Thursday, April 15, 2010

Veggie Might: Salad Confounds, Dressing Rules (Also, Lemon-Ginger Dressing)

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

You know the cliché about bachelors and cooking? Well, my boyfriend doesn’t have an operational stove in his apartment. Let me clarify: the stove works, but the gas isn’t turned on.

So. Here’s what we’ve been doing: eat food I cook at my apartment (Charming Dinner Guest ring a bell?); eat food I cook and schlep to his apartment; or eat take out at his place.

Of course, the latter is not so frugal and has been wearing on both our wallets. The middle (is there a word for the middle?) is okay once in a while, but it would be so much easier to just cook the food there.

The thing is he wants to cook at home—to save money, to eat healthier, and to save money. It’s what we all want, right? So the gas people are coming in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, we have to eat, and sometimes at his place. Thank sweet Angela Lansbury and her angel above, Bea Arthur, for salad.

Or so I thought… For anyone out there who has struggled with salad, this is for you.

A short play in one act

Cast of Characters
Leigh, your lovable Veggie Might blogger
Charming Boyfriend, her gentleman caller

CB: So, I’ll go to the grocery after work. What can be cooked in the microwave for supper?

Leigh: (aside) Um…NOTHING! (to CB) Why don’t you grab some stuff for a salad?

CB: You know how much I love salad dressing. I could drink the stuff. But you may be overestimating my abilities to “grab some stuff for a salad.”

Leigh: Ha. I’ll bring my homemade dressing and chickpeas. I’ve also baked some tofu we could have on sandwiches.

CB: I’d don’t know if you’ve been to the produce aisle, but everything’s green and looks like it can go into a salad.

Leigh: Don’t panic. I’ll coach you on salad-stuff buying. Here's what I would get. Just pick a couple from each list. Simpler is always better.

The Basics
Greens (mixed field greens [aka mesclun], spinach, romaine, green or red leaf lettuce, or any combo thereof)
Tomatoes (if the tomatoes are ripe)
Red pepper
Green pepper

The Extras
Broccoli or cauliflower
Turnip or radishes
Feta or goat cheese (optional)

CB: THANK YOU. You don't know how long I've been howling at the Internet, wondering they mean by "salad greens.” Seriously, this has been an issue for years.

Leigh: That’s why I’m here.


Once you have your salad fixin’s you’ll need dressing that people (CB) want to drink independently of the salad. No need to spend $5.00/bottle for something you can whip up in a few minutes for pennies.

This handy ratio will allow you to make just about any salad dressing your heart desires: 2 parts oil : 1 part acid. Mark Bittman recommends a shallot accompany the oil/acid base, and I faithfully adhere to that advice. After that you’re free to toss in any seasonings, herbs, or sweeteners you like.

Salad dressing is infinitely customizable. My favorite salad dressing oils are olive and sesame, but use whatever you like. You can use any acid: vinegar, citrus fruits, wine; plus any ingredients that tip your canoe: ginger, honey, garlic, mustard, dill.

Be creative. Taste as you go. If you over-season, just add more oil and acid. Don’t be afraid to throw stuff in and see what happens.

CB’s salad was a success. He bought spinach, romaine, carrots, onion, red pepper, and two avocadoes, which are still ripening on his counter. Combined with the chickpeas and lemon-ginger salad dressing I brought, we had the perfect midweek meal—no cooking required.


If you like this post, you very well may enjoy:

Lemon-Ginger Dressing
Makes about 3/4 cup, or 12 tablespoon-sized servings

1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
scant 1/2 cup olive oil
1 shallot
2-inch piece ginger, grated
1 tsp agave nectar
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper to taste

If you’re using a blender:
1) Juice the lemons, coarsely chop your shallot, and grate the ginger.

2) Pour the lemon juice and olive oil into the blender and zap it for a few second or until it’s thoroughly emulsified.

3) Add the shallots and ginger. Zap it again until the shallots are decimated (minced will do).

4) Add agave, salt, and pepper. Zap it once again. Give it a taste. Do you like it? Does it need more of some thing? It’s your dressing! Zap, taste, tweak, and repeat until you like it.

If you’re not using a blender:
1) Juice the lemons, finely mince your shallot, and grate the ginger.

2) Pour the lemon juice and olive oil into a large bowl and whisk it like mad for a couple of minutes or until it’s thoroughly emulsified.

3) Add the shallots and ginger. Whisk it like mad again.

4) Add agave, salt, and pepper. Whisk it once again. Give it a taste. Do you like it? Does it need more of some thing? It’s your dressing! Whisk, taste, tweak, and repeat until you like it.

5) Drizzle over your favorite salad. It keeps up to a week in the fridge. Just let it come to room temp and give it a shake or stir when you’re ready to drink it. I mean, use it.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price per Serving
87 calories, 9g fat, .08g fiber, $.11

1/4 cup lemon juice (2 lemons): 24 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.40
scant 1/2 cup olive oil: 955 calories, 108g fat, 0g fiber, $.64
1 shallot: 20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.10
2-inch piece ginger: 22 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, $.06
1 tsp agave nectar: 20 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.06
salt to taste: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
freshly ground pepper: negligible calories, fat, fiber, $.02
Totals: 1041 calories, 112g fat, 1g fiber, $1.30
Per serving (totals/12): 87 calories, 9g fat, .08g fiber, $.11

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Leigh said...

Oh dang! The yield should be more specific:

Makes about 3/4 cup or 12 1-tbsp servings.

Sorry and thanks!

Anonymous said...

A few peices of lacking an oven or stove advice.
1. Tabouli. You can make Bulgur wheat with just hot from tap water and patience. Actually if you soak it it seems to turn out more fluffy. After the bulgur wheat nothing else needs to be cooked.
2. Sandwhiches
3. soups are possible to be heated and cooked in the type of glass coffee pots. I did this a lot in college

My Life on the Dole said...

I also like to add a bit of yogurt (flavored or plain) to my oil/vinegar dressing mix. French herbs are also great in it too.

Another easy dressing recipe is mayo, spicy brown mustard & Splenda/sugar to taste--easy "honey mustard" dressing!

Happy eating.

Sassy Molassy said...

I suggest a toaster over. I have made many a meatloaf and pork chop and pizza in a toaster oven. Seriously. Also great in summer when you want to use the oven but not heat up the whole house.

Lori said...

My husband has been known to bring home an avocado still a week away from being edible. More than once/