Monday, July 28, 2008

Summer is for Salads . . .

Summer in Texas is hot hot hot . . . and that often leaves me in the mood for something cool and quick for dinner . . .

Last night, after a fantastic but steamy day boating and waterskiing with friends on Lake Austin, it was all I could do to think of something healthy but delicious for dinner.

Enter the salad.

I am a master of salads of all sorts - and pride myself on making all my salad dressings myself - I don't like the preservatives and somewhat off flavors of most of the bottled kind. Typically I make a basic but healthy balsamic dressing with a few tweaks to give it variety (sampling of recipes to follow). But last night, for whatever reason I was craving Caesar Salad.

I know - not super healthy - at least in its classical rendition. Not remembering everything that goes in a Caesar, and knowing that I needed to make substitutes for a few items, I went onto The Food Network to seek a bit more information.

What I found, my foodies, was a gold mine. At first, I didn't believe what I was reading. A Caesar dressing recipe at 10% of the fat & calories of the classic? It couldn't taste good. But with a no-cook recipe like that . . . to which I happened to have ALL the ingredients . . . I had to try it.

I am glad I did and I think you will be too - just one slight modification made this recipe a new favorite!!!

Healthier Caesar Salad Dressing

Courtesy of Eating Well on The Food Network

This dressing has just 13 calories and less than half a gram of fat per tablespoon, compared to 115 calories and 12 grams of fat for its traditional counterpart.

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed (I love garlic, so I subbed in 2 cloves:-)
  • 1/3 cup low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • **I modified my dressing to add 1 heaping tsp of Dijon Mustard - it made all the difference to me

Puree garlic and cottage cheese in a blender or food processor until smooth. Add yogurt, Parmesan, vinegar and Worcestershire and pulse to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Add mustard in with the wet ingredients if you like.

My boyfriend and I ate this over a combination of shredded hearts of romaine, baby spinach and a few yellow bell pepper slices for extra fiber and sweetness. We were garlic scented but thrilled by this easy to make, delicious and decadent tasting recipe . . . I hope you try it and enjoy!!!!

A few other dressing options, as promised, to make your own relatively quickly and easily at home. I always add a few modifications to try and keep the fat and calories down without sacrificing flavor or consistency.

Kir's Basic Balsamic
  • 3/4 - 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar (amount varies on your taste for acid)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 tsp Fat Free Sour Cream (reduces oil & makes a creamy dressing simultaneously)
  • 2 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Emulsification is the trick to any balsamic and there is no better way to achieve this than - shaking! I make all my dressings in small, very air tight Tupperware containers . . . and when I have all the ingredients in I shake em. Then taste with a leaf of your greens to see if it needs any changes. In fact, shaking also helps you use less dressing, and thereby less fat and calories, on your salad. I shake my greens in a large Tupperware with a little dressing and then check back to see if I need more. This way, I can get a great coating of dressing without dousing the greens.

Modifiers: Once you have this base vinaigrette, which tastes great as is, simply adding a few flavorful herbs or other ingredients can make it seem a totally different salad.

For example:
  • 1/2 Tsp Thyme if you are serving salad with a heartier meal is great, also excellent with a salad that has blue cheese and walnuts plus a few sliced pears
  • 1/2 Tsp Oregano, Feta & replacing half the balsamic with white wine or rice wine vinegar makes this a bit more like a greek salad dressing; add Feta to the salad of course:)
  • 1/2 Tsp Basil and some chopped sundried tomatoes make a lovely dressing, especially for salads with some goat cheese in them

In another blog - I'll tell you all about the healthy slaws I have been making . . . both classical american and tasty asian slaws like you are starting to find at trendy asian fusion places.

I wish you all Salad days!


Huffy said...

Hands down the best caeser salad dressing I have tasted, but WITHOUT the guilt! I tried without the dijon mustard at first, but it needed that extra kick so I added per Kirsten's instructions. Also, the quantities listed fit just right in my mini cuisinart for blending. If you are just making for one, you have enough left over for lunch the next day. And yes, I added two garlic cloves..good call! Thanks for the great recipe.

pelfster said...

Love the Caesar dressing! Tasty, quick, easy AND no guilt? Seemed too good to be true but this is a keeper. The recipe is great as is - definitely include the Dijon mustard. We ended up adding a few extra shakes of Worcestershire because we love that extra anchovy kick. Can't wait to try out the balsamic dressings!