YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Three Delicious Salad Dressings

Have you ever noticed how so many different cuisines include a dish that pairs some type of greens with some type of fat? Whether it’s lettuce and olive oil, cabbage and mayonnaise (cole slaw), sauteed greens + pignola nuts, spinach with bacon dressing, or deep-sea fatty fish and seaweed (sushi), you are apt to find green leaves combined with fats over and over again.

This cannot be a coincidence. I predict that someday we will discover that eating greens with fat increases the availability, perhaps through gut absorption, of certain nutrients in the greens. Remember that we are the survivors. We, the ones who inherited our own families’ food traditions through thousands of generations, are the ones with the genetic edge that brought us here, to this time and place. Independent of their deliciousness or their ability to impart tastebud happiness, I believe that our inherited patterns of food preparation have some very special health, wellness and survivability benefits all their own. The broad offerings, over so many different cuisines, of recipes consisting of greens with fats speak to their value in our arsenal of approaches for being well nourished. 

Otherwise known as salad dressings, here are a few recipes for mixing your own greens and fats. The directions are all the same: Combine the ingredients in a small jar or bowl. Mix, shake or whisk well. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes to blend flavors. These dressings are flavorful and nutritious. Re: salt, if you are salt-sensitive just skip it, because there is plenty of intense flavor with or without the salt.

1) Balsamic Vinaigrette
1
/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. tamari (optional)
3 garlic cloves mashed to a pulp with 1/2 tsp. coarse salt (with a sharp knife, fork, or mortar & pestle)
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper

2) Tahini Salad Dressing (one of my long-time favorites)
1 clove of garlic, minced
3/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste, available everywhere)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt 

This tahini dressing is incredibly delicious on Lebanese salad, which I like to make with:
2 small cucumbers, diced
2 small tomatoes, diced
3 radishes, diced
1 green onion, sliced thinly
10 mint leaves, chopped
1/3 bunch parsley, chopped

3) Real French Vinaigrette
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. prepared Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Bon appetit!


The Salad Dressing Situation

The last time I stopped at the local supermarket to investigate salad dressings, I learned some very interesting things. Here’s a warning: After you read today’s post, if you haven’t already done so, you’re going to start making your own salad dressing, even if it’s simply olive oil and salt (my fav), or a squeeze of lemon.

After you read this post, you’re going to walk straight over to your refrigerator and pitch the bottles of commercial salad dressing, which drown your fresh, delicious, and nutritious meals in water and sugar; convert your salads to wolves in sheep’s clothing; and increase your risk of developing diabetes. Ugh, double ugh, and triple ugh. Wait ’til you see what I found.

The first product I picked up, Wishbone Italian, lists water as its first ingredient. Very expensive water, I might add. Surprising, too, given that Italian dressing is traditionally made from olive oil and vinegar. But not this “Italian” dressing.  After water, it contains soybean oil, canola oil, distilled vinegar, sugar, salt, dehydrated garlic and onion and red bell pepper, maltodextrin, xantham gum, spices, autolyzed yeast extract, EDTA, natural flavor, lemon juice concentrate, caramel color, and annatto (to color the dressing yellow).

Next I picked up Hidden Valley Fat-Free Ranch. Like Wishbone Italian, its first ingredient is also water, followed by corn syrup, maltodextrin, sugar, and modified food starch (from corn or wheat, whichever is cheaper at the time). These four ingredients are all different ways to say “sugar.” Sixth on the list is buttermilk. Buttermilk is rich in protein, but how much can there be if the nutrition information label lists zero grams of protein? Not much.

Then I looked at Kraft Catalina French dressing. Like virtually all American-invented “French dressings,” the first ingredient is high-fructose corn syrup. Then water, tomato puree, soybean oil, vinegar and salt. Then come twelve more ingredients that constitute less than 2% of the total, including red dye 40, yellow dye 6, and blue dye 1 to create the product’s remarkably intense orange color. Two tablespoons of Kraft Catalina contain 10 grams of carbohydrate, nine grams of which are from sugar. Think of it as pouring pancake syrup on your salad.

