Harvest Kitchen Salad Dressings

Spring 2007
by Roberta Bailey

The greens that I started in my sunroom in January are sizing up. Lettuce, mustards, spinach and cilantro stretch from mouse ear to cat ear size. As I water them I tell them about dogs. As I watch them grow, I try to correlate their growth rate with the rate of increasing day length. I have yet to come up with any solid data, except that we’re all feeling expansive with all this sparkly sunlight and warmth. The nibblings of fresh greens are so welcome.

Growing salad greens in four seasons has become THE thing to do in Maine and other areas where the only winter greens used to be the onions that begin to sprout as they age in storage. I have seen and read about a lot of systems involving growing greens in a hoop house that covers cold frames or row covers, and I have noticed that seed companies are featuring more cold-hardy varieties. The enthusiasm is spreading. Just when the root-cellared cabbage and frozen foods are losing their appeal, the greens really start to grow.

I love the feel of walking into a slightly warm, slightly humid hoop house. Picking greens in a hushed, warm place while snow is blowing outside is a contagious, magical feeling, a trick on nature. Eating fresh greens with a homemade dressing as the days turn toward spring makes a person sit up and take notice. Yes, this is what it is really all about …

And how should those greens be dressed? In summer, I rely on minced fresh herbs for flavor, simply adding olive oil, and acidity in the form of lemon or lime juice, or balsamic, wine or cider vinegars, and toss these ingredients with greens. Garlic can be infused into a dressing by mincing a clove of garlic then adding salt and mashing them together. The salt draws out the oils, and the garlic becomes creamy, which makes it easy to add good garlicky flavor to dressing without getting pieces of raw garlic.

Here are some of my favorite dressings for all those season-defying greens.

Creamy Ginger Dressing
Makes 2 1/2 cups

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth:
4 tsp. grated fresh ginger root
1/2 c. grated carrot
1/4 c. celery, chopped
1/3 c. chopped onion or scallions
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. cider or rice vinegar
1/4 c. white miso
2 tsp. honey or brown rice syrup
2 Tbsp. tomato paste (optional)
3 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp. ground black or Szechuan peppercorns

Creamy Pine Nut Vinaigrette
Makes 1 1/4 cup

2/3 c. olive oil
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. freshly grated orange peel
1/4 c. pine nuts
1/3 to 1/2 c. milk or plain soy milk
salt and pepper to taste
minced herbs, such as chives, basil, dill, savory or thyme

Puree in a blender, adding more milk if too thick. Adjust seasonings. Keeps in fridge up to two weeks.

Lemon Sesame Dressing
Makes 1 cup

3 Tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted
3/4 c. canola oil
1/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. tamari/soy sauce
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
several dashes of hot pepper sauce

Toast sesame seeds in a heavy skillet until golden and aromatic. Cool. Whisk together all ingredients. Keeps up to three weeks.

Minted Cucumber Dressing

1 6- to 8-inch cucumber
1 scallion
2 Tbsp. fresh spearmint leaves or 1 Tbsp. dried leaves
1/2 c. yogurt
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 Tbsp. minced hot pepper (optional)

Peel, seed and chop the cuke. Trim roots and chop scallion. Blend or food process all ingredients until fairly smooth. Chill. Can be used for a sauce on many foods as well.

Mustard Crème Fraiche
Makes 1 cup

1 c. crème fraiche
1 to 1 1/2 T. prepared horseradish
1 Tbsp. Dijon or other mustard
salt and pepper to taste
milk or water to thin

Combine all ingredients until well blended. Thin to desired consistency with water or milk. May be used as a vegetable dip as well.

Creamy Basil Dressing (my favorite)
Makes 1 quart

Mix in blender:
1 c. olive oil
1 c. canola oil
1/2 c. cider or white balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 c. chopped scallion
1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1 to 2 cloves garlic

Crumble in while blending:
3/4 to 1 lb. firm tofu

Add water to thin if needed.

Lime Cilantro Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

1 1/2 tsp. lime zest
4 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. white balsamic vinegar
3/4 c. grape seed or canola oil
4 to 6 Tbsp. fresh cilantro
1 small clove garlic
3 to 4 Tbsp. minced chives

Combine zest, juice and vinegar. Whisk in the oil. Mince herbs and garlic and stir in to mix. Salt to taste. Use immediately.

This edition of the Harvest Kitchen was originally published in the spring 2007 issue of The Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener.

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