Dressing Up Your Spring Salad

Homemade Salad Dressings Your Way!:

This is the basic recipe for a homemade salad dressing.  The amounts, if followed exactly, will give you slightly more than what you prepared in our class.  Feel free to once again play around with the amounts and the ingredients depending on your taste preferences – try to keep to the 2:1 ratio of oil to acid!

½ cup extra virgin olive oil (you can use canola or vegetable oil as well)

¼ cup of an acidic ingredient of your choice (white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, lemon juice, or lime juice) (If you choose white vinegar, add a smaller amount and taste it first, as it may be stronger than balsamic)

1-2 tablespoons of a sweet ingredient of your choice (sugar, any jam, honey, maple syrup, agave, etc.) (If using sugar, add slightly less and taste it)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard (this is used for emulsion purposes so if you do not like the taste add just a small amount – you can also try using some egg yolk or mayonnaise in place of the mustard)

1 teaspoon of any herb (we used  dried oregano and chili flakes in class but you can experiment with any fresh or dried herb you would like – if using fresh herbs, add a tiny bit more because they tend to be less potent than dry)

  1.  Add all above ingredients to a Mason jar and shake to mix.  (You can purchase reusable Mason jars in various sizes at Wal-Mart or Canadian Tire.  The size we used in class is 250ml and costs around $7.00 for 12 jars and lids – you can also reuse any cleaned jam, condiment, or other jars but keep the lid for easy mixing).

  If using a bowl, mix thoroughly with a whisk so that all ingredients are properly blended together.

* To avoid ruining your entire salad, taste the dressing that you prepare by dipping a single lettuce leaf or a slice of vegetable into the dressing and adjusting if need.

 **you can use any version of this dressing for practically any salad!  In class we drizzled a sweeter dressing over our Strawberry Spinach Salad recipe and used a Greek-style dressing with balsamic and oregano to add delicious kick to our Quinoa Salad Recipe.

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Creamy Garlic-Avocado Dressing:

This is the basic recipe for a delicious alternative to Caesar dressing.  Feel free to play around with the amounts depending on your taste and texture preferences.   Do not be intimidated by the amount of writing here – I have added various tips throughout – this recipe is quick and easy! Experiment and enjoy!

2 avocados (remember to buy them ripe if you will be using them immediately or later that day – they should be a darker colour and be slightly soft when squeezed gently; if using a few days after purchase, buy them slightly green in colour and hard – they should be ripe by the time you use them!  Also, Dianne gave a great tip about the paper bags – if you wish to speed up the ripening of your avocados, place them in a brown paper bag!)

2 tsp of garlic (you can definitely play around with this amount, but remember that garlic flavor builds so be careful about adding more when the dressing is first prepared – wait a few minutes and taste it again before adding more!)

4 green onions (you can leave the onions out if you prefer not to have onions in your dressing – if its green onions specifically that you do not like try chopping some red onion finely and throw them in instead!)

The juice of 2 lemons or limes (we added some of the Greek- style dressing that was prepared in a mason jar to give some more flavor – if you don’t like the citrus taste you can use vinegar; however the citrus juices keep the avocados from oxidizing and turning brown, retaining that beautiful bright green colour!)

½ cup of Olive oil (if you add some of your homemade dressing you may want to cut back on the oil – Dianne prepared the dressing with slightly less oil, you can add a little bit at a time to get it to the consistency that you prefer – make sure that you add any oil while mixing thoroughly to avoid the oil from separating.)

Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Peel the skin off of the avocados and remove the pits (remember our trick with the knife?  Cut the avocado in half, tap the pit with the knife – watch your fingers – and twist the knife slightly, the pits should remove easily)
  2. Chop the avocados into smaller pieces and place them into a large bowl – or a food processor if you have one.
  3. Chop up the garlic into fine pieces – or use a garlic press or rasp if you have one.  Place the chopped garlic into the bowl or food processor.
  4. Chop up the onion – if using them – into very small pieces and add them to your bowl or food processor
  5. Squeeze the juice of two lemons or limes – if using them – directly into the bowl or food processor (you can do this using a citrus juicer like the one we used in class or you can simple cut the lemon in half or quarters and squeeze by hand)
  6. If you are going to add any homemade dressings do so now.
  7. Add the salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Begin mashing and mixing your ingredients – you can use a potato masher, an immersion blender similar to the one Dianne was using, or a fork depending on what you have available.  If you are using a food processor turn it on now.
  9. While your dressing is being mixed, slowly add the olive oil through the tube of the food processor or directly into the bowl.
  10. When the dressing reaches your desired consistently, adjust the salt and pepper flavouring if needed and pour it over your favourite salad. Enjoy!

*This dressing was very delicious with our Asparagus, Bacon, and Leaf Salad Recipe!

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Asparagus, Bacon, and Leafy Greens Recipe:

This salad was delicious with our Creamy Garlic- Avocado Dressing!  However, you can top it off with any of your favourite dressings.  This salad is simple and allows for you to enjoy delicious, in season asparagus in a fresh new way.