The final dressing I examined was Kraft Balsamic Vinegar. Once again, water came first in the ingredient list, then “vegetable oils” (canola, soybean, extra virgin olive), “balsamic” vinegar (wine vinegar, grape juice, water), and a long list of ingredients each of which constitutes less than 2% of the total. Here’s my simple balsamic vinegar recipe, much more delicious and certainly more nutritious: Mix 3 tbsp. of olive oil with 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar. Toss well with washed lettuce greens, and serve.

Now stay tuned for a few of my favorite salad dressing recipes later this week!

 

 


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Zucchini Fries

If you’ve never eaten chickpea (garbanzo bean) flour, this is a great recipe to start with! Not only is it super flavorful, imparting a wonderfully nutty flavor to these zucchini fries, but chickpeas are also packed with protein and fiber, for a dish that sticks to your ribs and makes your heart sing for joy. Continue reading


Sugar is a Recreational Drug

I just finished a piece on cravings for the Sam’s Club newsletter that will be coming out in June, and here’s what I learned while doing the research for it: Sugar is a recreational drug. And now I’m going to prove it. Continue reading


Nutrition or Entertainment?

A friend of mine says that ultraprocessed items don’t nourish, but rather they entertain. A few weeks ago I saw a commercial for Lay’s Potato Chips whose tag line was “Good food for the fun of it.” That sure sounds like entertainment to me.

Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Chicken Bone Soup

We like to make this soup a day or two after we roast a whole chicken, and it has become sort of a custom in our house, a way of getting every last bit of flavor out of the bird, and not wasting a single speck. If we’re going away or we know that we won’t have time, we might stick the carcass in the freezer until we return. But usually we just toss it into a big pot, cover it with water, and leave it in the refrigerator until we’re ready to deal with it. Then, the next day, we put it into the oven at 225F for about 12 hours, and that’s how the recipe starts. Also, if anyone in your house happens to eat a low-salt diet, this is a fantastic option for them because it is frankly so flavorful that it does not need salt. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: All About Beans PLUS Recipes

Many years ago, my then-vegetarian sister had a boyfriend whose mother served her “bean loaf” when she went to their home. Its dreadful, unappetizing name was nothing like its flavor, so my sister and I renamed it “chickpea pie.” The chickpea pie recipe stuck around for much longer than the vegetarianism (and the boyfriend). I wish I could find that recipe again. Chickpeas, like peanuts, are yet another type of bean. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: If You’ve Never Made Charoset…

I’ll be whipping up a second batch of this truly extraordinary charoset (kha-ROE-set) for dinner tomorrow night. In addition to the good old-fashioned, European-style, apples-and-walnuts charoset I make every year, I’ve been rotating through a series of Middle Eastern-style, dried-fruit charoset recipes every year for at least a couple of decades. But I never found one I liked enough to make it again until this year, when I served a bowl of this charoset, which was passed around and around the table until it had been almost emptied! Continue reading


Let the Growing Season Begin!

The first time I joined a community-supported agriculture (CSA), almost ten years ago, its kickoff late on a Thursday afternoon sent me racing out of the office at the end of the day. The first week’s bounty included lettuce greens, herbs, onions, kohlrabi, radishes. Adults chatted and children hopped around like happy rabbits as we waited for strawberries to arrive. After a long winter, we all hungered for fresh food. Continue reading


YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Huevos Haminados (Slow-roasted Eggs)

Haminados are one of my all-time favorite Passover recipes! Simple, sublime and delicious, they have been a staple at the Passover tables of Mediterranean Jewish communities for millennia! Check out this recipe and you’ll see why. Whether you make this dish in your crockpot or oven, it takes just a few minutes to toss it together and get it cooking. Continue reading