Summertime–and the Salads are Easy!

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imageChef’s Secrets for Super Salads
I Be Leaf: Experiment with different varieties of salad greens. Try arugula (rocket), bibb, Boston, endive, leafy field greens (mesclun), radicchio, romaine, spinach or watercress. The darker the greens, the better!

Note that even pre-washed packaged salad greens should be washed in cold water and dried in a lettuce spinner. Wrap the greens in paper towels and store in a resealable plastic bag in the refrigerator; squeeze out the air and seal well. They’ll keep for a few days.

Color Your World: Insert splashes of color into your salad greens by adding brightly colored vegetables such as yellow peppers or red onions. You can also give it a sweet kick by including fresh fruits such as kiwis or mangoes or dried fruits like cranberries or apricots. Top your salad with a handful of toasted nuts or roasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds, adding both color and a crunch.

Health Addict: Want something more than just vegetables? Add 1/2 cup of any kind of canned or cooked beans, lentils or chickpeas, all of which are full of fiber, folate and protein. (If using canned beans, be sure to drain and rinse them well to lower the sodium content.) Or try adding leftover cooked grains such as barley or quinoa, which provide fiber, vitamins and minerals. For protein, you can add a myriad of ingredients, including hard-boiled eggs, tuna, tofu or chicken.

Dress for Success: Making your own salad dressing is a great way to stay healthy, and it doesn’t have to take long. Use two parts of a healthy, flavorful fat, such as extra virgin olive oil or walnut oil, to one part acid, such as a citrus juice or vinegar. Add some green herbs and spices for additional flavor. A drizzle of honey, maple syrup or sugar will lower the acidity of the dressing and round out the flavor. Be sure the greens are dry or the dressing won’t cling to them.

What’s in Store: When choosing store-bought salad dressings, look for those made with good fats (extra virgin olive oil, or canola, grapeseed, walnut or flaxseed oil) that contain 4 grams of sugar or less per serving. Choose low-calorie rather than low-fat dressings, since the latter often contains high-fructose corn syrup, which tricks your body into staying hungry.

Greek Chickpea Salad
8 servings

This tasty salad is packed with fiber and flavor, making it an excellent vegetarian dish.

1 can (19 ounces) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 red or yellow pepper, seeded and chopped
1 green pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup chopped sweet onion (try Vidalia)
3/4 of an English cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 cup minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1 clove garlic (about 1 teaspoon minced)
Juice of 1 lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup pitted and halved black olives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 3/4 cup crumbled light feta cheese (or small cubes of firm tofu for a pareve version)

Place the drained chickpeas in a large bowl. Add the peppers, onion, cucumber, tomato, basil, dill and garlic; mix well. Add the lemon juice, olive oil, olives and salt and pepper to taste; toss gently to mix. Crumble the feta cheese over the top (or scatter the tofu cubes). Cover and chill before serving.

When ready to serve, adjust seasonings and drain any excess liquid.

Note: Keeps for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Info: 177 calories per serving, 20.2 grams carbohydrate, 4.1 grams fiber, 7 grams protein, 8.5 grams fat (2 grams saturated), 5 milligrams cholesterol, 440 milligrams sodium, 266 milligrams potassium, 1 milligram iron, 67 milligrams calcium

Couscous, Cranberry and Mango Salad
8 servings

This colorful, low-fat salad comes together quickly and tastes delicious!

1 1/2 cups hot vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup couscous (whole wheat or plain)
1/2 cup fresh parsley or 1/4 cup fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 slice fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
3 green onions or 1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 red pepper
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 large ripe mango, peeled and diced

Dressing:
2 tablespoons soy sauce (low-sodium or regular)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon Asian (toasted) sesame oil
1 tablespoon orange juice (preferably fresh)
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the hot broth with couscous in a large bowl. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the parsley, basil, ginger and garlic until minced, about 10 seconds. Add to the couscous. Cut the onions and red pepper into chunks. Process with quick on/off pulses, until coarsely chopped. Add to the couscous along with the dried cranberries and mango.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, orange juice and pepper to couscous; mix gently to combine. Adjust the seasonings to taste before serving.

