I was never much of a salad lover, and over the years I started to realize it wasn’t so much the salads themselves. It was all those crummy dressings — the ones that were either too sweet or too tart, the ones that drowned out the salad ingredients, turning them into an unappealing mush. Worst of all were the ones with the slightly off-tasting chemicals. With my Type 2 diagnosis, I knew I was supposed to eat more vegetables, and that raw vegetables, like the greens, fresh tomatoes, and cucumbers in salad, have benefits all their own. Plus, salads were coming of age all around me. Restaurants were making salads with beautiful, adventurous ingredients — things like roasted squash, pistachios and burrata cheese. At some point iceberg and romaine had morphed into more assertive greens like arugula, frisee and mizuna. It was time to stop pushing salads to the side of my plate.
I finally woke up out of my anti-salad stupor when I bought a high-speed blender. I admit I bought it off late night TV, with the memories of a string of infommercial failures still haunting me (the Jane Fonda treadmill — no motor! you just run on a conveyor belt, like Fred Flintstone/ the Slap Chop (messy — food gets stuck in the blades) and the Automatic Pasta Maker (don’t ask). The blender works very well though, so off I went. Did it make a difference? Yes, so much that I am becoming a bit of a healthy salad dressing connoisseur. Here are three dressings with everything going for them: taste, ease and health, plus suggestions for serving. None of these dressings have weird chemicals or hordes of sugar. FInal tip: it helps to make a few dressings ahead, on a Sunday for example, and store them in the fridge. Some things just make life go more smoothly.
Jalapeno Ranch Dressing: This would be great on a chopped salad with avocado, corn, black beans, queso fresco and tomatoes. Throw in some fresh cilantro and tortilla chips. How about cubed chicken or toasted pumpkin seeds?
Lemon Parmesan Dressing: Try it with fresh tomato and mozzarella, or with some shaved asparagus and a poached egg. It would also compliment a fennel salad. Add a few anchovies to make it more intense.
Carrot Miso Dressing: This one is adapted from a recipe by Gwyneth Paltrow. I know some people have mixed feelings about Gwynnie, but she sure makes good salad dressings. For her original recipe (which uses a lot of sesame oil) go to her GOOP newsletter. Try this one on a salad of Japanese-style vegetables, with some grilled octopus, snow peas, carrots and edamame.