Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Great salads as we get ready for spring

It is darn near the end of February, and I can just about smell spring. Around here, that's not exactly a good thing. My kids have been heard recently retching and gagging when they step outside - "Mom, it smells like POO!" But that's just the smell of thawing farmland in this part of the world and it's a small price to pay for having easy access to locally grown produce. 100 mile diet? How about 5 mile? Still, it is pretty stinky round here.

Now that I have primed your appetite with that little olfactory amuse bouche, who wants some recipes? :-)

Spring makes me thing of salads. While we eat our share of salads through the winter, there is something about the longer days and increasing sunshine that makes me want to add them to every meal. And that is saying something because I really don't like making salad. All that washing, spinning, trimming and chopping...blech. Not that the ones I make are all that challenging. They usually incorporate spinach or arugula, some fruit and avocado, and they almost always have pumpkin seeds. I like a smidge of thinly sliced red onion and lately have been making really lovely salad dressing with Trader Joe's Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar. But I must admit I'm officially bored. Time to cull the brains of my fellow foodies and recipe blogs.

So, we want lots of cancer-fighters, like dark leafy greens and a range of colourful vegetables, with bonus points going for nuts and seeds, garlic and ginger. But most of all, the salads have to be tasty or I will seriously resent all that washing, spinning, trimming and chopping.

Here we go:
  1. Kale slaw with peanut dressing from The Kitchn. Now, they bill this as an autumn salad, but I still have kale in my garden and more coming in my box of organic veg - this looks like a great way to use it up.
  2. Blood orange, beet and fennel salad from Epicurious. Oranges are still near their peak and this recipe really shows them off.
  3. Vietnamese salad from Gwyneth Paltrow via Stand Up to Cancer.  Bok choy, cabbage, watercress, cucumber and carrots simply dressed with a tart and spicy dressing. Yu-um.
  4. Broccoli salad from Jamie Oliver. OK - the recipe calls for 8 rashers of bacon. Golly. Bet you're making this one first, aren't you?
  5. Alice Water's shaved asparagus and parmesan salad via Cookstr. She says this is best made with the first asparagus of the season in April and May, so bookmark it now and make it later in the season. That flown in asparagus you see in the stores now isn't doing the planet any favours. 
  6. Crunchy salad with hot and sour dressing from Nigella. The salad is a mix of broccoli, beans, baby corn, mushrooms, Chinese lettuce and beansprouts which would be lovely to look at - but the most interesting part for me is the dressing.  She calls for tom yam paste and I actually already have some in the cupboard. A well-stocked grocery store will have it, or check out the markets in neighbourhoods with large Asian populations. I love tom yam soup, that hot and sour Thai broth that simultaneously puckers your lips and blasts open your nasal passages. I never would have thought to add the paste to a salad dressing. Brilliant Nigella.
  7. This one is an old favourite I haven't made in years: sesame pea shoot salad from Epicurious. Sugar snap peas, snow peas, green peas and pea shoots dressed with a slightly sweet, sesame-spiked soy dressing. Beautiful and delicious. I usually cut back on the brown sugar (taste it with 1/2 a tablespoon and see if you agree) and add in some freshly grated ginger.
  8. Finally, green mango salad from Canadian Living. My nut allergy requires me to sub in peanuts or pumpkin seeds for the cashews - but this looks fantastic. Funny story - we love mangoes in our house and the other day a very intense sales clerk convinced me to buy a tree-ripened mango fresh off the plane from Peru. It would not be an exaggeration to say that that one mango cost as much as all the rest of the produce in my bag. Did I mention that she up-sold me that mango after she had already rung in the rest of the fruit and veggies? That woman had cajones the size of Texas. But she was right - "Best mango you ever tasted!" - it was sublime. But if she's the clerk next time I'm in the green grocer, I'm picking another line. :-)