Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Salsas and Salads and Slaws, Oh My!

The sun is shining, the veggies are growing, and it is officially the Season of Salad.  It’s a great time to turn over a new leaf on getting plenty of fresh fruits and veggies, and to pull out the recipes that taste great without heating up the house. Here are some of the fresh summery dishes I’ve been enjoying lately.

Pico de Gallo (mild)
This is a mild fresh salsa that’s really healthy and refreshing.  It’s also a pretty painless way to get some extra veggie servings in without even noticing.

4 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium sweet white onion, chopped
¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
salt and pepper to taste {can substitute lemon pepper or similar low salt seasonings)

Just chop everything up and mix it together. Simple as that!
Serve it with chips or use it as a topping or condiment.

Note: if you can’t get sweet onions, use regular and add a couple teaspoons of sweetener.

Spicier Pico de Gallo: add one or two hot peppers of your choice, seeding or not according to the heat you want (leaving some or all seeds in = much hotter).

Mango Pico de Gallo: Add one chopped mango or similar fruit (peach, pineapple or kiwi might be nice). This is a nice sunny version.

Italian Pico de Gallo:  Don’t like cilantro? Try using fresh parsley or basil instead.

More potential add-ins to toss in: beans (black are particularly nice), bell peppers, chopped avocadoes, various crunchy fresh veggies such as celery or even some steamed veggies such as asparagus tips.
The sky’s the limit. However, I admit the basic version is the one I use most often.

Pico de Gallo and Guacamole


3-4 medium avocadoes
1/3 cup Pico de Gallo or other chunky fresh cut salsa
1 tbsp lemon or lime juice (or more to taste)
pinch of cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Halve the avocadoes and scoop out the flesh. Add the lemon juice and mash with a fork or potato masher. Stir in the rest of the ingredients and adjust to taste.

Variations: Any of the Pico de Gallo variations will work here. The mango version is particularly nice.

You can also make a lower fat version by extending the avocados with pureed peas or other green vegetables, in which case I would probably add some onion and garlic powder to jazz up the flavor.

Foolproof trick to keep guacamole from turning brown:  The discoloration is from oxidation, which means the avocado is reacting to oxygen in the air.  Therefore if you block the air, it won’t happen. What you do is when you’re ready to store your leftover guacamole, spread an even layer of refried beans or other thick spread on top, making sure there are no gaps and the guacamole is completely covered. Then put a lid on the dish and put it in the fridge.  When you’re ready to eat either scrape off the bean layer or eat it as a layer dip.

Guacamole with its blanket of refried beans


1 lb shredded cabbage and/or other coleslaw veggies
2-3 tbsp dried fruit, chopped if large (cranberries and apricots are good choices)
1 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger, optional

1/3 cup Nayonaise, Vegenaise or homemade vegan mayo
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp garlic powder
4 tsp sweetener of choice (equivalent to 2 packets)
a generous dash of dill
a dash of mustard powder
1 tbsp oil (optional—I often leave it out to save calories)

Stir together dressing ingredients in large bowl until homogenous. Add cabbage and toss very thoroughly until completely moistened—keep stirring a little longer than you think you should. The trick to great coleslaw that isn’t soggy is to use a smallish amount of dressing but have it very well distributed and absorbed.  When you first start stirring it will look too dry and like you need to add more dressing, but after a few minutes of thorough mixing it will start to look better and you’ll glad you didn’t add too much.  There’s nothing worse than a few soggy leaves swimming in a sea of goop.
Add the dried fruit (which adds great texture and flavor) and ginger if using. Keep chilled.

There are a lot of vegetables that can be made into a slaw both on their own and in combination, including: different colors of cabbage, broccoli slaw (which is made from shredded broccoli stems), shredded carrots, daikon and other radishes (yum!), tough greens such as kale, onions, zucchini and frankly pretty much any vegetable that can be shredded and eaten fresh. Some flavorings might need to be adjusted to bring out the best flavor in alternate veggies (see carrot salad below).

The dressing can be replaced with pretty much any type of tangy salad dressing, bottled or homemade. It’s probably best if it’s a little on the thick side, but it doesn’t have to be creamy—a vinaigrette will work too. Use 1/3 to ½ cup dressing for a pound of shredded veggies.

Tricolor Coleslaw with dried cranberries

Carrot-Cranberry Salad

1 lb shredded carrots
1/3 to ½ cup dried cranberries (or more if you like)
Coleslaw dressing (above) minus mustard
An extra 4 tsp (2 more packets) sweetener or sugar
A generous dash of cinnamon.

Stir together dressing, then add rest of ingredients. Adjust sweetener and amount of fruit to taste.

Carrot-Cranberry Salad

Cauliflower salad

Here’s a salad I made for the 4th. It’s a basic creamy potato salad style dressing that’s tossed with steamed cauliflower instead of potatoes.  It went over pretty well.  The original idea comes from Hungry Girl. I veganized it and adjusted it some based on personal taste. One touch I particularly liked was that the dressing was extended with a couple cups more cauliflower, pureed. That made it lower in fat as well.

I’d never had steamed cauliflower cold and tossed with dressing before. It was surprisingly good that way, although of course not an exact match for potatoes. A combination of half cauliflower and half potatoes might be something to try.

Cauliflower "Potato" Salad

Dessert Salsa/ Fruit Salad

This is basically just a typical fruit salad that has been chopped more finely than usual in order to imitate salsa visually, and so that it can be scooped up on sweet cinnamon chips. It’s a fun presentation.  The salsa can also be served up on waffles or pancakes or even on top of grilled pound cake for a kind of mock bruschetta.

3-4 Cups mixed fruit, chopped finely
½ tbsp lemon juice
1-2 tbsp sweetener
1-2 tbsp jam or preserves (flavor of your choice)
1 ½ tbsp chopped crystallized ginger
a dash of cinnamon
A handful of flaked coconut (optional)
2-3 mint leaves, chopped finely (optional, mainly for looks)

Chop everything up and mix it together, adjusting sweetness and flavoring to taste. Serve with cinnamon chips (below).

There are a lot of good fruit choices for this. I think that tropical fruits and berries are particularly nice. The important thing is to incorporate some contrasting flavors and colors.  A combination of red, white and green would look the most like regular salsa.

The fruits I used in the picture are mango, pineapple, green apple, coconut (is coconut a fruit or a nut, anyway?) and boysenberry preserves to bind it together.
Other fruits that would be awesome include kiwi, peach, strawberry, pomegranate arils, mandarin oranges, blueberries, apricots, other kinds of apples and asian pears (what a great texture those would have!).  Canned or frozen fruit is fine too as long as it’s well drained.

Dessert Salsa

Baked Cinnamon Chips

2-3 whole grain tortillas
oil or cooking spray
cinnamon and sugar or sweetener

Preheat to 350 degrees F.
Cut the tortillas into eight wedges each.  Lightly spray 2 cookie sheets.  Spread wedges out on sheets, keeping them from touching or overlapping. Give the tops of the wedges another light spritz of cooking spray and then sprinkle them with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 10-12 minutes until crispy but not burnt.  Watch closely if you’ve got an erratic oven.

Variation: Use different flavorings to make a savory chip.  One of my favorite versions is to brush the wedges with lime juice and sprinkle them with garlic salt before baking.

Baked Cinnamon Chips (with salsa)

Well there you have it: no less than six recipes for nourishing summer fun. Stay cool out there…and full of veggies!

No comments:

Post a Comment