Dressing Up Green Salads

When did you last rave about a lettuce leaf? Listen closely when someone praises a salad because the dressing is most likely what the diner found memorable. The dressing was either a perfect partner with the greens or it stood on its own.

Spinach and mushroom salad with balsamic vinaigrette is one example of a perfect flavor pairing, as is Russian dressing on a wedge of iceberg lettuce. Dress arugula, endive and radicchio with a classic vinaigrette for great flavor and smart nutrition. Also think how sharp red wine vinaigrette spiked with dried oregano gives Greek salad its zing.

Americans need to eat more vegetables. Readily available salad greens, cleaned and ready to toss with a dressing, offer a convenient way to increase your daily vegetable servings. Although the oil in salad dressings contains primarily healthier unsaturated fats, too much oil leads to a calorie-laden salad. You can maintain the nutritional power of greens and the perfect dressing pairings by keeping the dressings light.

Dressing salads properly means coating the leaves lightly. With vinaigrette, one tablespoon of dressing for two cups of greens accomplishes this. Two tablespoons suffice if using thicker dressings. In addition to saving calories, these amounts allow salad ingredients to stay sprightly since oil is what makes them wilt.

Combine vinegar fifty-fifty with fruit juice to soften the vinegar’s sharpness. This juice and vinegar mixture provides a flavor punch when mixed with just two or three tablespoons of oil for every half cup of dressing. Try pomegranate juice with red wine vinegar on spinach salad or grapefruit juice with white wine vinegar on an Italian tri-colore salad of radicchio, endive, and arugula or watercress.

In this week’s recipe, the pureed vegetables give the salad dressing body that normally comes from oil. See how in this vivid, almost creamy combination of roasted red pepper, tomato, jalapeño and just one tablespoon of oil. Increase the heat by including more of the jalapeno and its seeds, if you like.

Spicy Green Salad - Makes 4 servings.

* 1/2 roasted red bell pepper*

* 1-inch wedge sweet onion, chopped

* 1 small garlic clove, chopped

* 1 medium plum tomato, seeded and chopped

* 1/4-1/2 jalapeño pepper, chopped (for a hotter dish, do not remove seeds)

* 1 tsp. agave syrup or honey

* 1 Tbsp. fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth

* 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

* 1/2 tsp. salt

* 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

* 4 large romaine lettuce leaves

* 4 red-leaf lettuce leaves

* 1 packed cup baby arugula

* 6-inch piece English cucumber, sliced

* 2 plum tomatoes, sliced crosswise

* 1/8-1/4 red onion; about 3-4 very thin slices as rings

In blender, whirl red pepper, onion, garlic, tomato, jalapeño, agave, broth, vinegar and salt until pulpy. With motor running, whirl in oil. Set dressing aside while making salad.

Wash greens. Tear lettuces into bite-size pieces and whirl in salad spinner to dry. Place lettuce and arugula in salad bowl. Add 1/4 cup dressing and toss until greens are just coated. Add cucumber, tomatoes and onion rings. Toss lightly, and serve immediately.

*If possible, roast pepper yourself. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Place seeded pepper half, cut-side down on oiled baking sheet and roast 20 to 30 minutes until skin is well-blistered. Place pepper in small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 20 minutes. Using fingers, remove skin. Roasted peppers may be tightly covered and refrigerated for up to 4 days.

Per serving: 70 calories, 4 g total fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 9 g carbohydrate, 2 g protein, 2 g dietary fiber, 160 mg sodium.

The Author:

“Something Different” is written by Dana Jacobi, author of 12 Best Foods Cookbook and contributor to AICR’s New American Plate Cookbook: Recipes for a Healthy Weight and a Healthy Life.

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

Article Posted: September 7, 2009

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