I have news for you……salad is exciting!
At least it is for me although this wasn’t always the case. For most of my life I had an incredibly bad attitude towards salads. Salads are a great addition and necessary really for a healthy diet. They provide fiber, phytonutrients and all sorts of body-loving goodies that we need every day. But all I could think about when I was eating one was getting through it as quickly as possible so I could get onto the “good” stuff (usually dessert).
What I didn’t realize then was that it wasn’t the salad itself that was the problem; it was what I put into it (yes, my attitude needed some work too). Salad, any salad, can only be as exciting as the ingredients you use. I know this sounds too simple, but this little concept escaped me for most of my adult life. Now I happily have a salad every day with an assortment of ingredients and savor each bite Asian Coleslaw & Glowing Green Salad w/ Peppery Dandelion Dressing.
The term “Salad” was derived from Vulgar Roman herba salata, literally meaning ‘salted herb”. In ancient Rome, salads were simple yet hearty fare. They almost always consisted of raw vegetables and fresh herbs, dressings such as pure olive oil and fresh lemon juice or vinegar, unrefined salt, and sometimes olives, cheese and other proteins. The ancient Romans were enthusiastic eaters of salads even recording several recipes for posterity.
Once Rome fell, salads went out of vogue in Europe and remained a forgotten pleasure until the late Renaissance when the salad made its return to the culinary scene. But this new version was nothing like the original. The emphasis was on aesthetically pleasing, meticulously coiffed produce that bore little resemblance to their natural nutrient-loaded selves.
The new modern salads looked pretty, sparkly clean and almost picturesque, but they were also tasteless, boring, and nutritionally empty. I recall all too well the iceberg lettuce and pink tomatoes with a few shreds of carrot and watered down Roquefort or Italian dressing type salads I grew up with. Salads also came to include a lot of unhealthy ingredients that really diminished the nurturing qualities of the ancient garden dish.
Thanks goodness those days have left us, or at least I hope they have. Nature’s finest has made a triumphant return into eager hands ready to create farm to plate salads that are vibrant, whole and nourishing. It’s heartening to see people from all walks of life enthusiastically shopping at the ever growing number of farmers markets, excited about their day’s picks, and eager to prepare them that evening. And with so many items now available from busy farmers all over the world, salads have become more interesting and exciting than ever.
For this particular salad recipe, I went back to the roots of this wonderful dish, keeping it simple and robust. I used red leaf lettuce to create a bed for the vegetables, dressing and ricotta cheese. Red leaf lettuce contains 127 percent of the daily-recommended value of vitamin A and 149 percent of vitamin K. One serving contains only 14 calories and no grams of sugar. Red leaf lettuce contains small amounts of vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and pantothenic acid. It also contains small amounts of the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium. I had no idea such a soft and pretty lettuce could be so powerful.
Once the red leaf lettuce was in place, I added some favorite fresh vegetables and drizzled with the zesty sweet orange vinaigrette. I then dropped spoonfuls of the macadamia nut-based ricotta around the plate for extra protein and flavor. What a dish. But don’t let all the healthy ingredients fool you; it’s one delicious and satisfying meal reminiscent of the hearty fare of lore. This salad is on our menu a lot these days, and we enjoy it both with zeal and with gratitude. I hope you will too.
This recipe is raw, dairy/gluten-free, and serves 2 – 4 persons.
Gratitude Salad w/Zesty Orange Vinaigrette & Herbed Macadamia Ricotta
The macadamia nuts need to be soaked ahead of time for at least 2 hours.
- chopped head of red leaf lettuce or other lettuce of choice
- trimmed or sliced radishes
- sliced red onion
- shaved fennel
- orange sections
- other salad ingredients of choice
- Lay out the red leaf lettuce attractively on plates and top with the remaining salad vegetables.
- Set aside until ready to serve.
Zesty Orange Vinaigrette:
- If using coconut oil, the dressing will solidify when refrigerated. Simply place on the counter until room temperature and/or re-blend until smooth.
- Sweet vibrant oranges work best in this recipe.
- 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 garlic clove
- 1/2-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger or 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp coconut vinegar or unfiltered apple cider vinegar
- 1 – 2 Tbsp honey or other light liquid sweetener to taste
- 2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- pinch of ground cayenne or ground black pepper
- Add all ingredients to a blender.
- Blend until very smooth. Instead of blending, you can simply mince the garlic (or shallot) and peeled ginger, add to a mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and whisk vigorously.
- Set aside on the counter or refrigerate until ready to use.
- Yields about 1 cup.
- Can be stored refrigerated up to 3 days.
Herbed Macadamia Ricotta Cheese:
You can substitute the herbs with any fresh herbs you wish or use dried herbs.
- 1 cup macadamia nuts, soaked in water for 2 – 8 hours then drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup water
- few fresh basil leaves
- 1 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 probiotic capsule or 1/4 tsp probiotic powder
- 1 garlic clove (optional)
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp honey or natural light sweetener to taste
- 1/2 – 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper or cayenne
- Add all ingredients (including the powder from the probiotic capsule if using) to a food processor.
- Process until desired texture is achieved, stopping the processor periodically to scrape down the sides of the container. I like mine with a bit of texture.
- I like to then shape the cheese inside a small round mold and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. You can also serve immediately as is.
- Yields 1 cup.
- Can be stored refrigerated up to a week.
- Pour desired amount of Zesty Orange Vinaigrette over the Gratitude Salad.
- Add dabs of Herbed Macadamia Ricotta Cheese.
- Serve and enjoy.