There is no meal simpler to prepare and healthier for your body than a fresh green salad. Thankfully the days of iceberg lettuce and hothouse tomatoes with Thousand Island dressing are gone. Better yet, more and more farm stands, green grocers and whole food stores are offering a wide variety of different types of greens, vinegar and oils to help even the most hesitant home cooks create beautiful and delicious salads.
As far as the health benefits of eating copious amounts of salad goes, the list is long and varied. Green leafy vegetables play such a small role in the American diet it is no wonder such a large percentage of our population is suffering from some form of chronic disease whose roots can be traced to the lack of fruits and vegetables in our diets. Salads are a great way to pack in some of your 9 daily servings of fruits and vegetables, and even better salads are comprised of mostly raw vegetables which play a key role in keeping our bodies pH in balance.
There has been a lot of discussion recently about the bodies’ proper pH levels, keeping alkalinity and acidity in check. Simply put, an acidic body is an unhealthy body and an easy way to counteract acidity in the body is by consuming large amounts of raw vegetables. The enzymes in our bodies were designed to consume vegetables raw and by doing so will help keep them functioning at peak levels. Lastly, even if we choose to ignore all the vitamins, minerals and bioflavanoids inherent in fresh vegetables, the abundance of fiber in a raw fresh salad is critical at keeping our digestive systems working properly and helps to reduce the risks of developing adult onset diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even several types of cancer.
…an exciting new trend
of weekly salad clubs growing
A salad, however, is only as healthy as what we put on it, so if you pile on lots of salt-rich deli meats and creamy store bought dressings you are taking something which is naturally both delicious and healthy and making it anything but. A great way to resolve this is to make your own dressings, which is surprisingly simple. Vinaigrettes work on the simple principle of 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar and it is up to you and your own personal tastes to embellish from this point on.
Greens are becoming more exciting year after year. Local growers like E&T Farms in West Barnstable are harvesting diverse and delicious species like amaranth, giant mustard and pea shoots in their environmentally sensitive greenhouse all year long. Owners of E&T Farms Ed Osmun and his wife Betty create wonderful assortments like their Asian Mix with mizzuna and bok choy, Micro Greens which are a varied assortment of amaranth, arugula and even delectable carrot greens, they even offer a braising mix with heartier varieties of greens perfect for cooking. They sell their salad greens, as well as their locally-produced honey ,from hives throughout the Cape’s cranberry bogs, from their farm at 85 Lombard Avenue in West Barnstable, year-round on Saturdays and Sundays from 10-4. In the summer they can also be found at both the Orleans and Mid-Cape farmer’s markets. This summer the folks at E&T Farms will be planting an even greater variety of vegetables that you can adorn your salads with.
Several area restaurants purchase these beautiful hydroponic greens that are grown in an incredible self-sustaining aquaculture environment. Chef David Kelley of the Naked Oyster showcases these delicate and vibrantly hued salad greens with unique preparations like a baby arugula salad tossed in apple cider vinaigrette and topped with confit of duck leg, grilled red onion and Vermont goat cheese. Even the house salad is a celebration of local produce with E&T Farms salad greens and greenhouse tomatoes from Capeabilities farm tossed in Tuscan olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
Greens are usually the bulk of most salads, so by choosing interesting varieties you’ll help make your salads more interesting and even healthier. One key factor in selecting greens is the more vivid and bright the color, the more nutrient dense the greens. Just because they are called greens doesn’t mean they have to be green. Many varieties of lettuce have tinges of red and purple which means they have different nutrients; your salad should be a rainbow, the more colors you have, the greater diversity of nutrients you are eating, which is truly the key to eating healthily.
Organic. Fresh. Local.
It just tastes better.
Support & promote healthy food,
a greener process & local economies.
There is an exciting new trend of weekly salad clubs growing exponentially even here on Cape Cod where our local farms are often limited by the high price of land. These work much like memberships where clients pay an annual fee to a local grower and in turn purchase weekly seasonal produce at discounted rates and usually get the best of the crop. Some of the area farms that participate in weekly salad clubs are Hawks Nest Farm in Yarmouth and Coonamesset Farm in Falmouth. These clubs are a great way to ensure access to fresh, high quality, locally-produced greens
Eating salads is such an easy way to maintain a healthy diet and by using your imagination you can make new creations all the time. So eat up those sexy spring salads and get your waistline ready for the beach this summer. cha
Heather Bailey, CNC, has been a chef, food writer and educator on Cape Cod for the past 8 years. She has recently received her certification as a Nutritional Consultant and has opened The Optimal Kitchen, offering nutritional consults, private and group cooking instruction, wellness coaching and personal chef services. Heather can be reached at 774-216-9553.
¼ cup red wine or cider vinegar
¾ cup olive oil
2 tbs. dijon mustard
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence (opt.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Whisk ingredients together.
The vinaigrette will keep sealed for up to a month.
1 cup fresh basil leaves
4 roasted garlic cloves
in ¾ cup olive oil*
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Blend together in food processor.
It will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 wks.
*To roast garlic place cloves in a sauce pan and cover with olive oil. Simmer over low/medium heat until you begin to see small bubbles. Turn off heat and let cloves rest in garlic for 10 min. The garlic cloves will have a mellower and nuttier flavor than raw cloves and the oil is ideal for dressings.
CHILI LIME VINAIGRETTE
½ cup fresh cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
¼ cup cider vinegar
Few cloves of garlic
1 chipolte (canned or dried)
¾ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Place first 4 ingredients in blender, while blending slowly add olive oil so that dressing emulsifies. It will keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 2 wks.
GINGER SOY VINAIGRETTE
¼ cup sesame oil
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup rice wine vinegar
¼ cup good quality soy sauce
¼ cup honey
¼ cup orange juice (optional)
Juice of one lemon
3 tbs. toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
Combine all of the ingredients and whisk together.
If creamy dressings are the only kinds you like, make a healthy version by stirring 1 tbs. of one of the herb Vinaigrette described here into 2 tbs. of Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt works best because of its creamy consistency and it does not separate the way regular yogurt can. Another trick is to top your salad with some mashed avocado which is full of healthy mono-unsaturated fats. Their creamy texture helps fill that craving.
When making your salads use common sense. Mix & match one or two items from each
column. If you want to make more of a meal, top your salad with a lean protein like grilled shrimp, salmon, chicken or even grass-fed flank steak.
Top salad photo COURTESY PHOTOS.COM
Written and photographed by Heather Bailey, Spring 2008