some of the scent.

Baby spinach, toasted maple cardamon walnuts, and flame grapes roasted with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.

5. Add some protein: Me? I love a legume. Give me a harissa chickpea. A stewed chipotle pinto bean. A lemongrass hunk of tofu. Take any kind of protein you have and add it into a salad. This will turn your side dish into a whole meal. For the vegans, I vote for legumes the most. Tofu is great on occasion (it has a lot of phytoestrogens in it in addition to being pretty processed so I think it’s great sometimes, but I don’t like to advocate for it as the main source of vegan protein.) Also nutritional yeast is great as a sprinkle or also as an ingredient for your dressing. Especially a miso one. Vegetarians can add hard boiled eggs. And for the seafood lovers out there, adding fish to a salad is a favorite of so many people I know who swear by salads as entire meals. Especially in the summer, a well-built salad in a pretty bowl really does it for me.

And so, my friends, Happy Summer Solstice to you. May your pagan rites be merry. And may your salads kick some serious ass.

The Salad Dressing Compendium

Hello, Spring! Well, in California it’s Spring. I know many of you are still shoveling your cars out from under snow and I offer you my sympathies. I hold to the idea that when the crocuses and the daffodils finally push their valiant heads through the warming soil, the shock of joy you feel in your chests will be worth the wait. I swear, the earth is still spinning and the new harvest is on its way.

So my offering to you this Spring is the hope that you will NEVER BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN. This will save you money, which is nice, but also it will contribute to your health even more than you know. When we finally integrate the practice of fresh salads into our lives, incorporating more vegetables into our diets that way most health care professionals ask us to, often we then dump a bunch of bottled dressings onto them that are kind of like a bully’s kick to the newly found courage of the skinny kid on the playground. Name brand shelf-stable dressings are packed with crappy quality oils, preservatives, MSG and all manner of shit that has nothing at all to do with the goodness of eating food some nice farmer took the time to grow. Here: let’s take a look at what the Wish Bone people like to call “Italian Dressing”. Suffice to say, if I was Italian, I would be deeply offended by this kind of representation.

It’s hilarious to me that they are waving the Gluten-Free flag but really, I love the part where they say “CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (USED TO PROTECT QUALITY). What they may have meant to say goes something more like, “We like to call this Calcium Disodium  EDTA because it sounds like it might mean salt. But really it’s short for Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, which is actually made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine.” And that, my dear friends, is how corporations like to phrase Quality Control. I won’t get started on the maltodextrin because I’d rather get to the part where we make delicious things.

The first exciting thing is to share with you what readers are making! Let’s start with my friend Becky who is basically the hottest eyeliner butch in Los Angeles. She makes crazy art sets for things and obviously, she makes dressing. Becky says, ” I like a little twist on the typical balsamic for warmer weather, adjust for taste, of course:

2 parts WHITE balsamic
1 part grape seed oil
1/2t spicy brown mustard per serving.

The white balsamic/grape seed substitution really lightens up the flavor and tang” One of the great lessons Becky gives us here is that dressings can be made with general guidelines. Here she has a 2:1 ratio for vinegar to oil. Now our friend Alice Waters, the goddess who often watches over my kitchen experiments, always goes with a 3:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Does this make her right? Nope. It means that from Becky to Alice, people like their salads all kinds of ways. And you can too.

By now you know that one of my favorite food blogs is Laura Silverman’s Glutton for Life. I love it over there. She offers us a dressing of the ocean with anchovy paste. While you vegans and vegetarians may want to stay away, I say NO NO NO! Just substitute salted capers for the paste and you’ll still have that feeling of the sea. She mixes up anchovy paste, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard powder, chile oil, sea salt and garlic. Why are there no measurements? Because you, my friend, get to try them all out. You’ll notice she doesn’t use vinegar here and the lemon juice flies the sour flag for this recipe. Go easy on the chile oil as you experiment as a little bit goes a long ass way. This is a robust bangin’ dressing that will be able to handle dark spicy greens as well as steer the ship with lighter lettuces. I also think the color of some sliced radishes would be fantastic to highlight the contrast of flavors here. Don’t be afraid to cook by color. I have been known to assemble salads to go with the table linens. And it’s always just lovely.

