After our Building A Better Pantry series on dairy products, I thought it fitting to expound upon the cheese plate. Even if you don't care to make cheese of your own, I'm sure most of you still...
When I was a vegetarian, I used to dread going out to eat. I know, it sounds strange to dread having someone else wait on you, cook your food, and clean up afterwards. You might infer from that statement that I would also despise having someone else do my laundry or sweep my floor. However, if you have ever tried to be a vegetarian in the rural South, you may understand my trepidation.
There were no bright havens of veg-friendly culinary creation. No beautiful root vegetable roasts or microgreens salads with miso dressing. Only a shriveled and neglected corner of the menu dedicated to wilted romaine, pre-shredded carrots, and Thousand Island dressing. Even then you had to ask to make sure there were no artificial bacon pieces strewn across the wasteland that was your "salad."
I know I'm not alone here. You never hear people say "I had the most amazing salad last night," not because amazing salads don't exist, but because they rarely come into being. All too often, they are uninspired and insipid, wilting before your very eyes.
This need not be the case. With fresh vegetables and a sturdy, homemade dressing, a salad will likely be the quickest and healthiest thing on your plate, and it can be incredibly satisfying. One of the tricks to a good salad is making it colorful and varied. Yellowed greens need not apply. Try mixing arugula with shredded red cabbage and carrots cut paper thin. Use fruits for sweetness and texture--apples, pears, figs, and grapes, or dried fruits such as golden raisins, cherries, and cranberries. Throw some heart-healthy toasted nuts or seeds on top.
And for heaven's sake, don't skip making your own dressing. I know, I know, those pretty bottles of emulsified goodness at the grocery store are like sirens in a raging sea of too-much-to-do-and-too-little-time, but this won't take but a minute. Promise. And you'll know exactly what went into your homemade dressing. This means you can tweak it to your tastes and you'll have some serious bragging rights.
My favorite quick way to make a salad dressing is in a Mason jar. Just pour your ingredients into the jar, shake for 10 seconds, and voilà! It's foolproof, and you need not dirty your blender or a bowl and whisk.
The salad below came of a need to go through some of the winter produce we got at the last market of the season. It's chunky and crisp--perfect for serving alongside a roast chicken or a hearty pasta dish. It also happens to be marvelously versatile. You can use a variety of winter vegetables from kohlrabi to cabbage to trimmed broccoli stems. The beautiful pink-hearted radish you see in the photos is something we grew in our fall garden this year--a variety called Misato Rose, also called Watermelon Radish. If you have a garden of your own, I highly recommend this varietal. The radishes grew consistently large and gorgeous without any fussing on my part. However, don't feel like you have to use this type of radish--regular old red radishes or even daikon will work just fine.
Other articles you might enjoy: Raw Kale Salad With Pepitas and Parmesan, Fennel Salad With Asian Pears and Walnuts, Shaved Fennel Salad With Frisée and Golden Raisins
Make the dressing first to give the flavors some time to meld. Combine in a pint-sized Mason jar:
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated on a rasp grater
1 tablespoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Secure the lid tightly on the jar and shake vigorously for 10 seconds or so, or until the dressing is emulsified. Set aside.
Combine in a large serving bowl:
2 medium-sized carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 watermelon radish, cut into quarters and thinly sliced, or use several small red radishes or a 4-inch piece of daikon, sliced
4 red radishes, sliced
1 salad turnip, cut into quarters and thinly sliced (salad turnips are smaller and pure white)
4 hearts of palm, sliced
1 flavorful apple (we used Jonagold), cored and cut into matchsticks
Toss the vegetables with dressing to taste. You should have some dressing left over--it's so good you'll be glad you do.