Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Salad Sundae or Medusa on a Plate

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.


HipWriterMama said...

I LOVE salads. Taboule, hummus, cubed tomatoes, olives and feta cheese on salad. Roasted beets, roasted carrots, feta cheese on salad. Grilled salmon, corn and black bean salsa, feta cheese sprinkled on salad. Yum, yum, yum.

Lydia said...

In our house we have what we call fridge-dump salads -- every imaginable leftover, tossed with fresh greens and tomato and whatever other veggies are on hand. A good strong dressing always manages to tie it together!

Lis said...

As per usual, you've opened my eyes and allowed me to see outside my box. (not literally)

I'd never think to add left over to salad greens, but it makes sense! I'm quite intrigued by the thought of lasagna cubes in my salad. hee!

Two things this reminds me of.. the first is a simple salad of greens, bacon crumbles and roasted sweet potatoes I found on Weekly Dish - what made this salad amazing to me was the addition of a fried, "over easy" egg on top. I was mesmerized. It looked so good! But it was something I'd never consider making before I saw it.

And finally - one of my own favorite "not of the norm" salads, is fresh fish broiled with your favorite seasonings and a little butter or EVOO. Then flaked into a bowl with sliced garden fresh tomatoes and red onions. Mix it all up with a lil garlic salt, and a balsamic/EVOO emulsion. Fantastic! ohh dinner tonight...


Callipygia said...

hipwritermama- Oh all those salads do sound good, esp together.

lydia-Yup that is it! I somehow feared that other foodies would find this notion repulsive. I adore it, somehow the leftovers seem different next to fresh veggies.

lis-Try the lasagna, it works! And the one with the egg- yesyesyes, and the one with the fish, yum.

Nancy said...

OOh, OOh, that's MY salad! The mushroom ladies at the Alameda Farmer's Market sold me some fantastic mixed greens and small sweet romaine leaves -- all impeccably clean!(why have I previously missed that stall?) and last night they ended up under a little rice, re-cooked with flax oil and thyme, a can of TJ's white kidney beans. Glad to know we're on the same page. Love,

Ivonne said...

Good for you for freeing yourself from the restraints of salad boredom. The dressing sounds luxurious!

lumi said...

I managed to weed and plant and am blessed with a vege garden this year. Just the wait now and I am sure to try out your dressing!!

pom d'api said...

Thanks for this recipe !!! I love salads

sher said...

This looks to be a fabulous salad dressing! And I am so glad you gave up the polite saldas! :):) When I was a teenager, I lived in Illinois and worked as a salad girl. All the salads I prepared were VERY boring. They were all wedges of iceburg lettuce, with a sprinkle of chopped red cabbage. That's all! People loved them, and I could never understand why they did!

Callipygia said...

nancy- wait did any mushrooms get purchased by those fun-gals? Your salad sounds delish!

ivonne- yes it is luxurious partially because it is brimming w/ good nutrition.

lumi-that must be the very best thing to actually grow your salad! I just got some homegrown baby kale and it is so tender.

pom d'api- I always revel in a good salad, sounds like you do too!

sher- I was salad bar queen too- at Burger King. I must say as a teen you must have been gourmand in the making... I would have thought the purple cabbage pretty groovy.

Freya and Paul said...

I like salads with all the healthy stuff - you know, potatoes covered in mayo, egg salad, potato chips (or as call them, crisps). However, this dressing sounds almost other-wordly and full of things I almost certainly don't have in my cupboard but feel an unbearable urge to buy.

Gattina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gattina said...

curry dressing in lasagna! Every recipe comes to you will loose its boundary :) Just like many other you mentioned, so playful yet fascinating! I used to eat a lot of lettuce but was told it didn't have much nutrition (?).

Callipygia said...

freya and Paul- Well yes of course mayonnaise is the perfect "whipped cream" for a salad sundae.

gattina- there are rules that get broken around here, but they still manage to rear their heads. I think of lettuce as being reasonably nutritious. Less than kale but more than jellybeans.

miragee said...

This illo is awesome! Salads are perfect choices for sweltering summer days!