Sunday, July 31, 2011

Making Interesting and Healthy Salads

At first I wasn’t going to post this because I think making salad is something that everyone does, particularly in the summer. However once I thought about it realized that there are a few tricks to making an interesting and healthy salad. After I realized that I knew I should write something on the topic. Here are a few salads I made so far this weekend.

The first was a quinoa and veggie salad. This one contained cold cooked quinoa, diced cucumbers, julienned carrots, dried tart cherries, cilantro and green onions and pecans. I dressed this simply using only lemon zest, lemon juice and no salt seasoning.

The second salad was also a grain and veg salad. It was a simple salad which contained: cold cooked barley, shaved kohlrabi, artichokes, diced cucumber, tomato, and parsley. I wanted this one to have an Italian flavor and dressed it with red wine vinegar and nutritional yeast.

The third salad was all veg, no cooked grain. This one contained raw corn, shaved kohlrabi, diced cucumbers, artichokes, cilantro, tomato, and walnuts. I dressed this salad with fresh lemon juice and no-salt seasoning.

The first thing you will notice is that I don’t use oil on my salads. This isn’t a surprise to my long time readers since you know that I don’t use oil at home except for the occasional splurge with truffle oil or roasted sesame oil. This was a tough habit for me to break being part Italian. I was convinced that salad wouldn’t be any good without unfiltered extra virgin olive oil initially. However I have been away from oil so long now that salad which contains oil just tastes greasy to me. The other thing that I noticed is that oil mutes the flavor of the other ingredients in the salad. I never realized that until I gave it up. It does take a month or more to get used to food without oil, but once you get used to it you won’t go back. Plus your arteries will thank you.

I like to add nuts or seeds to my salad in lieu of oil. They add good fat to help your body absorb the fat soluble vitamins in the salad.

When I make salad I try to make sure that at least 50% of the ingredients in the salad are raw. I do this for both texture and nutrition.  You will notice that the kohlrabi is raw and that is because it is a member of the cruciferous veg family and is far more nutritious when it is raw or lightly cooked.

In addition I intentionally vary the texture of the vegetables. Some of them are cut into chunks, others julienned, and still others shaved. This adds interest to the salad.

I also love to add fresh herbs to salad because they add wonderful flavor intensity.  However herbs also add nutrition so add as many as you like.

Sometimes I add fresh or dried fruit to salad and that always adds a nice little variation to a straight veg or fruit salad. The dried fruit is particularly nice when you want pops of sweet intensity.

Salad dressings are something that I had to play around with for a while to get a feel for what we like. I always start with an acid base either: balsamic, wine vinegar, or citrus. To the acid base I add something that will help the dressing emulsify and this is either Dijon (which works great), miso or a nut cream (walnut and raw cashew are my favorites). Once you have the base done add any flavorings you like. These could be grated garlic or ginger, herbs or spice, poppy seeds, and maybe a little sweetener like stevia. After you start making no oil dressing you will find that they are simple to prepare it just takes a little time for your brain to adjust to the idea of no oil. If you want something really simple use straight balsamic glaze or pomegranate molasses. Both of these are thick as is and they add plenty of flavor.

Happy Thoughts:

• We had a lovely laid back Saturday. It was great to hang out at home and relax and recharge our batteries. We ate popcorn watched a movie and took it easy most of the day. In case you are interested I flavored the popcorn with nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, dill, no-salt seasoning and powdered garlic.  :-)

• Sunday morning we had a great trip to the farmers’ market. We picked up our usual enormous haul of produce. This week we brought home: zucchini, eggplant, kale, portabellas, red potatoes, cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, wheat germ, wheat bran, whole rye berries, steel cut oats, and mango curry hummus from the hummus stand. It was definitely a good haul this week. They have opened a “flea market” at Sonar next to the farmers’ market. This is where we picked up the organic whole grains. If you are downtown next Sunday check out the organic grains they have. I was very pleased with the variety and the prices.

• The fur children seem to have rebounded from their recent trips to the doctor. Luca is toddling around and smacking her brothers just like always. Masi is moving a little slower than usual but it might just be the season. My little ones seem to be less active in the summer even though they are in the air conditioning.

• I am enjoying reading “Younger Next Year”. If you want to understand the science behind why it is a good idea to exercise everyday this is the book for you. I checked this out from the library but will be buying this for my Kindle because I can see myself referring to it often.

• My laziness really paid off this morning. I was making a batch steel cuts oats to share with Dan today but I wanted savory oats and he wanted fruit and nut oats. I took some oats out for me and then put his breakfast together. Since I didn’t feel like running to the pantry to grab nutritional yeast I ended up making sushi oats for myself and loved it. I will share the details in the next post. While it sounds odd I promise you it was delicious. :-)

Signing Out:

We have other errands to run today so I need to get moving. I hope you are having a wonderful weekend. Talk with you again soon.


  1. Thanks for the salad ideas! I've been in a rut with mine lately. I have a big bunch of parsley so I think I'll make some sort of tabouleh today. What else do you do with parsley?

  2. While I do love a little oil/dressing on my salad, I don't like much. Greasy salad is icky.

    Thanks for the salad ideas!

  3. I just got done commenting on the congee post. yum.
    I kind of dislike salad, I think because I like savory things to be warm. The addition of cooked grains is a great idea that I haven't done too much of. Thanks!

  4. Laura,

    You are welcome, glad I could help.

    I use parsley in almost everything Italian. Do you ever make salsa verde? That requires a lot of parsley.


  5. Lovesweatandbeers,

    Great name! Greasy salad is nasty. :-P

    thanks for commenting :-)

  6. Meg,

    I haven't always been a salad person either. With me salad was an acquired taste. I forced myself to eat them for a while because I knew they were good for me. Now as long as they have good flavor and a variety of textures I love them. I hope they start to go on you too soon. :-)



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