Monday, May 10, 2010

Bring on the springtime salads!

With lettuce being recalled in 23 states due to E. coli contamination, the timing was perfect for my local CSA to announce that some of their beautiful, organic head lettuces were ready to harvest. I didn't miss a beat in ordering two Boston Bibb-type called Sylvesta, one tender, "teenage" Romaine, and one called Winter Density which is a Romaine/butter lettuce cross. So with four lettuces to contend with, it was time to eat some SALADS!

We made quick work of the soft, sweet Boston lettuces simply by dressing them with an awesome garlic dressing that's a homemade clone of the dressing that they serve at our favorite creperie in Montreal. These were side salads, though, and I wanted to try something new for an entree. As is often the case, it was Smitten Kitchen to the rescue, by way of Gwyneth Paltrow. Now I'm not sure if Gwyneth is recasting herself as the Martha Stewart in Britain or what, but she does have a lifestyle website and weekly newsletter called GOOP where she encourages everyone to "nourish the inner aspect." Much of it is a too new-agey and radically health-conscious/vegan for my tastes, but sometimes she does have some recipes that genuinely appeal to me. One of these is called Avocado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing, and that title was all I needed to hear. I LLLLUUURRRRVE avocados beyond all reason, and the salad was made up of just greens, avocado and red onion, but topped with this amazingly flavorful and colorful (and healthful!) Asian-style dressing.

Avocado Salad with Carrot-Ginger Dressing
GOOP and Smitten Kitchen)
Makes 4 side salads or two entrees, with dressing to spare

1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 small shallot, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh ginger
1 tablespoon sweet white miso (I swapped out low-sodium soy sauce)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1/4 cup grapeseed or another neutral oil (I used canola)
2 tablespoons water

1 small/medium head of lettuce or mixed greens of your choice
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 avocado, quartered

Whiz the carrots, shallot and ginger in a blender or food processor until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides, then add the miso (or soy sauce), vinegar and sesame oil. While the machine running, slowly drizzle in the oil and the water.

Divide the lettuce among four bowls (or two plates), add some of the onion and a quarter of the avocado*. Drizzle with plenty of dressing and serve.

*To make this a more filling entree, I threw in a handful of pea pods as well, and I think some cold shrimp would be another welcome addition.

**The next day, I still had some dressing left over, and I wondered what a creamy version of this dressing would be like. So I added about 1/4 cup of mayonnaise to the remaining carrot-ginger mixture, and it was delicious! So that's another option for those who may prefer a creamier dressing.

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