March 12, 2010

The Green Salad that Bites You Back

When I was in the middle of the Eat from the Pantry Challenge, the thing that was hardest to do without was a green salad. I love eating salads, we eat a bunch during the summer when it is just too hot to cook, but we also eat them throughout the winter. I know these greens have to be grown in a hot house and I prefer my garden's greens, but still, when there is snow on the ground, you can't be picky. Something green and crunchy just seems to make you feel fresher and healthier. The kids are partial to the ginger dressing mentioned here on their salad but I have found a new favorite.

My brother's fiance shared her fabulous homemade salad dressing with the family as a Christmas present this past December. I will say, it has a SERIOUS kick when it's first made, but if you let it sit in the fridge for a while, it does mellow. It is a garlicky, balsamic vinaigrette and it's prefect for waking up sleepy taste buds. The great thing is a little dressing goes a long way, so it will last a while. My SIL recommends making it in a Magic Bullet but I don't have one of those so I did it my Cuisinart food processor. Seemed to work just as well. Thankfully, I throw all my food processor parts in the dishwasher when I am done.

Nadia's Kickin' Vinigrette

2 tbsp minced garlic

1/4 cup dijon mustard
1 tsp clover honey
1 cup balsamic vinegar
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Put all ingredients in a well sealed, lidded container and shake well, or emulsify in a blender.

I use this dressing on all kinds of salads, but the one pictured above has sliced apples, colby jack cheese and another new found fave - crunchy topping. A friend of mine made this topping for our Bible study one week. She served it over fruit salad, which was delicious. I asked for the recipe and quickly made up a batch. The crazy "secret" ingredient is Rice Crispies! These work perfectly in the recipe because they have a neutral taste and they extend the pecans with a much lower cost (much like using refried beans to make the meat in tacos serve more people). I have made candied pecans many times. One year the kids and I had a taste test with three different candied pecan recipes. We really like the simple butter and sugar ones the best over the more complicated egg white ones. Either way, making candied nuts is expensive unless you have a nut tree growing in your backyard. I love the idea of extending the basic candied nut recipe with cheap generic cereal. We ate the crunchy topping over yogurt, fruit salad and green salads. It's a perfect complement to the tart dressing and makes your salad more like a restaurant salad. You can make the topping and store the extra in the fridge sealed tightly where it will keep for a long time. However, I'll warn you it didn't last long in our house. This stuff is addictive!

Crunchy Topping

2 1/2 cups rice crispy cereal
1 1/2 cups chopped hazelnuts, pecans, almonds or walnuts
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup margarine, melted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Stir together the cereal, nuts, brown sugar and margarine in a bowl. Spread out on baking sheet (use your silicon mats). Bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring a couple of times while cooking. Should smell toasty and be lightly browned when done. Cool and use or store in sealed bag or container.

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