Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Romaine Lettuce Salad with Olive Oil Dressing

Note: A new year deserves a fresh start. It took a while to shake and wake up the writer in me, specially when the stupor is dictated by grief, shock and sadness. First came the devastation caused by Sandy. I tried to do my bit by donating a bag of non-perishable food to the local Food Bank which has been actively collecting food and supplies for the families displaced owing to Sandy's mayhem. If anything, my soul felt happy. Just when we were about to enjoy the holidays came the sad news of two incidents - one in Newtown, US and the other in Delhi, India. Both painful and agonizing to the point where you ponder over the direction taken by humanity and wonder what is happening to the world? Those two weeks left me sad, angry and frustrated. My heart goes out to the families of the kids and the parents of the brave girl who fought a valiant fight till the end. Helping hands is better than praying lips, they say. I want to hug the kids in my family and tell them they are okay. I try to shut the door of the feminist out pour seething inside me like a pot of boiling water, but in vain. May all children enjoy the joys of a happy childhood. May all women have their little space under the sun which they should be able to enjoy freely without any fear. 


Romaine Lettuce Salad with Olive Oil Dressing
The New Year began on a positive note for me and I promised myself - this ought to be a fresh and a very promising start. A renewed approach and perseverance to see things through goals set for the new year. Last year I may not have posted a lot of recipes, but I found my work-life balance with lesser posts and plan to focus more on writing quality material this year. Food, Literature, Writing, Hand-made artsy work has always been my passion and will be for years to come.

The husband kick-started his journey for good health during Spring time last year and has lost a lot of weight. He is one disciplined person and is following a regimented approach. Our fridge is full of fresh produce, fresh fruits, healthy nuts and I am not complaining. The new entrants in my kitchen are Quinoa, Couscous, Goji Berries, Acai, Greek Yogurt and Middle Eastern spice powders comprising of Za'tar and Sumac. We rarely eat outside and meals are carefully planned at home. I truly love my Desi khana! The change is not easy for me but looking at him, I get my inspiration to have a healthy relation with my food choices.  I do not deprive myself of my favorite foods -- Chakri, Chocolate and Cheese but I certainly give a thought to what I eat and how I eat. I do enjoy my Green Tea with honey but also relish my milky Chai with Cardamom and Ginger. I am slowly moving to low carb and high protein diet. I plan to post many of his recipes this year for every one's benefit.

Coming to the recipe, most of my American friends religiously eat Salads for dinner. When I say religiously, I mean everyday. My understanding of Salad has been the plain jane combination of onion, cucumber and tomatoes inspired by Desi style Koshimbir. A dear friend literally pushed me into the Salad trap last year and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. She is a Zumba freak, loves her gym sessions and is a loving, doting mother to her daughter. She visited me for a day spend during summer and taught me various cool ways of putting together different types of Salads.

I always go with minimum 5 ingredients rule and with little practice have learned to put together a good tasty bowl of salad. On few days, a yummy bowl of salad doubles up as my lunch/dinner. As I was leisurely tossing the salad in the dressing, she stopped me abruptly, "Chill it for a while, it will taste awesome!" So we enjoyed a chilled salad as an  appetizer while her kid was busy watching Dora and Diego on TV. I dig on the Salad served at Italian joints and always wondered why my Salads taste awful. The secret is out - Chill your Salad for at least 30 minutes in the chiller of the fridge and mix the dressing just before serving. You will have a nice crispy bowl of Salad, ready to be enjoyed.

Many months from that day, I love to out together a good salad with good amount of carb and protein element. Don't deprive yourself while adding the ingredients. After all, its a complete meal. Go all out and make your favorite salad. Here's a simple one with no protein but just greens good as a meal when paired with some protein element of choice.

Few pointers which I've learned along which might be useful to any person desirous of learning how to build a good Salad bowl -
From l to r - Romaine Lettuce, Carrots, Cherry Tomatoes, Cucumber, Salt-cured Green Olives
1. Choose a Salad leaf you love, dark greens and tender ones are better - Iceberg Lettuce, Butter Lettuce, Romaine Lettuce, Baby Spinach, Dark Spring Greens, Micro Greens and Arugula (Rocket)
2. Add two other vegetables, fruits of choice - Halved Cherry Tomatoes, half moon or quartered Cucumbers, grated or shredded Carrots, shredded Radicchio, salt-cured Green and Black Olives (Whole Foods Olive Bar has good selection), pickled Cucumbers and Gherkins. Even pitted Cherries and Watermelon cubes hold well. Vegetarians can add cooked beans of choice - Chickpeas, Cannelini, Red Kidney Beans. The choices are many.
3. Add a protein component - Grilled Shrimps in Indian spices, shredded Tandoori chicken, grilled fish cubes like Salmon or Tilapia, lightly spiced and halved boiled eggs if you are an egg eating vegetarian. We also like sliced and seared spicy Chicken sausages mixed with the Salad.
4. Add cubed cold Cheese (optional) - Blue Cheese, Goat Cheese and Parmigiano are universal favorites. Danish Havarti, Monterrey Jack and Feta are my favorites.
5. Add Nuts of choice - Almonds (chopped), Pecans, Pistachios and Walnuts are our favorites.
6. Croutons for low carbs - Home made or store bought.
7. Light or Extra Virgin Olive Oil - Serves as a good base.
8. Dressing choice -  Simple Olive Oil, Ranch, Blue Cheese, Honey-Lime Vinaigrette.

~ Romaine Lettuce Salad with Olive Oil Dressing ~
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Processing Time: 5 minutes

Romaine Lettuce (leaves shredded, core removed) - 6 cups
Cherry Tomatoes (halved) - 6
Green and Black salt-cured Olives (halved) - 1/2 cup
Carrots (grated) - 1
Bread Croutons - 1/2 cup
Cucumber (peeled, half moon cut or quartered) - 1 cup

Simple Olive Oil Dressing -
Extra Virgin/ Light Olive Oil - 1/3 cup
Black Whole Pepper corns (crushed) - 1/2 tsp
Sea Salt
Lime juice - 1 tbsp
Lime zest - 1 tsp
** Whisk together all ingredients to emulsify **

Rinse and peel individual salad leaves. Remove the white core and shred the leaves into bite sized pieces. Halve the cherry tomatoes, olives, grate the carrot, chop the cucumber into quarters. In a large mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients except carrot and tomatoes. Allow to chill for at least 30 minutes. Chill the tomatoes and carrots separately. Whisk the dressing and keep it ready. Just before serving, add the dressing to the salad. Toss the salad well. Serve immediately. 

Note - The salad is very portable. Carry for work lunch in a spill proof, air tight container and store in a refrigerator if your workplace has one. If adding Olives, I skip salt totally since the Olives are salt-cured.


  1. I must admit I am not a salad loving person but this does look good enough to try.


    1. @ Priya -

      Thanks. I converted as a Salad fan few years back. It was hard initially, but small amends to march toward good health. Do try it out...


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