Creativity can breathe new life into salads

Recently one of my granddaughters gave me a lesson in salad creativity. From the serving plate of fresh raw vegetables, four-year old Breanna proceeded to make herself a salad. She carefully broke cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, and cucumbers into small pieces and put them on her plate. She was encouraged to quit playing with her food and eat. But she insisted that she was “making a salad.”

In the end, she also added rice and then proceeded to clean her plate. She loves to eat raw veggies and generally likes her food items separated. This particular day she enjoyed making her own unique combination.

I enjoyed another example of salad creativity at a restaurant a while ago — a grilled caesar salad. It was a delicious, slightly smoky flavoured salad. When we got home I searched out a recipe. The following is a combination of several recipes to create a simple, rustic salad with an easy, roasted garlic dressing.

The creative touch of roasting the garlic mellows the intense garlic flavour. Using mayonnaise replaces the raw egg often found in caesar dressing recipes.

Serve this salad as a side with other barbecued foods or as a main course.

Grilled Romaine Caesar Salad with Roasted Garlic Dressing

Serves four.

  • 1 small head garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp. olive or canola oil 5 mL
  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 1 c. good quality mayonnaise (low-fat dressing can also be used) 250 mL
  • 1 tbsp. Dijon mustard15 mL
  • 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar 30 mL
  • 1/3 c. parmesan cheese, finely grated 75 mL
  • 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley 30 mL
  • 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste2 mL (optional or to taste)
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. salt 1/2-1 mL
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. pepper 1/2-1 mL
  • 1/2 baguette
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive or canola oil 15-30 mL
  • 2 hearts of romaine lettuce, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 4 slices of bacon
  • 4 raw mushrooms, sliced
  • parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

For dressing:
A few hours or a day ahead of the meal, roast the garlic and grill the lemon and then prepare the dressing and chill before serving.

Preheat one side of the grill to 350 F (180 C). Leave the other side of the grill off so food items can be moved to the cooler side if they cook too quickly.

To roast the garlic, cut about 1/4 inch (.5 cm) off the top of the head to reveal the cloves inside.

Place the head on a square of aluminum foil, season with salt and pepper then drizzle oil over it.

Bring all the sides of the foil together and twist to seal.

Roast garlic on the grill about 30 minutes or until the head is soft when squeezed.

Wash the lemon and cut in half. Place cut side down on the grill and grill for a few minutes.

Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and mash with a fork until they form a smooth paste.

Squeeze 1/2 c. (125 mL) juice from the grilled lemon and reserve remaining juice for another use.

In a food processor or blender combine garlic, lemon juice, mayonnaise, Dijon mustard and vinegar until well-blended. Add parmesan cheese, parsley, anchovy paste, salt and pepper, and mix. Place in a jar, cover and refrigerate to chill.

For the salad:

Preheat grill to 350 F (180 C).

Wash and dry whole heads of romaine lettuce, don’t pull leaves apart. Thinly trim the stems and then slice down the middle of the head lengthwise. Wash and slice mushrooms.

Place bacon slices and baguette slices on the grill, turning as needed.

When cooked and browned set aside to keep warm.

When the rest of the meal is cooked, place romaine lettuce hearts on the grill. To avoid flare ups, do not add oil. Grill on direct heat only a couple minutes per side to achieve grill marks and to slightly wilt outer leaves.

Place one half of a romaine heart on each plate top with a bacon strip, sliced mushroom, parmesan cheese and dressing. Serve a baguette slice on the side in place of croutons. Serve with grilled chicken, salmon or steak. Adapted from www.rockrecipes.com, www.vindulge.com, and www.foodnetwork.com.

Another touch of creativity is to add pasta to a caesar salad. This is a family favourite that we have developed through the years.

Tortellini Caesar Salad

  • 2 c. uncooked cheese or meat tortellini 500 mL
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • roasted garlic caesar salad dressing (recipe above)
  • 1/2-1 c. croutons 125-250 mL
  • 1/4 c. mushrooms, sliced 60 mL
  • 1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated 60 mL
  • 1-2 tbsp. bacon bits 15-30 mL

Cook tortellini in boiling salted water, drain and rinse. Pour some of the caesar salad dressing over the tortellini and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate.

Wash and dry the lettuce and tear into bite-size pieces. Set aside some of the croutons, mushrooms and bacon bits for garnish.

Add the tortellini to the lettuce, add the remaining mushrooms and bacon bits and toss to mix. Add parmesan cheese and croutons and more dressing if needed. Toss lightly to mix. Garnish with the reserved croutons, mushrooms and bacon bits.

Serve immediately as a meal or side dish with grilled chicken, fish or meat. This salad is easy to double to make a larger quantity for a family gathering or pot luck.

A creative gardening idea

Fresh baby salad greens are one of the delicious pleasures of a home garden.

Our daughter and son-in-law have placed eavestroughs along the edges of their deck railings to grow lettuce in. With the limited amount of dirt and the easy accessibility for frequent picking, they have fresh baby greens all summer.

Betty Ann Deobald is a home economist from Rosetown, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. Contact: team@producer.com.

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