Eating with Abs contributing columnist Ellen Roggeman’s farm-worn hands testify to her dual passions: growing seasonal food and cooking in community with others. Ellen is Permaculture Certified, a graduate of the Garden for the Environment and Compost Educator Training Program, and is currently developing an innovative, new line of jams for distribution by McEvoy Ranch.
La Ensalada: Salad is one of my favorite meals. In the past, I just threw random garden-vegetables into a bowl, drizzled them with oil-and-vinegar, and chomped away. My salads all tasted more-or-less the same, without varying much throughout the year. They were, in a word, boring. Thankfully with some early advice from Carlo Espinas, now head chef at Comstock Saloon in San Francisco, I was able to turn my dull salads into creative lettuce-based creations. Below are some tips for all you salad-lovers, and for those of you ready to give this healthy meal a second-try.
Get Outside the (Romaine and Iceberg Lettuce) Box: The world is full of diverse, leafy greens! At the farmers’ market, you can find a much bigger assortment of greens than in a supermarket and most farmers are cool with you nibbling a few leaves before buying. Seek out greens like Purslane, Chickweed, Baby Dandelion, Ice Princess, and Arugula to create variety in your salad mix. And, for added intrigue, toss in fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, and cilantro.
Try On New Textures: Different textures make a salad more interesting and satisfying. Crunch is important. You can up your crunch with nuts, seeds, breadcrumbs, homemade croutons, and crisp vegetables. Creaminess takes salads to the next level. Try ethically-produced soft cheeses, eggs, and crème fraiche. Play around with chopped and cooked veggies–try steaming or roasting carrots or slicing zucchini paper thin for different flavors and textures. If all your veggies are raw and chopped into cubes of course the meal will be monotonous!
Turn-Up the Taste Buds: I make a point to incorporate 1) spice, 2) salt, 3) sweet, and 4) bitter into my salads–and any other dish that I prepare.
- Spice might include paprika-encrusted almonds, cinnamon-spiked ricotta, hot-chile olive oil, or zingy produce, such as Arugula or radishes.
- Salty additions can be herb-salts, hard cheese, or roasted seaweed.
- Sweetness comes from fruit, roasted veggies, or sweet balsamic vinegar.
- Bitterness is found in greens like dandelion and chicory.
Homemade Dressing–Hollah!: Want to know the homemade salad-dressing basics? It’s as easy as one-part vinegar to three-parts oil. It’s a cinch and will impress your friends. Begin with the vinegar, and when you add the oil, whisk vigorously so that the two combine. Be sure to use high-quality, organic oils. Apart from that, it’s all up to you. For my dressings, I enjoy including seasonal fruits, like plums or persimmons. I also love adding herbs like cumin and smoked paprika.
Delicious, fancy, healthy, and affordable. Love it!
Lovingly edited by Abigail Wick. Read more from Ellen at radical-radish.com!