ASIAN INFUSED SALAD WITH CHILI LIME DRESSING

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.
— May Sarton

Did someone say spring fever? Yes, I am feeling anxious for summer. Even though I try to be the kind of person who views the glass as half full, believe me when I say that I gave winter the evil eye this year. Yes, I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Yes, I have lived here for most of my forty-six years. Yes, I know that I should savor each moment and wish life to move fast forward. Still, I find myself wistful for long hikes and vases full of fresh-cut flowers from my back yard. I watch the chickens preen in the sunshine and I eagerly anticipate long daylight hours filled with warmth and all of the possibility that we can gather in a few short months.

Since my family is fortunate to have a hoop house, April will be planting season for us and we are investing a lot of sweat equity into our garden this year. For a couple of months now we have been starting seeds in our house. My husband John started broccoli, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, watermelon, and an assortment of flowers. Last weekend I started tomatoes and cucumbers. Check out the “mini-greenhouses” I used to plant cucumbers and recycle the large clamshell containers that greens come in from the supermarket.

In the fall it was difficult to go back to buying greens for salads and smoothies after being able to grow our own all spring and summer.
However, I found a neat way to recycle the large clamshell packages. They make great mini-greenhouses to start seeds. Fill with soil, plant seeds, water, close the top, and place in a sunny windowsill until your seeds germinate. 🌱🌱

Pumpkin plant windowsill garden.

We have a tiny house but we maximize our space and take advantage of the wonderful sunlight.

This weekend I am picking up squash seeds (zucchini, yellow summer squash, spaghetti squash, and butternut squash) to also start indoors. While we still have several feet of snow on the ground, on sunny days the temperature is reaching the low 70s in the hoop house. I can already taste the green beans, broccoli, and peas and I cannot wait to be able to pick fresh greens daily for salads.

When I make salads as an entrée for work or dinner, I like to bulk them up with ingredients that are going to have staying power. I love to add beans or nuts for protein and whole wheat pasta, other grains, or quinoa. For the salad that I am sharing with you this month, I decided to use rice noodles – because I thought they would work well with the spicy chili lime dressing. I usually have them on hand because my husband and I love them in my hot and sour mushroom soup. Rice noodles come in a variety of textures (for this salad I used a thin noodle) but the thicker strands would work well too. Both the rice noodles and the garlic chili sauce (that I use in the dressing) can be purchased in the Asian section of the supermarket.

This salad can be plated or made in a jar. While I used clementine oranges or “Cuties”, pineapple or whatever fruit or berries that are in season would work great. The sweetness of fruit partners well with the spiciness of the dressing.
I love to create vibrant salads, since we eat with our eyes first, and I think that taking time to artfully arrange food helps deepen our enjoyment and brings eating to a new level. That is why I enjoy making jar salads. Not only do the jars keep the salads fresh for up to a week, but they help make the salads visually appealing and ready to grab-and-go for work or when you are pressed for time at home. I love being able to prep my salads once for a healthy meal all week-long.

Normally, when I make dressing, I use my Vitamix blender. However, for this dressing, I wanted a chunkier consistency so I added all the ingredients into a pint-sized mason jar, put the lid on and gave it a good shake.

CHILI LIME DRESSING

  • 1 cup of rice vinegar
  • 1 lime (juice and zest. If you are using bottled lime juice, one lime renders approximately 1/4 cup)
  • 1 clove of minced garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons of sesame oil (sesame oil has a very distinct taste and I love to use it to stir fry vegetables as well)
  • 2 Tablespoons of tamari or soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic chili sauce (Warning — chili sauce is SPICY so you may want to add a little at a time. I like heat so I even added more after mixing)
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped onion (I used red onion but green onions would be great for this dressing)
  • 1 Tablespoon of finely chopped fresh ginger root (ginger has a very strong taste and if you are not used to it, I suggest adding a little at a time)
  • Fresh cilantro, finely chopped (1 used 1/4 cup. If you do not like cilantro, parsley would work well)

In the summer I also add a sprig of fresh mint and freshly chopped chives to the dressing.

 

I added 4 Tablespoons of dressing to the bottom of each jar and layered the following ingredients:

Orange bell pepper (chopped)
1 cup of snow peas
Edamame (I make sure to buy organic and purchase in the freezer section and thaw and use in the salads)
Rice noodles (cooked and cooled)
Sunflower seeds
Clementines
Cabbage (chopped)

I made four salads using quart Mason jars. You can decide how much of each ingredient to add. I used ¼ cup each of sunflower seeds, noodles, and edamame. I divided up one small bell pepper, used one clementine per jar, and filled the rest with crunchy cabbage (packing it well to ensure the salad had enough cabbage). Red cabbage works well with this salad as do carrots, tomatoes, broccoli – and if you eat meat you can add chicken or shrimp.

As sure as the geese will return to Upper Michigan skies, this salad will make a great addition to your spring and summer menu. It would be a great dish to bring to a picnic (imagine making small individual salads for everyone in pint jars). The dressing is versatile and while it perks up cabbage or greens in your salad, it is equally delicious drizzled over steamed or roasted vegetables.

If you have spring fever like I do, I hope you find a way to satisfy your yearning for warming days. Now is the perfect time to start some seeds indoors for your own vegetable garden. If you have limited space think about growing tomatoes and fresh herbs in containers. You will thank yourself in a few months when you are making salads from your own fresh produce. Trust me, food always tastes better when it is grown and prepared with a labor of love.

Watermelon sprouts.


