After coming down from last week’s sugar high, I thought I should lighten things up this week and try to eat more greens. After looking over the recipe archives on my blog, I realized I haven’t posted a single salad. I promise I eat salads, I do (really), but I guess I think that they are never exciting enough to share. Most of the time I have salad at home it is a last-minute effort with a hodge podge of ingredients from the fridge that are about to go bad; this is especially true in the early summer when I have an over abundance of produce from my CSA. That’s not to say that the salads I have at home aren’t delicious, because they are (you can’t really go wrong with locally grown, fresh produce), but they are usually a little less thought out. This might be because I work for a local restaurant that is known for its delicious lunch fare which includes many seasonal salads that tend to be more structured. So this week I decided to plan ahead of time, and to look for fresh, seasonal produce at the store that play nicely together with baby greens.
I usually think of February as a shoulder season: spring produce is still a couple weeks off, and yet i’m already tired of winter’s root vegetables and braising greens. Surprisingly though, I found a lot of good-looking produce at the store and I was inspired by the Key limes that were 10/$1. They just looked too good to pass up. And let me tell you, it was really difficult to not think about how I could use them in a pie or a mousse! With the baby greens already in my cart though, I kept my focus on salad and decided that the Key limes would be really tasty as a dressing.
A Key lime dressing would work well with Asian flavors, but I was more in the mood for Mexican. Since the limes would create sharp and acidic flavors, I wanted to balance out the salad with sweet and creamy components; grilled sweet potatoes and ripe avocados would do just the trick. I also can’t have a salad without a little crunch, so toasted pepitas it was. And what’s a salad without cheese? The half wheel of queso fresco I already had in my fridge would be perfect; it’s on the mild side, but adds just the right amount of tanginess. I rounded out the salad with some fresh mexican flavors: green onion, cilantro, and grilled pasilla peppers.
All the flavors came together perfectly, and the salad looked beautiful – colorful and fresh. Other then the 10 minutes of grill time for the sweet potatoes and peppers, it was a really quick meal. I did leave the salad meat-free, but some grilled flank steak or chicken would have been a nice addition. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t crave a Key lime margarita, but I refrained and kept it healthy with just a small glass of white wine (a beer would have paired well too). The only downside of this salad is that I ate it all and there weren’t any leftovers for lunch the next day! Since it will be a couple of more months before veggies start springing up in my garden, I’ll have to do a better job of finding inspiration for salads like these while I’m at the store. I’ll just have to keep in the back of my mind that these ingredients are to be used for salads. Not mousse. Not cookies. Not cakes!
- 16 oz baby greens
- 2 sweet potatoes
- 2 pasilla peppers
- ¼ cup toasted pepitas
- ½ cup crumbled queso fresco
- ¼ cup chopped cilantro
- ¼ cup chopped green onion
- 1 sliced avocado
- ¼ cup key lime juice (about 10 key limes)
- 2 TBSP honey
- 2 TBSP apple sauce
- 1 tsp cumin
- dash of cayenne
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- ¾ cup avocado oil (or vegetable oil)
- For the dressing: whisk together all ingredients or alternatively place all ingredients in a mason jar and shake to emulsify. Store dressing in the fridge until ready to use (it will last 4-6 days, just shake when ready to use).
- For the salad: Preheat the grill using medium-high heat. Peel the sweet potato and slice into half-inch disks. Drizzle both the sweet potato disks and peppers with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the peppers and sweet potatoes on the hot grill. Cook the sweet potato for about 5 minutes on each side or until tender, remove from grill and allow to cool. Cook the peppers on the grill until each side is charred. Place the peppers in a heat safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes so the steam can help loosen the skin. Peel the skin off the peppers and then cut into strips.
- Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and toss with ½ cup of the dressing. Add more dressing to your liking.