Friday, January 21, 2011

The Art of the Salad

It's no secret. I love salad! Alot! As does Brent so we eat it all the time. However, it's certainly not the ol' standard garden salad or even your basic Caesar that we eat almost daily. Sure, we eat those salads too but ours consist of pears or apples or walnuts or goat cheese or caramelized onions or all of them! I think loving salad comes from knowing how to make a salad; how to combine ingredients of varying flavors and textures and, perhaps more importantly, how to make your own dressing. There is no bottled salad dressing in my fridge. Why, when it's merely oil and vinegar?

One of our favourites is spinach (we generally only use spinach and sometimes arugula, both more delicious and nutritious than any variety of lettuce), dried cranberries, candied sunflower seeds, goat cheese, and pear, finished with a splash of both olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Simple yet so delish! Sweet, rich, crunchy, creamy, tangy, fresh. This is what salad is all about! Nothing boring here. And it's easy to change it up: instead of pears, add in apple (honey crisp is my new fav), instead of the sunflower seeds, add walnuts or any nut for that matter, and instead of the oil and vinegar, mix up some sesame oil, maple syrup and a splash of rice vinegar. Suddenly, you've got yourself a whole new salad! This is why we eat it so often; it doesn't get boring and, let's face it, it's really good for us.

So, to get in on the salad action, follow some simple rules.  Get yourself some greens. The darker green, the healthier. Then throw in whatever veggies or fruit you have. If you're going for a sweeter salad, you may not want to throw in something like tomatoes but feel free to use onions as it will balance nicely with any sweet fruit whether that's dried cranberries, pear, apple, raisins, grapes, or strawberries. If you want a more savoury salad, think cherry tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes, feta, onions, basil, arugula. Then throw in some nuts or seeds and finally, some cheese (or meat or beans) if you want. That leads me to another rule: goat cheese works with everything! Finally, mix up some dressing yourself. There are so many recipes out there and trying some will make you change the way you think about salad dressing. (And there is nothing, I mean nothing better than homemade Caesar dressing!) But if you're looking for simplicity, balsamic vinegar and olive oil is always delicious. Try mixing in some maple syrup for a touch of sweetness. The possibilities are endless.

So, start fulfilling those resolutions (I know you've all made them!) and eat your salad! Tons of vitamins and minerals and phytochemicals in one delicious bowl. Or wait a few months and I'll make you one....