Note: Recipe doubles and triples easily. Keeps for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Info: 128 calories per serving, 25.8 grams carbohydrate, 3.4 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, 2.3 grams fat (0.3 grams saturated), 211 milligrams sodium, 131 milligrams potassium, 1 milligram iron, 25 milligrams calcium

Variations: Instead of mango, use 1 cup of fresh pineapple or oranges, cut into bite-sized pieces. Add some diced celery, water chestnuts or bamboo shoots for extra crunch. Garnish with chopped pistachios or toasted, sliced almonds.

Chef’s Secret: Using a sharp knife, cut down one side of the flesh of the mango, feeling for the pit with your knife. Repeat on the other side. You will have 2 large pieces. Dice the mango flesh, but don’t cut right through to the skin. Bend the piece backwards and cut mango flesh away from the skin.

Luscious Layered Salad
16 servings

This nutrition-packed salad tastes just as good as it looks. It’s a real crowd-pleaser! Don’t be discouraged by the long list of ingredients.

Salad:
1 can (19 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (12 ounces) corn kernels, drained
1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 cups broccoli or cauliflower florets
1 can (19 ounces) red kidney beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups chopped tomatoes or 1 pint grape tomatoes
4 cups packed baby spinach leaves or mixed salad greens
1/2 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds

Dressing:
1/4 cup rice or cider vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic (about 2 teaspoons minced)
1 teaspoon sea or Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried or 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh) oregano

In a large glass salad bowl, arrange the ingredients in layers, starting with the black beans and ending with the spinach. Top with the cranberries and almonds. Cover and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before serving.

Combine the ingredients for the dressing in a jar; cover tightly and shake well. Refrigerate until serving time.

At serving time, drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently. Serve chilled.

Nutrition Info: 137 calories per serving, 19.8 grams carbohydrate, 5.7 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, 5.3 grams fat (0.6 grams saturated), 399 milligrams sodium, 307 milligrams potassium, 3 milligrams iron, 40 milligrams calcium

Variations: Add 1/2 cup thinly sliced or grated carrots or zucchini, or sliced mushrooms. Instead of dried cranberries or raisins, substitute with dried blueberries. Instead of almonds, top with chopped pistachios or roasted soy nuts.

Chef’s Secrets: Leaf Me Alone: If using flat-leaf spinach, wash the leaves well, dry thoroughly and tear into bite-sized pieces.

Shake It Up Baby! Mix ingredients for the dressing in the salad bowl, then layer the salad ingredients as directed. Cover tightly with plastic wrap. When ready to serve, shake the bowl to combine all the ingredients.

Red Cabbage Slaw
8 to 10 servings

Red cabbage dyes anything it touches purple. It’s culinary magic—just pour the hot dressing over the salad, and it will turn a brilliant magenta color!

1 medium head red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 6 cups sliced)
2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
3/4 cup chopped red onion
1 red or green pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic (about 2 teaspoons minced)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup granulated sugar or granular Splenda
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon celery seed (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the cabbage, carrots, onion, pepper and garlic in a large mixing bowl.
In a 2-cup glass measure, combine the vinegar, oil and sugar. Microwave, uncovered, on high for 45 seconds or until almost boiling. Pour the hot dressing over the vegetables and toss to mix well. Add the dill, celery seed and salt and pepper to taste; mix well.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. Adjust seasonings before serving.

Note: Keeps for 1 week in the refrigerator.

Nutrition Info: 154 calories per serving, 22 grams carbohydrate, 3.9 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, 7.3 grams fat (1 gram saturated), 52 milligrams sodium, 456 milligrams potassium, 1 milligram iron, 77 milligrams calcium

Sweet Choice: With Splenda, one serving contains 132 calories and 16.5 grams carbohydrate.

Variation: Substitute 1 or 2 bags of coleslaw mix or broccoli slaw (shredded broccoli stems) for the red cabbage. ?

Norene Gilletz is a cookbook author and culinary consultant in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of seven cookbooks including her latest, Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (Toronto, 2008). For more information, visit her web site at www.gourmania.com.

This article was featured in Jewish Action Summer 2009.

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