I have news for you……salad is exciting! Did I just say that?
Growing up I had an incredibly bad attitude towards salads. Unless they were slathered with heavy dressings and toppings that masked the flavor of the vegetables themselves all I could think about was getting through it as quickly as possible so I could indulge in 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 (and yes, my attitude needed some help too). Salad, any salad, can only be as exciting as the ingredients you use. I know this may sound ridiculously simple, but this little concept escaped me for most of my adult life. Thankfully my salad notions evolved and I now relish a vegetable cornucopia such as Asian Coleslaw & Glowing Green Salad w/ Peppery Dandelion Dressing along with this wonderful creation every day of my life.
The term “Salad” was derived from Vulgar Roman herba salata, literally meaning ‘salted herb”. In ancient Rome, salads were simple yet hearty fare and often took the place of meals. They almost always consisted of raw green vegetables and fresh herbs, dressings such as pure olive oil with fresh lemon juice or vinegar, and unrefined salt. Salads also usually included or were served alongside cheeses, olives and other proteins. The ancient Romans were enthusiastic eaters of salads even recording several inspiring 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 naturally colorful and nutrient-loaded selves.
The new revived salad was much simpler and looked perfectly coiffed and sparkly clean but it lacked all the flavor, color, and nutrients of its Earthier predecessor. To make matter worse, all manner of unnatural toppings appeared in an effort to make these new salads look and taste better which further diminished the nurturing qualities of the ancient garden dish. Can we get some salad sanity back please?
Thanks goodness salads evolved once more and those dark days are behind us (at least I hope they are). 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 embracing the famers market culture, shopping for organic produce, and getting downright excited about their hauls. And with farmers all over the world eager to share their crops with universal shoppers, salads have become more interesting and more exciting than ever.
For this particular salad recipe, I went back to the roots of this dish, keeping it simple and robust, yet ultra pleasing to the palate. I used mild and easy red leaf lettuce to create a bed for the vegetables, dressing and ricotta cheese. Red leaf lettuce is a powerhouse of body-love nutrients containing 127 percent of the daily-recommended value of vitamin A and 149 percent of vitamin K. One serving (about one cup) contains only 14 calories yet provides 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. This gorgeous lettuce packs some real punch.
Once my serving plate was lined with large swaths of beautiful red lettuce leaves, I placed a few of my favorite fresh vegetables on top, drizzled with zesty sweet orange vinaigrette, and then dropped spoonfuls of macadamia nut-based ricotta cheese for extra protein and flavor. What a dish! A satisfying meal reminiscent of the wonderful fare of lore. This delicious and colorful 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.