Tuesday, June 07, 2011

On Salads in Summer. and Two Good Dressings

     Well, it's officially hot as the dickens out there. I try so hard to appreciate summertime weather. I do love a popsicle or watermelon wedge on a warm day. Fresh herbs and bright flowers are a delight to see filling out flower beds. Ice cream on a cone seems ten times more glorious to me when the weather's warm. And a tall glass of iced mint & honey tea is something I do dream of during winter months. But, on the whole, summer drops to quick 4th on the favorite seasons list. I give no complaints for there is good purpose to each season and I can value that. But, I'm just sayin' that my drive to shower has diminished dramatically as its effects don't last 12 seconds out the door. What's the point? (Don't worry, I'm still showering daily.) And my winter scarves and jackets and tall boots look awfully sad and dusty peeking out from my hall closet. Cool weather longings aside, I will embrace the sweat, thankful for a working ac unit and an indoor job, and now talk about another something I like to eat when the sun is blazing in full summer-strength.
       Salads. I love a good green salad. It's a fact. Since I started my job as a night shift nurse 3+ years ago I've brought one nearly every work night for my midnight "lunch." If you have been reading this little blog for any length of time you might have picked up on my love of anything you can personalize to your taste. Salads slip right under that heading with ease. They're versatile as can be which is what keeps me coming back to them. If I'm in the mood for sweet and fruity, a strawberry salad with poppyseed dressing is perfect. If I'd rather a heartier, more protein-rich bowl, I might opt for an avocado salad with a lemon-chive dressing...and on and on...options are endless.
   With summertime rolling in, both with humidity (blargh.) and bustling farmers' markets (hooray!), I find myself thinking all the more of a cool fresh green salad, loaded with good stuff. Let me give you an idea of what mine might include...first thing, a base of leafy greens of any kind (mache is my favorite, or a mix of baby spinach and arugula), fresh seasonal fruits from the market (strawberries, of course, or raspberries, apples [when in their season], grapes, oranges, whatever looks best), some other vegetable additions (edamame, raw broccoli florets, chopped celery, sliced mushrooms, diced onion, sprouts, sliced avocado), dried fruit to add some chew (dried cranberries or cherries are my favs), toasted nuts for protein and crunch (pecans/walnuts/cashews/sliced almonds/pine nuts/sunflower seeds), a cheese to fit the mood (feta and gorgonzola are great with strawberries. grated parmesan with anything. a scoop of goat cheese is fun for a soft cheese option. or maybe cheddar with a black bean or more mexican-inspired salad). Ok, wow, do you get it? I just wrote a novel about a salad. I'm sorry. I can't believe you're still reading. And this isn't really even what this post is about. Ek. Ok, so let's quickly move on to the dressing. Last but not least. Here are two dressings you can make in a flash and are much cheaper than store-bought versions. These are both sweet ones that I love. I'll share some more savory options in a later post. In short, have fun with your salads. Be creative. It's like a work of art--a little o' this, a touch o' that. Make it your own, simple with a couple toppings or crazy and loaded like mine. And stay cool. :)

adapted from Cook's Illustrated The Best 30-Minute Recipe
yields about 1 1/4 cups

1/4 cup cranberry or orange juice (or water if you have neither)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raspberry vinegar 
1 shallot, peeled
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine cranberries and juice in microwave-safe bowl, cover with saran wrap, and microwave for 1 minute to rehydrate berries.
2. Blend hot cranberry mix with remaining ingredients--except the oil--in blender for about 15 seconds until shallot and garlic are finely chopped. Add oil and continue to blend for another 15 seconds until emulsified and smooth.
3. Chill in refrigerator and serve. (side note: once in fridge for a while the oil will separate from the other ingredients. in this case just pop the bottle, assuming it's microwave-safe, in the microwave for a few seconds and it will loosen the oils so you can shake it up and serve again.)

slightly modified from Alton Brown's version
yields around 1 ounce

5 tablespoons honey
3 1/2 tablespoons dijon mustard 
(more or less, depending on how mustardy you like your dressing. i like mine a bit on the spicier side.)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar

Whisk ingredients together until well-combined. Serve over salad or use as a dip.

1 comment:

  1. I'm most impressed about the 3 + years of nursing.....:)