This is the August 2006 issue of the Low Budget Vegetarian newsletter.

This issue includes:

- dressing for salads
- new recipes


Dressing for Salads

Summer in Minnesota is winding down - this far north it winds down quickly sometimes. I've been making a lot of salads for main meal dishes in the hot weather.

Here, I want to take salad seasoning and break it down into its main elements, so that you have a mix-and-match frame to come up with your own. The idea is to pick one or more ingredients from each component type.

Salad dressings have a couple of main components
- oil
- salty taste
- sour taste
- seasoning
- creamy texture (optional)
- sweet (optional)

Salad oils - olive is a good, clean, all-purpose oil and works with almost everything else. Sesame oil works well with strong tasting seasoning, like a mix of soy sauce and rice vinegar. Mayonnaise can be used instead of, or with, oil, if you want a heavier, thicker sauce. For my taste, canola doesn't work well for salads, it tastes thin, bland and almost fishy.

Salty taste - obviously you can use salt. If you can affordably find it, umeboshi vinegar, the liquid from japanese pickled ume plums, makes a wonderful combined salty and sour dressing. Olive oil, garlic, ume vinegar, dill and black pepper make a nice simple salad for lettuce, cabbage or other greens. Soy sauce makes a nice salt alternative if you want an asian-style salad.

Sour taste - you have a wide variety here - the various vinegars (plain, red wine, white wine, apple cider, balsamic), lemon juice, other fruit juices like orange or pineapple.

Seasonings - more than I can list. To get the most flavor out of the seasonings you add, remember that the oil is the carrier of the taste, so you want the seasonings to thoroughly permeate the oil. When I am making a salad, I like to add the oil, and sometimes vinegar and salt, to the salad bowl first. I then add pungent spices and condiment vegetables right away (chopped jalapeno, pressed garlic, dried herbs, scallions, radishes), and stir them around well while I am chopping and adding the other vegetables.

Creamy texture - aside from mayonnaise or sour cream, tofu plus oil well blended makes a nice creamy dressing. You can also use a bit of sesame tahini with sesame or olive oil - I've made some very satisfactory cabbage salads with tahini for an almost coleslaw texture.

Sweet taste - I don't use this very often. I find that just a touch of sugar goes well with an asian dressing that uses soy sauce, it mellows and smooths out the soy sauce a bit. I don't really like sweet coleslaw, but that can easily be added if you like it. Fruit juices like orange or pineapple add sour and sweet both, which can be nice for a mixed vegetable fruit salad.

Here are a couple of my own personal favorite dressing combinations. I am listing ingredients and not giving measurements, since that is where personalizing dressings comes in.

- olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper - basic, clean tasting, works well with simple salads of mixed greens. Add basil and/or oregano and you've got a greek dressing, good with cucumber, scallions, tomatoes, parsley.

- olive oil, salt, dill, black pepper, lemon juice or balsamic vinegar - very versatile. Omit the dill and substitute other herbs (basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme) and you have an all-purpose dressing.

- sesame oil, garlic, jalapeno, soy sauce, white wine vinegar, a touch of allspice or chinese 5 spice - a strong tasting asian dressing, works well with stronger greens or mixed salad

- olive oil, jalapeno, garlic, oregano, black pepper, salt, mayonnaise, balsamic vinegar - my own personal cabbage salad dressing. I like to include scallions, radishes and carrots in with the cabbage.

And, the first of the recipes for the month has one of my favorite dressings.


Recipes for this month

Rice Bulghur Vegetable Salad - a very good, hearty, one-course dinner. Add a simple dal or bean soup and some good bread and you have a feast worthy to entertain with.

Pinto Chili Dip - I brought this one to a party, and had 3(!) people ask me for the recipe. As always with chilis, try to make this one at least a half day in advance to give the chili taste time to mature.

Special, newsletter-only, bonus recipe - I was making up a rice bulghur salad while typing up these recipes, and inadvertently used the spice mix from the pinto chili dip with the vegetable salad... It was wonderful!

So, I present, Accidental Salad.

Start making the dressing and seasoning for the pinto chili dip.
Halfway through, switch and make the rice and bulghur salad instead.
Don't tell anyone; pretend you planned it that way.

Of such mistakes are great recipes born...


And that is all for this month.

Happy and healthy eating to you, and best wishes for the New Year.

Charlie Obert


Low Budget Vegetarian Survival