The dinner salad as … dinner


I just returned from Los Cabos, Mexico, where I had a salad epiphany. On our second day, after a too-big lunch of traditional fish tacos, beans, salsa, rice and cheese, I felt a need to atone for my culinary excess. By dinner time, I still had heartburn and that “lead balloon” feeling. Remembering May is National Salad Month, I decided to search for a light, refreshing salad for dinner. However, in Mexico I have a fear of eating anything that isn’t cooked – extremely well-cooked.

We stumbled upon a wonderful organic restaurant called “Cynthia Fresh” in an out-of-the-way neighborhood. Cynthia was both on the floor and in the kitchen, and we spoke about the risks of opening your own restaurant with a daily, ever-changing menu, dependent on the day’s harvest. I had an amazing all-organic salad of just-picked mixed greens, succulent, ruby red organic strawberries, crisp pears, toasted pecans and a light sprinkling of blue cheese, with a fresh raspberry vinaigrette that sat perfectly in my overwrought tummy. Not only did my heartburn vanish, but I felt amazingly energetic. Making a mental note to eat organic raw foods more often, I set about researching hearty main dish salads that would easily dispel the notion of “meager” or the need for “penance.” Each of these recipes offers fiber and flavor and skimps on fat. Use organic if available; organic produce really does taste better and offers more nutrients. Wash and dry your greens thoroughly and serve with some whole grain bread, if you wish. Get ready to add salads to your list of favorite dinners.

Corn, jicama, Asian pear and cucumber salad with avocado puree

A refreshing combination of flavors for a hot day, this salad comes together fairly easily. Recipe from “RAW” by Charlie Trotter and Roxanne Klein; makes 4 servings.

Salad:

1⁄4 cup brunoise (small dice)-cut jicama

1⁄4 cup sweet corn kernels

1⁄4 cup brunoise-cut, skin-on English cucumber

1⁄4 cup brunoise-cut, peeled Asian pear

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1 tablespoon minced jalapeno chili

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

2 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

In a bowl, combine all ingredients except salt and pepper; toss, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Avocado puree:

1⁄2 avocado, peeled and chopped

2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1⁄4 cup filtered water

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

In a blender, combine first 3 ingredients; puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Lime vinaigrette:

1 1⁄2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

1⁄4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Sea Salt and fresh ground pepper

4 lime segments, cut into thirds

Whisk together the lime juice and olive oil in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper; stir in the lime pieces.

Assembly:

Spoon a vertical line of the avocado puree on the center of each plate. Spoon two more lines intersecting the first. Spoon some of the salad to the left of the intersecting points; drizzle vinaigrette over salad and around plate. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley, mint and lime zest if desired.

Salad with orange and fennel

Refreshing, seasonal salad from “1,000 Lowfat Recipes” by Terry Blonder Golson; makes up to 7 servings.

4 navel oranges

1 head fennel

6 cups romaine lettuce leaves, washed, dried and torn into pieces

1⁄2 cup pitted brine-cured olives

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 1⁄2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. Red wine vinegar

1 tsp. lemon juice

1 tsp. orange juice

1⁄4 tsp. kosher salt

1⁄4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Using a sharp knife, cut the peel and white pith from oranges, then slice them and place in a large salad bowl. Cut stalks off fennel; slice off bottom. Quarter the head, cut out and discard core. Thinly slice fennel; add to bowl with oranges. Place lettuce, olives and red onions in bowl; toss. Whisk together remaining ingredients, pour over salad and toss again. Serve.

Divide and arrange slaw on each of four plates. Place some thinly sliced roast pork loin on each portion. Drizzle with reserved dressing and sprinkle remaining pumpkin seeds over each salad. Serve immediately.

Arugula, pear, Parmesan and walnut salad

A little sweet, a little crunchy, and a lot of satisfying flavors combine in this salad with only a 10-minute preparation time. Recipe from “Fresh & Fast” by Marie Simmons; makes 4 servings.

1 garlic clove, halved

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Pinch of salt

1 Bartlett, Bosc or other ripe pear, quartered, cored, and cut into thin lengthwise slices

1 to 2 bunches arugula, about 4 cups, rinsed, long stems trimmed

1⁄3 cup broken walnuts

Small wedge Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Rub the surface of a large mixing bowl with the cut side of the garlic; reserve garlic for another use. Add honey, lemon juice and salt; whisk to blend. Add pear; turn to coat. Heat walnuts in a small dry skillet, stirring until warm, about 3 minutes; set aside to cool. Just before serving, add the arugula to the bowl; toss to coat with the dressing. Divide salad among four plates, distributing the pears evenly on top of arugula. Sprinkle with the walnuts. Using a vegetable peeler, cut curls of cheese from the wedge and arrange on top of the salad. Serve.