Were you one of those kids who saved the best candy in your Halloween haul only to discover it months later having melted into a rotten, inedible mound of disappointment? Or perhaps you save “the best” of the holiday cookies only to discover them months later, safe in their hiding place, but now a bit unpalatable. In this time of preparing and readying our pantries and freezers for the weeks ahead, we risk a sad fate for some of the more delicate perishables in our refrigerators. That’s what almost happened to the salad greens I was judiciously portioning out for myself lest I deplete my precious supply.
Now before you jump to the conclusion that the preciousness of salad greens has something to do with me being a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist, let me dispel that assumption! My love of salad goes back to my early childhood. I spent much of my childhood in the company of my grandfather, who grew an incredible array of vegetables as well as tending an orchard that was magical in every season.
My grandfather was a quiet man, the kind of quiet that is comforting to be around. He loved having his grandchildren traipse around the gardens and orchard to see what new buds and bugs they could discover. My grandparents loved having grandchildren around the kitchen table. I am the oldest of the lot, so I had more time to pick up some of his food habits – and a very special one was the daily salad – eaten at the end of the meal. During the long Pennsylvania growing season, there were usually two salads per day!
My grandfather’s favorite salad green was bright, light green curly endive. My grandmother made a traditional Hungarian dressing that consisted simply of vinegar, a pinch of salt, sugar, and a bit of water. My grandfather added a generous amount of black pepper, and he savored every bite. He sopped up the spicy, vinegary mix in the bottom of the bowl with a piece of dark pumpernickel bread. Luscious tomatoes and juicy cucumbers were usually served on separate plates, treated to the same simple vinegar dressing but with the addition of thinly sliced onions sprinkled in.
There was ALWAYS salad – even at Thanksgiving. And that is where my love of daily salad comes from!
My salad usually consists of a mix of greens, including arugula, radicchio, curly endive, and red and green leaf lettuces, succulent cherry tomatoes (I’m currently in love with Intergrow from NY), a generous sprinkle of sunflower seeds and a dusting of nutritional yeast. During the summer months, I add generous handfuls of fresh herbs to the greens. As much as I love the memory of that simple vinegar dressing, I am inclined to dress my salad with olive oil (fats are essential aids in absorbing Vitamin A in those leafy greens) and balsamic or apple cider vinegar.
In recent days I found myself projecting to the day when fresh produce may be less readily at hand, and I had been restricting the enjoyment of my big daily salad and the daily ritual that I share with my grandfather.
This morning I realized that what I had on hand would be going by the wayside if I continued to “save” it. So, for breakfast, I am having a beautiful salad, and I am enjoying it in one of the same salad bowls that we used at my grandparents’ table.
Check your fridge for delicate perishables, as well as some produce that may have been hanging around for a few weeks. Don’t overlook what may be buried behind that head of cabbage or hiding in the back of the crisper bins! I found a couple of oranges that were beyond eating, but they still put forth a good amount of juice that I used to brighten a simple pasta sauce. Here’s what I did:
Cindy’s “End of Winter” Pasta Sauce
- A few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- One large sweet onion, small dice (or leeks or shallots – use whatever you have)
- One 28-ounce can of ground, peeled tomatoes or puree
- Dried herbs – a pinch of this and a pinch of that – open your jars and use whichever scents speak to you (I used a hearty pinch of sweet basil and a smaller pinch of tarragon)
- Juice of oranges (1 large, 2 small)
- Add the olive oil and diced onions to a cold pot. Cover and bring the heat to medium.
- Allow the onions to cook slowly, up to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Do not brown, so turn the heat down if needed.
- When the onions are dreamy-soft, add the tomatoes and stir well.
- Note: I always rinse the bits out of the can and add that watery juice to the pot.
- Bring the sauce to a low simmer, cover, and let cook for about 10 minutes.
- Add the herbs of your choice, stir, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes more.
- Now add the orange juice, give it a stir, and it is ready to eat with the pasta of your choice.
I also like this light sauce with soft white beans, but that’s a childhood story for another day!
Cynthia Knipe is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist with What Nourishes You, LLC, and is based in Keene NH. She is a regular contributor to the Monadnock Food Co-op’s Wellness Workshops.