For most of the year, I’m not a huge advocate of “the salad.” I see people ordering icy cold plates of lettuce and raw peppers in January and I can’t help but cringe. But, when we finally hit summer’s muggy humid heat, when bare feet become the footwear of choice and gardens offer up endless bounties of tiny greens and herbs, there is nothing better.
The trick with salads, as with all things, is balance. There is no reason that everything you throw into your bowl should be cold and raw. Right now I am especially enamored with herb-based salads. Herbs like mint and cilantro and lemon basil tend to be cooling (a major boon on a hot summer afternoon) but they have the right amount of pungency to keep digestive juices flowing.
Throw in a bit of spice and warmth in the form of flavorful Vietnamese soy-grilled chicken, or steak rubbed with your favorite spice blend (I’m especially fond of Penzey’s Balti seasoning). Baked sweet potato or yam adds a bit of sweet and balance, leaving only the need for some shredded cucumber and a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a fantastic summer culinary experience. No shoes required.
Of course, if you want to go all out, you can’t really go wrong with adding some soaked-until-soft rice noodles, cubed avocado, bean sprouts, and a slightly more complicated lime-chili dressing. Guilding the lily, but salad season is brief. Might as well get the most out of it.
Spicy Lime Chili Dressing
Mix together in a small bowl until well blended:
- Juice of 2-4 limes (about 1/4 cup)
- 1-2 Tb coconut sugar or sap, palm sugar, or honey
- 4 Tb organic soy sauce
- 1/2 tsp garlic chili paste
- 4 Tb mayonnaise (optional but adds richness)
Can be refrigerated for 1-3 days.
As an aside, a couple of tablespoons of this dressing mixed into a mashed avocado makes one pretty amazing sandwich spread, in case you have any leftovers…