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AT HOME, CURRENTLY READING: “The Book of Strange New Things,” by Michael Faber

For a girl who once rarely ate salad, it’s strange to find myself now eating a generous portion five days out of seven, and stranger still to have my salad-making skills often solicited by others.  The request, I find, comes packaged in various forms, ranging from a gentle question, such as, ….”You don’t mind bringing salad, do you?”… to the more formal pronouncement, the kind that almost rises to foregone conclusion, that sounds something like… “Well, Janell’s coming, she can bring a salad.”

I do enjoy making a beautiful salad, with all my ingredients fresh and finely chopped, so that any given bite of salad looks and tastes exactly as salad should — a colorful mix of bright greens and vegetables and fruits — rather than that single pathetic hunk of brownish-tinged iceberg lettuce, that is too obese to accommodate other salad fixings beside it on the fork, that usually passes for salad at most dining establishments, fine or otherwise.

Why is it that eating a salad at most restaurants is not like eating salad at all? Due to course chopping, one can rarely get two salad fixings on a fork.  First, there’s the big bite of lettuce, then perhaps a tomato wedge, then the thick slice of cucumber or a husky chunk of what-have-you.  Sometimes I wonder why these salad-makers bother to mix all their fixings in a bowl!

There are, of course, exceptions.  Mark’s American Restaurant, located in Houston, is one.  It’s an exceptional place for salads and everything else listed on its menu.  Last October, I enjoyed the most wonderful luncheon salad full of mandarin oranges and grilled salmon and sunflower seeds and mixed greens with a light citrus dressing that, even now, makes my mouth water to think of it.  I eat at Mark’s every time I go through Houston, which unfortunately, is not often. So I feel lucky and grateful that another restaurant, Paseo Grill, located just a few blocks down the road from my house, also serves wonderful salads.  Paseo’s salads are so good (and so good for me) that I resolved on New Year’s Eve, to enjoy lunch there once a week, throughout 2015!

In case you’re wondering when I became such a salad snob, I don’t mind confessing that it occurred the very instant my physician told me, in so many words, that I needed to eat healthier…. that I needed to eat more vegetables and more salads and a whole lot less carbohydrates!  All of which, in turn, led me to search for new salad recipes, the sort that I knew I’d look forward to eating, as much as if I were eating a salad at Paseo or Mark’s.

And ta-da, here’s one lovely recipe that I found, that’s fit for a Queen, and fit for salad snobs like moi who need to be more fit, and even fit to be called a Queen of Salads. It’s one I’ve been making since last November, which I adapted from the pages of a recipe appearing in the Sunday newspaper.

Who says healthy has to be tasteless?  Or New Year’s Resolutions can’t be fun?  Not this snob, that’s for fit sure.


Asian Slaw with Peanut Dressing

4 servings, if served as a small side rather than a main course

Wash, dry and finely chop following and add to a salad bowl:

2 cups curly kale, thick stems removed
1 cup red cabbage
1/2 cup grated carrot
1/4 cup bell pepper
1/2 cup of dry-roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/2 cup drained mandarin oranges

Mix and toss the salad with the following dressing — I use about a third of the recipe and refrigerate leftover two-thirds of dressing for up to a week.  If you prefer, you can easily cut dressing recipe in half.

Peanut Dressing

Mix following in a deep bowl with an immersion blender until emulsified:

1/4  cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp peanut butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp finely grated fresh ginger

Note:  For Main Course, add grilled chicken or shrimp to salad before tossing with dressing.