What about when we are looking for a more eastern flavor, something from a Japanese kind of note? Well, one of my fantastic new clients sent me this one:

Miso Lime Dressing:
1/4 c white miso (you can use chickpea if soy is your nemesis)
1/4 c oil of choice
1/4 c water
2 T unsweetened rice vinegar
1 T honey (optional)
juice & zest of one lime
Blend in blender and keep refrigerated.

For me this recipe kicks some serious ass. Plus you can use it on a rice bowl as well. I would have at least 1T of toasted sesame oil as part of my 1/4 c and combine it with maybe a walnut, but that’s just me.

Up in the capital of the beautiful state of Washington, Olympia, food really does it’s thing. It’s not just where my Riot Grrrl youth sprang from. Although I’ve never lived in Olympia, in the shadow of the gorgeous Mt. Ranier, I’ve spent many a fine week entrenched in its never ending DIY spirit. Aside from getting my toes tattooed there (they say Lucky Devil), doing one my first ever Sister Spit shows there, and reveling in curating the spoken word for the legendary HomoAGogo for a few years, I have also watched people there just cook their asses off. My friend Sash Sunday (who is also presently my teammate for the upcoming Hood to Coast this August) grew up there. She lives outside of town now but blesses the town with the award-winning OlyKraut she co-founded. And never one to let anything go to waste, she uses the kraut brine for her veggies (that she grows). It’s simple she says.  Original Sauerkraut Brine, Grape Seed Oil, and one clove of crushed garlic. Mmmm. To me this clearly asks for some lightly steamed broccoli, blood orange, spinach, and toasted walnuts.

And me? I’ll leave you with this photograph for some inspiration. Do with it what you will. But please, don’t buy any more dressing. 


Fresh Garden Herb Salad

I am always tricked into thinking that if I don’t have lettuce, I don’t have ingredients for a salad. And no one is trying to trick me, it’s just how I grew up.

Salads. Are. Anchored. In. Lettuce.

Unless they are pasta salads in which case vegetables are only tiny studs on long stretches of starch, and that is not the kind of salad I am talking about.

I happen to be well-endowed in salad possibilities on several fronts. Not to brag. But first of all, I live in California so the climate makes all kinds of produce pretty beautiful and local all year round. Secondly, I fell in love with a dashing Southern butch with many charms, not the least of which is that she’s been a produce worker at the incredible Rainbow Grocery Cooperative for 17 years. Not only is she handsome and handy, She can really hold down a job. PLUS, she knows her vegetables. Which brings me to my third salad bonus which is that Ginger made us a garden in the back yard. So today when I thought that I wanted a salad and I didn’t have anything to make a salad with, I realized that was a thought lodged in my mind from 1982. Greens are much so more than just a three-pack of romaine hearts.

Here we have our rapini, mint, bergamot, oregano, a coupla beet greens and arugula from the garden. I added in some basil and cilantro I had in the refrigerator, plus three purple radishes and a half a red bell pepper. And look:

A big winter salad without a lettuce in sight. I dressed it with a mustard and balsamic vinaigrette and had quite a tasty experience with it. The greens hit so many more notes in a salad like this with bitter and astringent as well as sweet and rich. When a dish hits that many places on your tongue, you can be sure it is packed with that many different micronutrients as well. Here’s a little sampling:

