Green is the most overlooked, undervalued, avoided, disliked, and neglected color in the American diet. The depth of this cultural blind spot is so immense that a woman once said to me, as she eyed with suspicion an extremely green drink I was consuming, “But that color doesn’t really exist in nature, does it?” No, Virginia, there is no green in nature.
The deficiency of green in our diet is reflected in our culture’s poor state of health. Fresh vegetables of all colors (green, red, purple, orange, yellow, and white) top the list as the most energetically vibrant and nutritionally rich foods available to us.
Please be assured, I am not promoting vegetarianism. I am suggesting that a diet which includes large quantities of fresh, organic vegetables will improve most anyone’s health — often in remarkable ways.
Salads are a lovely way to enjoy green vegetables — given a few energetic qualifications:
Of course, the best salad greens come fresh from one’s own flourishing garden, and are best served at room temperature. If this is a luxury beyond your means, a variety of flavorful spring greens and mesclun mixes can hopefully be had at your local natural foods store. I have finally come to see that high quality, packaged organic greens (such as those produced by Earthbound Farm) offer the best combination of quality, variety, economy, and ease of preparation.
“Economy, Larry? Give me a break! That stuff’s expensive.” At first glance, I agree. But consider a bunch of arugula, for example. How much time do you spend washing it? Drying it? How much water do you use in washing it? How much of it gets thrown away — or will get thrown away after it sits in the refrigerator? How many other bunches of greens do you wash, trim, and prepare, so your salad will have great variety and flavor? How much of this influences the amount of salad you make? How much of it determines whether or not you even have a salad?
Now consider, for instance, a one pound box of Earthbound’s Spring Mix. It’s an economical size. It lasts longer than the bagged sizes. It’s a nice mixture of delicious, bite-sized spring greens. It’s prewashed. I can grab a handful of it whenever I need fresh greens for something I’m making. And with care it lasts about a week, although it’s usually eaten long before then.
We are strong advocates of raising one’s own garden, but until you get to this stage, I think this is an intelligent and tasty choice.
Generally, we prefer salads made with leafy greens. Heavier vegetables are usually reserved for cooked dishes. Now for the dressing.
This dressing is an evolution of one published in a 1995 catalog from The Cook’s Garden, a marvelous source for seeds (many organic) to produce an outstanding culinary garden. I’ve modified it over the years. It continues to please guests, and draw requests for the recipe. You’ll find that the full flavors of this dressing have an affinity for the stronger flavors of mesclun greens in your salad mix.
Peel and halve the garlic clove. Rub the inside of a large wooden salad bowl with the garlic and salt. Mince the garlic, and place it in the bowl. Add the miso, vinegar, and maple syrup. Mix and let stand for five minutes.
Now, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl as you whisk the mixture. Add your favorite salad greens (dry, not wet) to the bowl, toss, and serve!
Salad is so often given cursory attention at meals, amounting to a pathetic and tasteless appendage to the ‘important’ stuff. Given a little creativity and imagination, salads can become a sumptuous centerpiece to a midday or light summer’s evening meal. This recipe lends itself to just such creations. Add a few pieces of broiled tuna. Or a bit of goat feta. Serve with something like a hot bowl of homemade duck consommé, and you have a perfect early evening meal.
If the weather is cool, we’re likely to toss in something like freshly steamed green beans. This recipe, like all others, is merely to serve as a guiding inspiration. Tinkering is encouraged.
South River Miso in western Massachusetts produces some of the finest handmade, unpasteurized misos in the western hemisphere. Once you’ve tasted it, you won’t go back.
The original salad dressing recipe called for grey poupon mustard. I soon replaced that with Westbrae Asian Style Mustard, a wonderful mustard, eventually axed by bean-counters after a corporate takeover. Two happy results came from the loss: I learned to make much better mustard of my own. And I discovered this miso was preferable to any mustard. Needless to say South River’s Misos are organic, and many ingredients are grown on their farm (as in Dandelion Leek Miso). Because I tend to minimize my intake of soy, I lean toward some of their misos without soy. Happily, they are also my favorite styles — Azuki Bean, Chickpea, as well as Garlic Red Pepper.
Several flavors of South River can be found locally in New Mexico at La Montanita Food Co-op, which is handy, since they don’t ship during warm months. Buying it there is about the same as buying direct and paying shipping. South River is admittedly pricey. If it’s too dear for your budget, substitute mustard. You can make great mustard for the price of grey poupon. Just a teaspoon will do.
2202 Menaul NE