Salad days are really and truly here. We have survived another winter, made it through snowstorms and frigid temperatures, viruses, a bad flu epidemic and more. We ate heartily and filled our bodies with hot soups and stews and lots of hot cocoa and we are done. Now it is spring and fresh green produce is on the shelves and in our kitchen and I could not be happier. As I continue to look for more nutritious and low calorie foods for my own kitchen, I also find that most people are doing the same.
We are blessed with a huge selection of vegetables and fruits in our midst and we can take advantage of all kinds of new produce that comes to market from all over the world. I love Japanese eggplant and can now easily find it and a half dozen other kinds of eggplants on the shelves at my local indoor farm stand. In addition, I can also find a large assortment of fresh herbs and Asian vegetables, Mexican favorites and more. For Passover this year, I found three kinds of fresh horseradish and chose the least pungent of the three according to the manager. He was right. I had people asking for more!
Michael Pollan once said, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” I have started to live by this rule and it has paid off in weight loss, more energy and so much more. I have not become a vegetarian, but I have divided my weekly diet into percentages and tried to make plant based foods about 65 to 85 percent of my diet.
Plant based foods are good for us and good for the earth. When we plant vegetables, we give back to the earth, Tikun Olam. Plants cut our carbon footprint. They give oxygen to the air and help clean the water under the earth. In addition, if you buy locally grown vegetables in the spring, summer and fall seasons, then you cut the emissions of trucks needed to haul the produce from other places.
You can even go one step further, plant your own vegetable garden, and further cut your contribution to global warming and pollution. Your own garden also saves you money in the long run and helps children learn about the food chain. I know that planting a garden got my kids to eat the veggies we grew - from carrots to tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans and more. They tasted fresh mint and basil and home grown garlic. My children, now grown, are true vegetable lovers and I think having a garden helped foster that.
Now is the time to develop the habit of eating more, delicious salads. If you love meat and chicken, place slices atop a delicious salad. If you love roasted veggies, add them to a salad. The great thing about a salad is that you can add anything you like from chickpeas, to pistachios to fruit and chees or meat or salmon or more.
It’s spring. Get out your imagination and any and all the ingredients you like and make a delicious, healthy meal. Your body will thank you and so will our beloved planet.
Roasted Tomatoes Basil and Feta Salad (Dairy)
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise.
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly gronund black pepper
1/2 tsp. brown sugar
1 clove garlic, pressed though a garlic press
1 bunch fresh basil leaves
1 large head Boston or Bibb lettuce
4 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
4 to 6 ounces Feta cheese, crumbled
Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the cherry tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar and pour onto the prepared pan. Roast in the oven about an hour or until the skins looks charred in places and the tomatoes have shriveled. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Tear the Bibb lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Add the spinach leaves and basil leaves and toss to mix. Add the feta cheese and toss. Add the dressing and toss gently. Place on serving plates. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette (Pareve)
1/3 to 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin or light olive oil
2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1 tsp. Grated or minced garlic
pinch sugar to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
OPTIONAL: up to 2 Tbsp. cold water to cut the strength of the lemon juice.
Mix all ingredients together and mix well. Makes about 1 cup.
Roasted Strawberry, Peach and Goat Cheese Salad (Dairy)
1 pint strawberries, cut in half
2 to 3 ripe peaches, cut in half; each half cut into 4 pieces
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 package Spring Mix Greens or baby lettuces mixed with baby spinach
1 bunch pea shoots
3 ounces goat cheese, cut into rounds
Place greens and 1 cup glazed walnuts or pecans
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil.
Place the berries in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil. Place on one pan. Add the sliced peaches to the bowl and toss with the remainder of the olive oil. Pour onto the other pan. Roast for 10 minutes. Check Berries and if darkened in a few places, remove from the oven. Let cool
Turn the peach slices and roast for another 10 to 12 minutes, until they are darkened in a few places. Remove from oven. Let cool.
Place the greens and pea shoots in a large bowl. Add the glazed nuts and toss.
Place on salad plates. Add some roasted berries and peaches and the goat cheese rounds. Drizzle with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette dressing or some good balsamic vinegar and serve. Makes 4 to 8 servings.
Honey Lemon Vinaigrette (Pareve)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 Tbsp. clover honey
1 Tbsp. sherry or white wine vinegar
1 tsp. finely grated onion
2/3 cup canola oil or corn oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients and taste. Adjust to taste. Makes about 2 cups.
Roasted Veggie and Everything More Salad
Roasted yams, carrots, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, pineapple cubes, etc.
Canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Blanched green beans, asparagus, sugar snap peas
Sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecan, pistachios, etc.
Sliced chicken, steak, roast beef, salmon, etc.
Sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts or other toppings of your choice
Easy Garlic Oil Vinaigrette (Pareve)
1 large (or 2 small) cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
3/4 to 1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup garlic wine or red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 cup water, if necessary
Other seasonings as YOU like such as, rosemary, thyme, paprika, etc.
Press the garlic into the olive oil, stir and set aside. Place the garlic wine vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper in a container with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Add the garlic oil mixture and shake to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings. If too strong, add a bit of water and shake. Shake just before using. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.