Arugula: It has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties as well as a great source of Vitamins A, C, and K. Plus it makes a good go at copper and iron.
Basil:Contains essential oils that are proven to be both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory. It’s packed with a stunningly high amount of Vitamin A, is an excellent source of iron, and contains a specific flavonoid, zea-xanthin, that helps protect eyesight in elders.
Beet Greens:A fantastic delivery of carotenoids, anti-oxidants, and vitamin A arrive with your beet greens. Vitamin A aids in maintaining healthy mucus membranes is a huge player in healthy vision.
Bergamot and Mint: Help with neusea, gas and hiccups by relaxing stomach muscles.
Cilantro: One of natures richest sources of Vitamin K. This unsung hero builds bone mass by promoting osteotrophic activity in the bones. In addition, this vitamin has been worked into the protocol of the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
Oregano: Anti bacteria, anti-fungal, rich in fiber, smells great, and improves gut health through its enzymatic facilitation in our systems. Basically awesome.
Rapini: Huge help in the gut health department delivering a phytochemical known as I3C. This kills the Candida yeast that often overgrows when we ingest antibiotics. It’s also anti-inflammatory for our systems plus it’s sulphur content aids our heroic livers in the detoxification process.

You could also flash saute this mix of greens and serve it with all manner of lovely legumes or grains.

Cherry Cilantro Sunflower Dressing

photo (45)

Did I mention I am on a cleanse right now? Well, I am. Not only am I on the cleanse, I am leading the cleanse with 16 hilarious, devoted, disgruntled, creative and real people. Among our symptoms in the first 3 days are “screaming headaches”, stupifying fatigue (that’s my main one), intense cravings, crazy dreams and bouts of pointed rage. No one really feels too great yet. The first few days of a cleanse are kind of a shitshow. It’s like life, really: get through the shitshow to center stage, until inevitably, the tides turn again and then you gather your resources and sally forth.

The point is to give our bodies a break, let them reboot and do the real work of moving out all the toxins and stagnation to let new energy in. Once we spend a few short weeks slowing down, refocusing, and making choices based on what we’ve learned, our bottoming out doesn’t have to be as low after that. We being to crave healthy foods and activities. We have really great skin. We have way more energy. And we’re funnier. As if you thought that was even possible. Win/win/win.

As part of my intention setting, I’m in the process of kickstarting my novel again in preparation for some shows to promote the new Sister Spit Anthology, and also because I am going to finish the damn thing and publish it. The task of crawling back into the book is an emotional one, seeing what I left behind to languish and how coming back to it is also a reckoning with coming back to myself of that time. So here we are, and here we go. The Cleanse is a perfect time for this because I have a great deal of support from those people around me also doing it, PLUS, there is no way to lose when one engages a creative act. Even “failure” becomes its own reward, creating opportunity from nothing, an alchemy of art at each point of choice.

So as such, I eat an enormous salad every day. Bigger than my head. And these salads call for dressings. People: YOU NEVER HAVE TO BUY SALAD DRESSING AGAIN! I began my romance with homemade dressings from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food where she gives her basic vinaigrette recipe. Here it is.

Pour 1T Red wine vinegar into a small bowl. Add salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir to dissolve the salt, taste, and adjust if needed. Use a fork or small whisk to beat in a little at a time: 3 to 4 T extra virgin olive oil.

Variations: 1. Add a little pureed garlic or diced shallot or both to the vinegar. 2. White wine vinegar, sherry vinegar, or lemon juice can replace part or all of the red wine vinegar. 3. Beat in a little mustard before you start adding the oil. 4. For part of the olive oil, substitute a very fresh nut oil, such as walnut or hazelnut. 5. Heavy cream or crème fraiche can replace all or some of the olive oil except not on this cleanse! 6. Chop some fresh herbs and stir them into the finished vinaigrette.

I’ve made about a hundred variations since then and for real have not purchased one bottle of dressing since I read this. Not one. Shelf dressings are expensive and more often than not, packed with crap you don’t need. Also not nearly as tasty as your home efforts will be and they are so easy. Yesterday’s went like this:

8 pitted ripe cherries
4T olive oil
1T sunflower oil
2T red wine vinegar
1T balsamic
1t raw sunflower seeds
1 clove garlic
1/4 t crushed white peppercorn
1/4t ground cumin
small handful of fresh cilantro

Blend. Drizzle onto your salad and toss thoroughly.