I love a good summer salad, however many people have been messaging me asking for ideas as their ‘rabbit food’, which we all know has numerous health benefits, is starting to get a little bland and boring. Store bought dressings can be really expensive and loaded with extra sugars or preservatives that aren’t great for the body or the waistline, so what’s the point of eating all that leafy goodness, only to sacrifice your goals with those hidden nasties?!? SO: I’m staging a dressing intervention. No, I’m not going to be cooking food in the nude, but I’m saying ‘DITCH THOSE STORE BOUGHT DRESSINGS’ and let’s make fast and easy dressings, from scratch, using ingredients that serve our health and made from ingredients we already have! Nothing fancy, but damn tasty.
My favourite salad is a classic chicken salad, however if you’re a Chicken Caesar fan, don’t assume it’s going to be super healthy! Sometimes the store bought dressings are super UN healthy and for me adding croutons is not my winning formula as it leads to belly bloat. SO try this instead:
If you’re cooking chicken from scratch, try my Cajan Chicken Salad recipe.
It’s topped with this amazing and super tasty dressing, which could also work well with a salad with fish, thanks to the little tang of citrus.
Coriander Citrus Dressing
- 3 tbsp lime juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1 tbsp coriander (or parsley)
- 1/4 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/8 tsp pepper or to taste
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes or to taste, optional
Hate Coriander? You’re not alone. You can replace the Coriander with Italian Parsley, make a cup of tea or phone a friend for some emotional support. Jokes.
Basic Cheats / Lazy Vinaigrette
If that doesn’t float your boat, when I’m rushing, the fastest and easiest dressing I’ve ever made is with about a 1/4 of a cup of Olive Oil or Avocado Oil and a big squirt of balsamic vinegar, shaken together in a container and spread with wild abandon over my salad greens. I always do that first, then add my protein, then what ever crunch I want on top, which could be pop corn (really fibrous and can be great for the gut to get things moving) or some chopped nuts.
FYI: This same dressing works with pan fried Haloumi as your protein, OR pan fried Beef strips! Incredibly versatile and just a couple of ingredients!
One of my favourite recipes of all time is my Asian Beef with Garlic Kailaan.
Kailaan is like broccolini but more leafy and is not always available in every supermarket, so instead of the Kailaan, you can pop your beef onto a bed of lettuce greens. In this instance, I’d simple drizzle a little sesame oil over top of it and throw in some cherry tomatoes and you’ve got a super warm beef salad! Sesame oil makes a great salad drizzle if you like the flavour and again, a great tasty dressing doesn’t have to be too fancy if you’ve starting with great ingredients first!
Fish / Salmon Salad
I’m not really a fish eater, even though I know it’s SUPER healthy and has a heap of health benefits! HOWEVER, I was issued a challenge to create a warm salad using salmon and if you’ve followed my journey, by now you probably know that when I’m issued a challenge, it’s GAME ON! I don’t like the smell of fish cooking, especially as I live in an apartment and don’t want the rest of my house smelling like fish too, so researched ways to cook it and learnt that a piece of salmon can steam in the microwave in just a couple of minutes! If you’ve not a microwave user, you can pan fry your salmon or bake it in the oven in a baking paper capsule for around 10-15 mins. Then it’s a case of laying out your salad greens on a big white platter, chopping up some cherry tomatoes, may be some cucumber (I know some people find cucumber a bit icky too) and whizz up this dressing.
Chilli Citrus Dressing
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 125ml olive oil
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 2 red chillies
I’m not even kidding. Once your salmon is done, break it up with 2 forks, throw it on top of your greens and after whizzing this up in a blender, drizzle all over the dish. You’ll impress your friends and family and even I ate it and enjoyed it. Full recipe details HERE.
I went somewhere a few months ago as was introduced to fried Tofu. OMG. I’m not a huge Soy eater / drinker but it was seriously AMAZING. When it comes to Soy, a really simple vinaigrette like the one listed above can provide a great cut through with the creamy consistency or neutral taste of Tofu. Again, when it comes to adding any protein to a salad, the more flavoursome the ingredients, the more simple the dressing! Well, that’s the philosophy I live by as, like an orchestra, it’s all about the balance. You don’t want the horn section and the strings all fighting for attention right? If one is leading, let the other support.
I’m a fan of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) which is great marinaded in the same way that you would do with chicken. The marinade is often just Tandoori spices and yogurt and you simply leave your paneer chunks in there to marinade. Chances are you don’t have a tandoori oven in your place, so you can bake this in the oven or grill till you start to see the edges blacken.
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3⁄4 teaspoon garam masala
- 1⁄8 teaspoon ground red pepper
I love serving these pieces on salad greens or even finely sliced cabbage (like they do in the restaurants) with a really simple Yoghurt dressing
Yoghurt Raita Dressing
- 1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and grated
- 1-2spring onion, finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- 1⁄2tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
- 2 tablespoons of fresh mint, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 375 ml plain yogurt
- salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted, for garnish
My other favourite vegetarian style warm salad involves chargrilled baby cos lettuce. Have you tried it?
This dish is seriously great and comes with a tangy sugar free alternative to peanut satay! The great thing is that the sauce is simply whizzed up in a blender, using ingredients in your pantry!
Sugar Free Peanut Sauce
- 1/3 cup of peanut butter
- 1/4 cup hot water
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 inch of ginger, grated
- 2 cloves of garlic, grated
- ground pepper
- optional: if you like a bit of heat, add a little chilli!
If you’re doing a tofu salad, this dressing would also work really well and always remember to top it with some nuts for a little added crunch!
So there you go! That’s how I jazz up my salads in an easy and cost effective way, without any preservatives or fancy ingredients.
Kitchen staples: olive oil, balsamic, lemon juice and salt and pepper. – oh yeah and this amazing grater on Guide To Better Shopping. You simply can’t go wrong! Enjoy your salad days!