Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Vegan Green Goddess Dressing

Last weekend, in the first wave of 70+ weather we've had this Spring, I went to the Greenmarket to fulfill one of my most anticipated goals of the season: a fire escape herb garden. Brimming with excitement, I delicately carried my tiny pots of mint, basil, parsley, and rosemary home, along with fresh soil and a wooden flower box I had picked up at Home Depot.  My career as a gardener had begun! I would have fragrant, wonderful fresh herbs right outside my window all spring and summer long! My herbs would literally be garden fresh, rooted in soil and as sprightly as can be. I would make salads, soups, garnishes, even cocktails with my new herbs. Oh the possibilities!

Two days later, my hopes and dreams were shattered when a building notice, slipped under my door, informed me that plants on the fire escape violated the NYC fire code and must be removed immediately, or else a fine. (NYC, you really kill me sometimes.) But in those 48 hours of green-thumbed glory, I created a wonderfully herbed quinoa salad, and this lovely Vegan Green Goddess Dressing.

Garden or no garden, I encourage you to experiment with a variety of herbs when making this revitalizing, almost cleansing salad dressing. Each herb brings its own unique verdancy to the lovely, virescent dressing. Parsley is a must, but the addition of dill musters a feathery, fern-like freshness; while basil conjures a pesto-y nuance. Tarragon and chives are welcomed guests, too.

The classic green goddess dressing gets it creamy consistency from a combination of mayonnaise, sour cream, and anchovies, but the vegan version says no thank you to excessive saturated fat by simply using tahini in its place. (You can read all about my obsession with tahini and its health benefits here.) With such a strong emphasis on garden-fresh herbs, why shouldn't the base be earthy light as well? Here, lots of lemon juice and apple cider vinegar offset the slight bitterness of the tahini, creating a tart acidity that's almost vinaigrette-like. However, the consistency is truly as creamy as can be, and the juxtaposition of vinaigrette and creaminess is totally amazing. I don't pour this dressing on the salad, I slather. It's divine.

With a thicker consistency, this dressing can even be used as a dip for crudités or pita chips. To achieve this, add only 2 tbsp of water instead 1/4 cup, and ta-da! Let your inner Green Goddess glow.

Vegan Green Goddess Dressing
Makes 1 cup

1/2 cup raw tahini
1/4 cup water
6 tablespoons fresh parsley
3 tablespoons fresh basil (or dill)
2 green onions, chopped (or 2 tbsp fresh chives)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp natural sweetener, such as agave nectar or honey

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (or in a bowl and use an emersion blender.) Blend until smooth. Adjust salt and herbs to taste, and add more water if consistency is too thick.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Detox Salad

"58 days until Memorial Day Weekend!" screamed my spin instructor on Saturday morning; barking orders for a 360 degree left turn on the flywheel (no) while maintaining current RPMs (I'll think about it.) While beach weather is still a really long time away—evidenced by the fact I am still wearing my winter puffer with the regularity of a Catholic school uniform—it did start me thinking of how spring weather begets lighter clothes, which craves lighter spring fare, and Monday is high of 58 which is almost 60, and when do peas come to the farmers market? Anyway, I digress, but this thought process carried me through the end of spin class and I went home and made this Detox Salad and it was delicious.

If you recognize the name, it's because Detox Salad is a regular at the Whole Food Salad Bar. (A station I rarely frequent because I always manage to spend a mind-boggling $17 for a lunchtime salad and I don't. understand. HOW.) Anyway, the salad intrigued me—specifically, the finely chopped texture of raw broccoli and cauliflower, two vegetables I almost exclusively enjoy cooked—and the fact that Angela from Oh She Glows recreated it with contagious enthusiasm and exceptional reviews. This is the type of salad where the ingredients aren't anything crazy, but the combination is just right. Plus, its really nice to take a break from your regular lettuce leaf-based salad every once in a while!

There is something that feels so healthy about eating raw, don't you agree? I'm not a raw foodist by any means, but there's no denying that many raw foods are low in calories, fat, and sodium while high in fiber; giving my insatiable snacking appetite the luxury of eating large quantities of food for minimal cals. (I can go through a giant bag of baby carrots like it's nobody's business, if I do say so myself.)

The texture of this salad is great. It's crunchy and compact; a chopped salad at its finest. The cruciferous vegetables are dotted with crunchy pepitas and sweet dried fruit; made tangy with lots of fresh lemon, natural sweetener, and a dash of cayenne. I bulked up the salad's  protein content by adding quinoa and lots of salty feta, and the result was (r)awesome.

Warning: this recipe makes ALOT! As in if you don't have a huge mixing bowl or the appetite of a yellow lab; you may have to half it. (I admit, I got a little carried away with the food processor...the pulse button is just so much fun.) On the flip side, you'll go through the salad faster than you might think— its very addictive and I found myself eating second and third helpings of each serving.

Detox Salad (adapted from Oh She Glows)
Makes about 12-15 cups

2 heads broccoli (1 bunch), stems removed
1 head cauliflower, stems removed
2.5 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup pepitas (or sunflower seeds)
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup raisins or currants
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/3 cup dried cherries or dried cranberries
6 tbsp fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons), more to taste
generous dash of cayenne

2-3 tbsp maple syrup or agave nectar
1 cup raw quinoa, cooked according to package directions
3/4 cup crumbled feta
kosher salt (less if using feta), and lots of pepper to taste

1. In a food processor*, process the broccoli until fine. Transfer to a very large bowl.
2. Process the cauliflower (no stems) until fine and add to the bowl. Do the same with the carrots and parsley. 
3. Stir in the pepitas, currants/raisins/dried cherries/dried cranberries, and quinoa once it's cooled.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, cayenne, and maple syrup or agave nectar.  Pour into large bowl and mix thoroughly along with a sprinkle of salt & ample pepper.
5. Top with crumbled feta cheese. Serve cold or at room temperature.

*If you don't have a food processor, chop the broccoli, cauliflower, and parsley finely by hand, and shred carrots with a grater.