Old Reliables: Salads You Can Count On
Years ago, I visited a career counsellor to determine the profession best suited to my personality (turns out I should have been a Human Resources professional or a researcher). Part of the assessment was a test in which you enumerate your ten most prominent personality traits. To help me decide, the counsellor suggested I ask friends or family members who knew me well for their ideas, as they’d be better able than I to assess my personality objectively.
The trait that surfaced most often for me was “reliable.” It took a while to get over being slightly offended by the label; I’ve since come to understand that ”reliable” doesn’t necessarily equate with “stodgy, boring, predictable.” Besides, as my HH is fond of saying, it’s just one of my “dog-like qualities.” (“Not that there’s anything wrong with that, right, Mum?”)
Well, so far this week, “reliable” seems to characterize the foods I’ve been drawn to as well. For the first few days of the cleanse, I found myself experiencing odd cravings (which might have been alarming if I weren’t past child-bearing age) for raw veggies and other simple, unadorned foods. Curious, since I’m not particularly enamored of salad as a rule (sort of how I feel about Dancing with the Stars: if it’s there in front of me, I can watch it and even enjoy it; but I’d never actively seek it out.)
Of course, if I stopped to think about it, I’d likely discover that a good portion of my typical dinner entrées lack grains, and I generally cook them up without another thought. So why, now that I’m actually trying to prepare interesting dishes for the Grain Drain, do I seem to be stumped?
Enter old reliables. You know the type: like that gay pal you had as an undergrad, your perma-date who accompanied you to every important family function or work-related event; like that pair of respectable pumps you store in pristine condition in their original shoebox, just in case you’re summoned unexpectedly to a job interview; or like your most cherished friend, the one you could call without hesitation at 11:38 PM on a weeknight after you learned that Rocker Guy (he of the black leather pants) was returning to his old girlfriend, and you needed a shoulder to cry on (thanks, Gemini I). In the realm of food, these are my go-to salads.
These are the salads we consume time and again, making minor adjustments depending on availability of local ingredients, what’s on hand in the kitchen, or shifting tastes as the seasons drift from one to the next. And since they are so familiar to so many of us, I thought I’d collect them here–a trio of fruits, roots and leaves (isn’t that what a panda eats? Or is it some weird grammatical construction?).
Most of our salads in the DDD household are fairly rudimentary, tried-and-true affairs that probably appear on many of your own tables in slightly varied formats. Tossed greens, coleslaw, three bean–they’re comfort foods you turn to when cooking feels like an onerous task, the dishes you could whip up without a recipe, the ones that over time, perhaps, become your signature dishes. Even if they’re tweaked a bit over the years, they still retain their original essence and appeal. These recipes are as reliable as that newspaper rolled in its heavy, scuffed elastic band, delivered to your front porch each morning; as basic as your little black dress; as comfortable as the warm sand between your toes on a sunny beach.
First up is a standard greens-and-veggies combo. This Greens with Hearts of Palm and Pine Nuts is the same salad that accompanied my Sweet Potato and Kasha Burgers a while back, about which some of you expressed an interest. The colors are remarkably vivid, and for a salad that’s this easy to make, the taste is astonishing. This is one of my all-time favorite green salads.
I also enjoyed a coleslaw that I’ve been preparing since my twenties. Originally the recipe of my room mate’s older sister, it was the first in which I’d tasted fruit (raisins) in coleslaw, and I was instantly smitten. In those days, I made the dressing with a combination of plain yogurt and mayonnaise, but I find that any vegan mayonnaise works just as well. It provides a lovely tang along with the soft sweetness of chewy raisins and juicy crunch of fresh cabbage. Both refreshing and satisfying!
Finally, I mixed up a three bean salad–you know the one, the centerpiece at all those family Bar B Q’s from your childhood, the same one that occupies a huge bowl on almost every restaurant buffet. I adapted this one from Chuck and Gurney’s 125 Best Vegan Recipes, as I couldn’t find my original (cadged from another graduate student way back during my PhD). I imagine you could substitute almost any beans you like, but for me, it wouldn’t be “classic” without kidney beans and chick peas.
These are the multiple-encore salads in our house–and you can count on a great performance from all three.
And since Salad Number 3 in the lineup is a perfect choice for Lisa and Holler’s No Croutons Required event (this month, the focus is on soups or salads with beans or legumes/pulses), I’m sending it along there as well. You can check out the roundup after the 20th of the month.
Greens with Hearts of Palm and Pine Nuts (suitable for ACD Stage 1 and beyond)
Because the vegetables here are so radiant on their own, I snapped the photo before dressing the salad. With so many flavors coexisting in harmony here, the dressing is actually very light. And you can vary virtually every part of the salad: use your favored greens instead of the organic mixed greens; use walnuts or almonds instead of pine nuts; or artichoke hearts for hearts of palm–it all works!
For the salad:
about 4 cups organic baby mixed greens, or a similar amount of other greens, torn into bite-sized
1 can whole hearts of palm, rinsed
1/4 cup (60 ml.) pine nuts, lightly roasted and cooled
1 cup (125 ml.) grape or cherry tomatoes
1/2 red pepper, cut into 2 cm. squares
1/4 red onion, diced (optional)
1 orange or apple, peeled, cored, and cut into bite-sized pieces
Place all ingredients in a large salad bowl.
For the dressing:
1/4 cup (60 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
3 T. (45 ml.) balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
2 tsp. (10 ml.) agave nectar or 8-10 drops stevia
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Blend all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until smooth and well-combined. Pour over salad, toss and serve. Serves 4.
Dilly Coleslaw with Raisins and Walnuts
suitable for ACD Maintenance
This is a perfect side dish for a Bar B Q or light lunch on a really hot day. It makes a great partner to classic potato salad. The fresh dill adds some zest to this classic salad.
1/3 small cabbage, shredded or sliced into thin shreds
1 large carrot, grated
1/2 cup (125 ml.) raisins
1/2 cup (125 ml.) walnut pieces, lightly toasted
1/4 cup (60 ml.) fresh dill, coarsely chopped
1/2-3/4 cup (depending on your preference) vegan mayonnaise (or use half mayo and half yogurt)
2 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
sea salt, to taste
In a salad bowl, toss together cabbage, carrot, raisins, and walnuts.
In a small bowl, mix together dill, mayonnaise, lemon juice and sea salt. Pour over vegetables and toss to coat. Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld, or refrigerate for 2-4 hours before serving. Makes 6 servings.
Classic Three Bean Salad (suitable for ACD Maintenance)
adapted from 125 Best Vegan Recipes by Maxine Effenson Chuck and Beth Gurney
I love the sharp pungency of the dressing in this salad. Added fresh mint and tarragon elevates it beyond the buffet table.
1-1/2 cups (375 ml.) dry beans (use 3 or 4 types : I used red kidney, chick peas, and Great Northern beans),
soaked in water overnight, drained, rinsed and cooked until soft–or use 3 cans of prepared beans
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 red onion, chopped or sliced
2/3 (160 ml.) cup red wine vinegar
1/3 cup (80 ml.) extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. (15 ml.) each chopped fresh cilantro, fresh mint and fresh tarragon (or use other herbs as you prefer)
1-2 tsp. (5-10 ml.) agave nectar (to taste)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Make the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, oil, garlic, and agave nectar; add the herbs and mix well; season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Make the salad: Place beans and vegetables in a large salad bowl. Top with dressing and toss well. Allow to marinate for at least one hour, up to overnight. Makes 4-6 servings. Will keep, refrigerated, up to 4 days.