lmost five years ago, I worked at an all boys camp in the Haliburton Highlands. Newly-turned-vegan me, and close to 300 omnivorous boys. Yikes. My veganism was the source of much heckling that summer, and I have a very distinct memory of walking through the crowded dining hall to the kitchen for my “special” dinner one night while the entire room bellowed at me “You don’t make friends with salad! You don’t make friends with salad!” (I was up on my pop culture enough to know that the song was part of the episode on the Simpsons where Lisa goes vegetarian.)
I used to think that making a salad your meal was downright unfeminist. How can we really be nourished by a bowl of lettuce leaves with maybe a pale wedge of tomato or two, and the dressing on the side? Women have appetites, and they need not be ashamed to eat a decent meal! was what I thought. I have since taken a more creative approach though. Salads are not limited to greens, and they’re a great way to get some fresh organic living foods into your diet, especially now that it’s spring – the weather’s milder (so there’s less of a need for warming foods) and there’ll be better produce in the shops and markets as the months roll on into summer.
baby spinach and arugula, with red peppers, grated beets, flaxseed oil, lemon juice, grilled tempeh and sunflower seeds
Here are a whole bunch of tools to build yourself some amazing meals:
- Start with a lovely bed of fresh greens – and be sure they’re organic. Try mesculun mix, baby spinach, arugula, mache, or fresh chopped romaine, red lettuce, or spinach. You could also start with very lightly steamed (like just 2 minutes here) kale or Swiss chard.
And then throw on:
- chopped fresh herbs: parsely, cilantro, dandelion greens
- grated carrots, beets, cabbage, ginger root and garlic
- chopped or sliced snowpeas, baby bok choy, cumcumbers, bell peppers, scallions, wild leeks or red onions
- fruit – an option that’s not considered too often, but pieces of strawberry, pear, apple or orange can be really nice
- sprouts (go organic, or grow your own – I’ll do a tutorial soon) – mung beans, alfalpha, sunflower, quinoa (sprouted quinoa is a complete protein, did you know?), lentils and other seeds, grains and legumes
- beans (sprouted, cooked or canned) – chickpeas can help make very satisfying salads
- marinated and grilled tempeh, tofu, or eggplant
- a sprinkling of raw seeds or chopped nuts – sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, hempseeds, walnuts, and almonds
There are so many variations, I’m sure you’ll find some favourites.
We can’t forget dressing though. This is a good time to get in your daily dose of essential fatty acids (EFAs) for good immune system function (amongst other things) – just drizzle on some cold-pressed flaxseed or hempseed oil (and follow by squeezing on some fresh lemon). I also recently learned that because beta carotene (a precursor for vitamin A) is water soluble and vitamin A is fat soluble, you need to eat fat at the same time as your brightly coloured vegetables in order to absorb the vitamin A.
Beautiful Balsamic Vinaigrette
Reducing balsamic vinegar gives it a sweeter and more intense flavour. I predict this dressing will become a staple in your kitchen – it has in mine.
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup cold-pressed oil – flax, walnut or extra virgin olive
1 clove garlic, grated or pressed
1/2 tsp. sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
Pour vinegar into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat and simmer for 5 minutes, until reduced by about half. Pour into a small bowl and drizzle in oil while whisking with the other hand to make an emulsified mixture. Stir in garlic, salt and pepper. This dressing’s especially lovely served over fresh organic baby greens with chopped heirloom tomatoes and crumbled organic feta, or with strawberries and chopped almonds (or whatever other salad suits your fancy). Store any leftover dressing in the fridge for up to a week.
Ginger Salad Dressing
1/4 cup cold-pressed olive or flaxseed oil
1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp. rice or cider vinegar
1 tbsp. evaporated cane juice, honey or other natural sweetener
2 tbsp. tamari soy sauce
1 tbsp. grated or minced ginger root
several dashes cayenne or hot sauce
Combine ingredients in a jar. Cover and shake. Store any leftover dressing in the fridge for up to a week.
I adapted this tasty recipe from the House Dressing at an intentional community in Oregon that I visited a few summers ago.
1 cup cold-pressed olive oil (or even better – 1/2 flax oil, 1/2 olive)
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup tamari soy sauce
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
a handful of raw sunflower seeds
1 tsp. dried dill weed
Toss all ingredients into a blender and whirl until smooth. Pour into a clean bottle or jar and store in the fridge for up to two weeks. Makes about 2 cups.
I adapted this from Ruth Tal Brown’s Juice for Life recipe.
2/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup grapefruit juice
3 tbsp. lemon juice
3 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 cup filtered or spring water
Give all ingredients a whirl in the blender for 2 minutes. Serve over salad.