This week I casually glanced down at my dinner plate in flavor sensation rapture turned amusement. Part of me cleaved off from my pleasure to stand neutral at the feast set before me. I spied an ugly unapologetic pile of stuff, indiscernible muddy bits which when stared at too long became vaguely off putting. I’ve seen the effect of this sort of meal before on those around me, the confounded distraction, the unsubtle glances upon my plate, all while attempting to maintain level eye contact. I try to put an end to the mounting curiosity and unconscious suffering by brightly announcing, “I am eating salad.”
Oh sure there was a time when I ate reasonable polite salads, a moment when I crunched upon watery iceberg chunks and pale wedges of cellophane tasting tomato in a fogged Wishbone slumber. But everything changed when unrefined twelve year old me outfitted in white ruffled peasant dress, Dorothy Hamill-Farrah haircut hybrid, and cork wedges hopped onto a plane headed for the bright lights and electricity of Los Angeles. Amidst 14K jewelry, the importance of a good sun tan, newly pierced ears and incessant talk about weight loss, I learned about Californian cuisine. A special midnight feast of salad which boasted among other things, black tinned olives and slivers of carrot, sweet corn and cheese thrilled me with obvious sophistication. My world widened upon noticing this subtle siren call and turning point- salads became alluring and positively chic.
And garden greens took over the American diet with an enthusiastic roar of Ranch dressing and halleluiah of pink-pork bacon bits, the buttery richness of avocado seduced while the convenience of chunked up rotisserie chicken practically created a new eating phenomenon. I followed along with each trend, all too happy to endorse healthy, fresh and more. But somewhere along the way I took a serious detour. I became unrestrained, unbridled and over-the-top, giving new interpretation to this meal on a plate. Initially it was due to giving my vegetal ventures romantic names like: The Rites of Spring salad or Midsummer Night’s Fool. Partly it was a demand to make my meals “nutritiously dense”. No simple cuke-n-shoot toss up was going to make the grade in my house. Maybe it was because I was too crude to deal with the delicacy of lamb’s quarters or that I liked the complex, rag tag freedom of crazy quilts. I also felt deprived and peevish at the thought of small portions and rallied against unloved and discarded foodstuff. For these reasons and more my salads began to spread and grow from side plate to center stage, at times even demanding to be placed into giant bowl. My salad morphed into a shaggy unkempt topiary of leftovers- a sundae of Monday’s, Tuesday’s, and Thursday’s.
It started innocently enough. Chop up that funny side of ham, throw in the stir-fry and noodle! I justified that scrambled eggs on top of lettuce made sense, wasn’t it just protein after all? All previous unwritten rules about good taste, appearance and decency were cast out in favor of emptying out a cache of barely filled Tupperware to create something fresh, improvisational and new. Indian chickpeas parked next to cubes of Italian frittata, mouthfuls of lasagna lazed by a sop of sauerkraut, roasted sweet potatoes bantered with feisty pickle chips. Intoxicating and thrilling, the layers of flavor, ethnicity, attitude and disposition mark and make themselves known.
And while the results are never pretty, they also never fail to charm me. This world set before me is singing adventure. What I think I know about meatloaf changes when set against the still life of another day’s composition and a mad flurry of other ingredients. Overlaps and intersections are the name of the game and without jest I assert that my salad sundaes are generous exercise in being with and ultimately seeing-- not to mention great excuse to eat more greens.
Carrie’s Kumari Curry Dressing makes about 1-1/2 C: Adapted from The Ancient Cookfire by Carrie L’Esperance
This is a potent salad dressing which announces its presence. I find it quite unusual and not easy to pin down. Because of this, it is perfect libation to pour over a medley of related or unrelated things. While years of eating these strange concoctions have built up my stomach, I encourage you to explore the possibilities. This week’s sundae looked like this: arugula, sour chickpeas, chopped garden burger, tiny mozzarella balls, cubed frittata with sundried tomatoes, olives and broccoli rabe, pickles, avocado, cucumber, tomatoes and this dressing. Pure Heaven! Another time I swapped out the legumes and burger and put in cubed lasagna, smoked tofu and turkey loaf. Strange and delectable.
1/3 C olive oil
1/3 C flaxseed/ hempseed oil
1 large garlic clove peeled
1 ½ tsp curry powder
1 tsp dried dill
7 chopped fresh mint leaves
3 Tblsp chopped fresh parsley
1 Tblsp capers
¼ C aloe vera juice/gel (lemon juice, apple cider vinegar)
3 Tblsp plain yogurt
1 Tblsp Braggs Liquid Aminos or Tamari
1 tsp maple syrup
Directions: Blitz in a blender, adjust for any seasonings, and set aside an hour to allow the flavors to improve. Refrigerate after spooning onto your salad sundae.