One of the most frequently asked questions I get from people I’m coaching, and visitors to my blog, is “What can I put on my salad?”
Well, we all know that there are a ton of things you can put on your salad, but what they’re really asking is, “What can I put on my salad that doesn’t contain oil?”
Mango Strawberry Cucumber salad
We’re so used to pouring oil-based dressings all over our salads that we simply can’t imagine that there’s any other possibility.
But I’m here to tell you that there is a WORLD of possibility when it comes to amazingly delicious salads.
Your salads can become the most satisfying meal of your day, way more satisfying than any cooked meal will be, and they won’t leave you bogged down and falling asleep.
Well let’s get creating then!
A word about following recipes
One thing I learned from Victoria Boutenko’s 12 Steps to Raw Foods was how to liberate myself from recipes and learn how to create beautiful flavours with ingredients you have on hand.
Watermelon mint and cucumber salad
In that book she talks about the FIVE flavours, which need to be present in every dish to make our tastebuds come alive. They are: Sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami.
Here are some suggestions for foods, which could filfill each specific taste:
Sweet: sweet fruits like dates, mulberries, raisins, apple, orange, banana, mango, peach, nectarine etc etc
Salty: celery, tomatoes, green leafy veggies, herb, Braggs liquid aminos, coconut aminos, tamari.
Sour: acid fruits like lemons, grapefruit, berries like raspberries, blackberries, vinegar
Bitter/spicy: Arugula (rocket), mustard, chili, jalapenos, pepper
Umami: mushrooms, garlic, nutritional yeast, mustard
Some foods have a combination of tastes. For instance raspberry is both sweet and sour. Tomatoes are both sweet and salty. So if you use these kinds of foods then you need to use less of the other tastes.
Mango cucumber and cherry tomato salad
Whether you choose to follow a recipe or not, it’s always a good idea to taste your creation as you are creating it so that you can add a little more of this or a little less of that to arrive upon just the right blend.
Raw produce can vary widely in taste – in its sweetness, saltiness, sourness, bitterness or umami-ness (if that’s even a word!) – so you may need to use less or more of an ingredient to make sure the mix of flavours is just right.
3 simple salad dressing ideas that I LOVE…
I don’t like to fuss much in the kitchen. For starters I have zero spare time, with 2 kids, a husband, 2 dogs and a fully committed working life. So I tend to just throw things together. That said, here are a couple of combinations that I have found really work for me…
In order of preference…
The fruit dressing
Apricot celery salad
This is by far the easiest and the most satisfying for me.
1-2 fruits of your choice (let’s say 2-3 mangos and 2 ripe bananas for instance, or 7-10 juicy ripe peaches)
½ -1 pound (about a ½ kilo) of tender leafy greens (butter lettuce, romaine, baby spinach, English spinach, Young arugula (rocket)
Optional: a little finely chopped fresh basil, cilantro or other herb; a little zest of lemon or lime.
Directions: Break up the greens (or chop) into bite size pieces and place in a large serving bowl.
Cut up the fruit and put it into the bowl with the greens. Using your hands, combine the fruit and greens and smoosh the fruit a little to release their juices.
Serve and enjoy! This is soooo good, and so easy.
The low-fat oil free veggie dressing
Add a combination of cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, celery, a clove of garlic, a shallot, fresh herb of your choice to the blender and blend till smooth. (I recommend starting with a couple of ingredients first, such as tomatoes and celery for sweetness and saltiness, and then adding in shallot and garlic for bitter and umami, and then maybe a little lemon or lime juice)
Low-Fat Raw ranch dressing
Then, if you need it, add in one or two medjool dates, or some apple or orange as a sweetener.
Optional extras – to add some more umami flavour you might like to add some vinegar, smoked paprika or chili, mushrooms or nutritional yeast to your dressing.
Adding fats to your dressing. You can still keep your dressing low fat even when adding in fats. Adding in ½ an avocado or 2 ounces of nuts or seeds will just give your dressing a bit more creaminess without tipping your fat ratio up too much.
When starting out I suggest making a small quantity and tasting it until you get the right combination. It’s much easier to add ingredients than to subtract and you don’t want a 2 litre dressing that you made way too spicy or salty that you then have to heave.
Low-fat vinegar based dressings
Vinegar is not something I use regularly on my salads but every now and then I like to use it. I never use oil though, but there are plenty of other ways of getting a creamy feel to your dressings.
Combine some vinegar in a jar (balsamic, apple cider vinegar etc – say ½ a jar) with a tablespoon of prepared mustard, 1-2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, a clove of garlic (minced), a tsp of Braggs Aminos or tamari. To make it creamier add ¼-1/2 and avocado or 1-2 oz of hummus (or 1-2 ozs of your choice of nut). Then Add in a chopped herb or spice of your choice (smoked paprika is really nice). Only small amounts until you get the right flavour.
Keep tasting till you get it right. Don’t put too much of this dressing on your salad. Less is more because the flavour is more intense than a fruit or veggie-based dressing.
If you object to using any vinegar at all then simply substitute lemon juice for the vinegar.
Play play play!
The only way to get good at making salad dressings and finding just the right combination for you is to experiment in the kitchen.
Mango Banana and tender greens salad
So let’s throw off the shackles of recipe books and apps and have a go at experimenting. It’s way more satisfying when you hit on something that really works.
Go on… pretend you’re 8-years old again and you’re in the backyard making love potions with weird herbs and half the ingredients from your mother’s kitchen pantry!
But for goodness sake don’t put any food colouring in there! If you want an amazing blue colour though try out putting in some E3Live green algae.
And let me know how your experiments go. What’s your favourite dressing combination? Share it in the comments below…