 

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Fennel, Cabbage, and Apple Salad with Avocado Hummus & Ginger Vinaigrette

11Queen Anne’s Lace

Her body is not so white as 
anemone petals nor so smooth–nor 
so remote a thing. It is a field 
of the wild carrot taking 
the field by force; the grass 
does not raise above it.
~William Carlos Williams

Last week as I drove to Marquette, I marveled at the sea of Queen Anne’s Lace growing with wild abandon along the side of the highway. They catch at the slightest breeze and perform a delicate dance for those who pay attention.

Years ago when Mike and I moved into our house there was not a flower to be found in either our 12front or back yard except for a few crocus and johnny-jump-ups. When we went for walks around the neighborhood I noticed masses of Queen Anne’s Lace and hoped that one day they would grow in our yard. When we started planting a flower bed I toted a few stems home and stuck them in the dirt. Nothing. They wilted and died. I brought home more flowers that had gone to seed and shook them in violent hope. Imagine my excitement the next year when the filigree flowers appeared.

I think it’s the texture of Queen Anne’s Lace that enthrall me. It is the same reason that I10 was first drawn to fennel in the supermarket. The bright green fronds (even though I do not eat them) make for a pretty composition. If you have never had fennel before I challenge you to try it. It has a very mild anise flavor and is common in Mediterranean dishes. It can be eaten raw or cooked and I love it sliced thinly on a green salad with orange and grapefruit segments.

Last week I bought a fennel bulb and decided to use it in a cabbage salad. Fall seems like the perfect time for slaw since the local cabbage is in season. I thought the fennel and cabbage would go well with crisp and juicy fall apples.

SlawInstead of a heavy mayonnaise laden slaw, I decided to combine these fresh flavors with a ginger vinaigrette. The combinations of flavors work so well together. Sweet apple juxtaposed with the tartness of vinegar, crunchy cabbage, spicy ginger, and the faint licorice taste of  fennel sounds like a perfect marriage to me. To add even more to the flavor and texture explosion I wrapped the slaw in romaine leaves and topped them with creamy avocado hummus and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro. How much more healthy, satisfying, and flavorful can you get than that? I think this slaw makes a fantastic side dish, would be a great sandwich topping, or would stand on its own with an addition of nuts and even dried fruit (I think apricots would make a beautiful mix).

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Fennel, Cabbage, and Apple Slaw with Ginger Vinaigrette

  • 4 cups of finely chopped cabbage (depending on the texture you desire)
  • 1 cup of shredded carrot
  • 1 fennel bulb thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 chopped red apple (the apples that I used were organic so they were small)
  • 1 chopped green apple 

Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup vinegar (depending on how tart you want the salad. I used 1/2 raw apple cider vinegar and 1/2 white balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Juice and zest of one lime
  • 1 Tablespoon of sweetener (I used local raw honey but you could use your sweetener of choice)
  • 1 Tablespoon of Tamari (soy sauce would work as well)
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced ginger root
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 small bunch of finely chopped green onions
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Mix vinaigrette well (You could use a blender but I just used a whisk). Pour over salad and toss well. While I tasted the salad immediately after making it yesterday, the flavors really bloomed overnight in the refrigerator. Makes 10 cups.

I left the pieces of apple and even the cabbage in rather large chunks. Though you could aim for a more fine slaw and use a food processor.

I left the pieces of apple and even the cabbage in rather large chunks. Though you could aim for a more fine slaw and use a food processor.

The Romaine Lettuce Wraps with the Avocado Hummus were easy to make.

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The recipe that I use for Hummus is from the Vitamix Whole Foods Cookbook.

  1. 230 ounces of chickpeas (it says to reserve one can of liquid. Though, I always make my own from dried beans)
  2. 1/4 cup raw sesame seeds (I used jarred tahini)
  3. 1/4 cup lemon juice (again I used the zest and for this recipe I increased it to a whole lemon)
  4. 1 garlic clove
  5. 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  6. 1 teaspoon cumin

In addition to the above ingredients I added one avocado, a few green onions, and fresh1 chives.

The hummus was delicious and the perfect, creamy accompaniment to the crunchy slaw. The wraps are messy (I recommend a fork) but such a nice break from a traditional salad. Plus, if you are trying to watch your intake of bread it is a much slimmer option.

When I buy romaine I do not buy the bagged but instead buy the large heads in the produce section. I find this often a better bargain and they are more green, fresh, and I think they taste better. Other greens work well for wraps as well such as collard greens, large spinach leaves, and red lettuce.

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I have to confess that normally I wait until I publish my post to dive into my creation, but today I had to take a break for lunch because my plate was so tempting. For the past few weeks I have been a food rut and I think yesterday’s Red Lentil Sloppy Joes and today’s Fennel, Cabbage, and Apple Salad have helped me break free!
7I hope you enjoy this salad just in time for fall’s bounty of vegetables. I eagerly await the selection of Michigan apples at the farmers market and in the stores. This recipe and others can be found at Pinterest on my Produce with Amy board. Also, please join the conversation on my Facebook page.

My summer holiday is nearly over and I will be going back to teaching soon, but blogging will help me to stay committed to my healthy lifestyle. I hope that I can help you do the same. Enjoy the last few fleeting weeks of summer and remember to stop and pay attention to the nature around you. Who knows, you might catch a spirited Queen Anne’s Lace ballet. Or whatever wild things grow in your backyard!

I found this vintage tumbler while thrifting this summer. Disappointed there was only one, I know think it is a gift. Now I will have to keep my eyes open for matching treasures! :)

I found this vintage tumbler while thrifting this summer. Disappointed there was only one, I know think it is a gift. Now I will have to keep my eyes open for matching treasures! 🙂

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Romaine Lettuce Wraps with Fennel, Apple, and Cabbage Salad and Avocado Hummus

Avocado Hummus by Produce with Amy

Fennel, Cabbage, & Apple Salad by Produce with Amy