Late spring days are here, complete with sunshine, colorful wild flowers, less tourists and getting more physical. As the change of season is in the air in the Sierra, eating lighter, healthier, fresh food feels right: Enter a garden salad complete with vegetables. Also called a tossed salad, it is paired with a dressing — my favorite is Thousand Island. As a semi-vegetarian, wannabe vegan, I have been eating garden salads as an entrée since I was a teen.
Several years ago I wrote an up-close and very personal story for a national woman’s magazine. The editor was moved by the tale of me and my dog and wanted new pictures, so she set up a photo shoot at my cabin. The day before my neighbor and I hit Carson City to find the perfect black sweater. After the hunt, we stopped at a restaurant and I ordered a garden salad. I was too nervous to eat so, upon request, it was tossed into a doggy bag (but going back home I nibbled on veggies).
Once home, I opened the door and bumped into the new ficus tree I placed by the door. A branch hit my eye and it cost me an a.m. visit to the eye doctor to deal with a scratched cornea. Worse, my photo editor emailed me, “Whatever you do — don’t wear black.” And to add pressure, the pro makeup and hair session made me feel like an alien from Mars. After a three-hour session with a no-nonsense photographer, we did get the photo with Simon, my Brittany, asleep. Alone, I exhaled and savored my garden salad and enjoyed my new plants (they were not used for the shoot).
Garden salad and Thousand Island dressing
2 cups spring mix (mix of baby lettuces, greens and radicchio)
1/2 cup mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds
2 eggs, hard boiled, sliced
1/2 cup cheese, shredded Parmesan, Romano and/or Asiago
In a bowl, toss vegetables with lettuce. Top with seeds, egg and cheese.
Thousand Island Dressing:
3/4 cup mayonnaise (with olive oil)
2 teaspoons ketchup
1 tablespoon red onion, diced (optional)
2 teaspoons sweet pickle relish
1/2 hard-boiled egg, diced
Black pepper to taste
In a bowl, combine mayo, ketchup, relish and egg. Sprinkle with pepper. Chill. Serve salad with dressing and warm French bread dipped in extra virgin olive oil or European style butter.
A garden salad, like this one, drizzled with homemade Thousand Island dressing is down-to-earth and worth the extra effort. Sure, you can buy ready-made salads at the grocery store or restaurant, but DIY salads served in the comfort of your home is my cup of tea. Ah, and munching on fresh warmed up bread with a bit of real butter is decadent. And, of course, I did include a cup of tea (cinnamon) to top off the spring dish. It was a light dinner without lights and camera.
Motto: Fresh vegetables are a great way to slim down and shape up in the spring. Not only will you feel energized, but healthier.
Cal Orey, M.A. is an author and journalist. Her books include “The Healing Powers” series (Vinegar, Olive Oil, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) published by Kensington. (The Healing Powers of Honey and Coffee are offered by the Good Cook Book Club.) Her website is www.calorey.com