1 bunch of fresh asparagus (Dianne purchased the asparagus used in class from Mazak’s Farm, but asparagus is available at most grocery stores and markets)

½ to 1 package of lean bacon cut into bite-sized pieces (Add as little or as much bacon as you would like – buying lean cuts down the fat content) (If you buy a package of bacon but are not going to use the whole thing, it can be stored in the freezer-wrapped tightly.  By cutting the frozen strips of bacon from the sides you have instant bite-sized pieces without having to thaw the whole thing)

1 package of mixed salad greens (may also be called muslin in some markets.  If buying loose mixed greens, a few handfuls should be good – judge according to how many people you are serving and how leafy you want the salad to be)

  1. Wash the mixed greens and dry them with a towel or using a salad spinner if available and place the greens in a large bowl. (Be sure to dry off excess water because the dressing won’t “stick” as well to the greens if they are wet)
  2. Fry the bacon in a dry pan on low to medium heat until the bacon is crispy.  Place the cooked bacon pieces into the bowl with the salad greens.  Drain the grease from the pan but don’t wash the pan completely. (Careful here – it is best to pour the bacon grease into an old tin can and let it cool before tossing in the garbage)
  3. Wash the asparagus and break the tough ends off.  It is best to do this by bending the asparagus by hand because the spear will naturally break off where the tough part ends. Discard the tough ends.
  4. Chop the remaining asparagus spears each into 4 pieces.
  5. Using the same pan as you used for the bacon, fry the asparagus (the remaining bacon bits and slight amount of grease in the pan will give nice flavor to the asparagus.)
  6. Place the asparagus into the bowl with the greens and the bacon.
  7. Pour your favourite homemade dressing over the salad, toss, and enjoy!

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Summer Quinoa Salad:

This salad takes a bit of time to prepare because the Quinoa needs to be cooked ahead of time, so plan accordingly.  Quinoa is packed full of protein and fiber and makes an excellent grain selection!  Any of the vegetables or fruits can be substituted to reflect the produce currently in season or simply your different taste preferences.  If using fresh or dried fruits in place of veggies try using a sweeter homemade dressing!

¾ cup of DRY Quinoa, cooked according to package directions (remember that Quinoa cooks to approximately 3 times its dry volume.  If you are serving this salad to 4 people as a side, you will want ½ cup of cooked Quinoa per person which is 2 cups cooked.  This is equal to roughly ¾ cups dried!)

About 3-4 cups of any seasonal produce chopped into fine pieces (in our class we used tomato, red pepper, cucumber, and green onions)

Salt and pepper to taste.

Optional: Any type of Goat or Feta Cheese (In our class Dianne prepared this recipe using Macedonian feta purchased at the Covent Garden Market, however, you can leave this out if you would like)

Optional: Toasted Pine nuts (gently toast them in a dry frying pan over low heat. You will know they are toasted when they turn slightly brown and appear dry.  You can also smell them “toasting”)

  1. Cook the Quinoa according to package directions (In general, use a 2:1 ratio of water to Quinoa; if you prefer a grainer texture use less water, if you prefer a softer texture use slightly more)
  2. Drain any excess water from the Quinoa and place it in a large bowl.
  3. To have the Quinoa absorb the maximum amount of flavor, add your favourite homemade dressing now while the grain is warm (in class Dianne used the Greek-style dressing with oregano and balsamic vinegar as her choices).  This tip works well for potato, rice, pasta or even bean salads.  If you prefer, feel free to add the dressing once the Quinoa has cooled.
  4. Chop the produce that you will be using and add it to the bowl with the quinoa.
  5. If using pine nuts, add them to the bowl now.
  6. If you prefer a more melted texture of cheese (similar to what Dianne prepared) add the cheese to the salad now; if you prefer a crumbled texture (similar to a traditional Greek salad topping) add the cheese once the salad has cooled, just before serving.
  7. Add your salt and pepper to taste, toss, and serve!

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Spinach Strawberry Salad with Almonds:

This is a fresh, light salad perfect for the spring and summer seasons.  If you want to add a bit of protein you can sprinkle some feta or goat cheese over top.  Adding grilled chicken or salmon will make this salad a hearty, healthy meal!  Go ahead and experiment with your tastes!

1 package of fresh baby spinach (we bought our spinach from the Covent Garden Market in bags.  Spinach is available in containers, bags or just loose at most grocery stores and markets – If buying loose baby spinach, a few handfuls should be good – judge according to how many people you are serving)

1 pint of fresh strawberries sliced into bit-sized pieces (we bought our strawberries at the Covent Garden Market.  Strawberries are available at most grocery stores and markets – when purchasing a pint, inspect it to make sure there are no mouldy berries in the pint or else that mould can quickly spread to other berries!)

½ cup to 1 cup of sliced or slivered almonds depending on the amount you prefer (you can purchase almonds whole and cut them yourself, however, there are packages of slivered or sliced almonds available at most grocery stores.  Bulk stores should carry them as well) (In the case of a nut allergy, sunflower seeds or dried Asian noodles will give the same crunch!)

  1. Wash the spinach and dry it with a towel or using a salad spinner if available and place the spinach in a large bowl. (Be sure to dry off excess water because the dressing won’t “stick” as well to the spinach if it is wet)
  2. Cut the strawberries into halves, quarters, or slices depending on your preference and place them into the bowl with the spinach. (Instead of trimming the ends off of the strawberries you can use a plastic straw; holding the berry firmly, poke a hole from the bottom of the berry to the top using the straw and the end should pop off – this is a tip from Rachel Ray that minimizes the waste from each berry!)
  3. Chop the almonds and gently toast them in a dry frying pan over low heat. (You will know they are toasted when they turn slightly brown and appear dry.  You can also smell them “toasting”)
  4. Sprinkle the toasted almonds over top of the spinach and strawberries.
  5. Pour your favourite homemade dressing over top of the salad, toss, and enjoy!

 *Using a sweeter homemade dressing will complement the berries in this salad!