A couple of weeks ago when the air conditioning in the newsroom was on the blink and the outside temperatures were still in the 90s , I started thinking about how I had made it through one of the, shall we say, “warmer” summers on record.
I realized that over the past few months I’ve been eating a lot of salads. Not just because it’s infinitely better for me than something fried, but salads are cool and refreshing and simple to fix (I don’t have to get out a pot or pan).
I don’t know about you, but after a long day at work and going in and out of the heat (thank goodness it has cooled down at last), one of the LAST things I want to do when I get home is fire up the stove or oven.
Once in a while I do like to have a bit of sauteed shrimp or seasoned beef on top of the salad, but for the most part, I keep it really simple. And simple for me means a mix of lettuce (usually red or green leaf and some leaves of Boston), scallion or onion, cucumber or some other veggie or leftover from the fridge and maybe some cheese (either feta or extra sharp cheddar).
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Some of you may think that having salad for supper night after night can get boring.
But that’s where switching up the salad dressing can make a difference.
Usually, I just swirl extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar straight from the bottle then add a bit of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. But on occasion, I’ll whip up just a bit of something different. I also like to try to re-create some of my favorite dressings from area restaurants such as the carrot and ginger dressing at Sakura, the herby vinaigrette at Rosewood Market’s deli or the balsamic vinaigrette at The Other Store (which they also use as a condiment on sandwiches yum).
The wide range of flavors that you can create is amazing. One website, devoted to nothing but vinaigrettes, offers a range of flavored dressings from apple cider to blueberry, honey mustard to wasabi. Check out vinaigretterecipes.com for inspiration for your flavorful creations.
Carrot ginger dressing
Makes 2 cups
1/2 pound carrots (3 medium), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil (or 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds)
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup water
• Pulse carrots in a food processor until finely ground (almost pureed). Add ginger, shallots, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil (or toasted seeds) and salt and pulse until ginger and shallots are minced. With motor running, add vegetable oil in a slow stream.
• Transfer mixture to a blender. Add water and blend until smooth. Thin dressing with additional water, if desired. Dressing will keep for one week in refrigerator.
Boston lettuce with chives and butter dressing
Makes 4 servings
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives
1 head Boston lettuce, larger leaves torn into pieces
1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
• Sprinkle chives over lettuce in a large bowl.
• Heat butter and garlic in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden and butter has a slightly nutty aroma, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.
• Toss salad with dressing and serve immediately.
Butter lettuce with goat cheese green goddess dressing
2 1/2 ounces soft fresh goat cheese
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup buttermilk
1 medium avocado
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
4 large heads of butter lettuce, quartered lengthwise
• Using a rubber spatula, mix goat cheese and sour cream in bowl. Puree buttermilk, avocado, tarragon, parsley and chives in blender until smooth. Gradually whisk buttermilk mixture into goat cheese mixture until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Divide lettuce among serving plates, drizzle with dressing.
• Dressing can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and refrigerate.
About 2 cups
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/8 cup roasted garlic
1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
• In blender or food processor, combine basil, garlic, cheese and vinegar. Blend until almost smooth.
• Slowly drizzle oil into mixture through the feed tube or top of the blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.