Less Fruity, More Veggie Waldorf Salad

Last night I chose to go for a run rather than drive to our garden to pick food for dinner.  We have not bought any produce since the beginning of the summer so I’ve been getting creative with using what we’ve grown.  The brussels sprouts are coming in and Dana and I ate the first round on Sunday night, sautéed with bacon to crispy delicious perfection!  Somehow we managed to blow through a whole grocery bag full of kale in less than two days so last night our dinner vegetable choices were limited to carrots and cucumbers.  While I ran I mulled over my possible dinner options and started thinking about the Waldorf salads I used to make with my grandmother: crisp apples, crunchy walnuts and sweet grapes in a creamy lemony dressing.  It used to be one of my favorites, I would sometimes make it with yogurt and turn it into more of a sweet breakfast or snack rather than a salad served over lettuce.  When I got home I decided to make a veggie version: crisp cucumbers in place of the apples, shredded carrots for sweetness instead of grapes and a mayonnaise dressing with lemon juice and some crumbled blue cheese.  I would have used  celery, which is called for in most versions, but we didn’t grow any this year.  Dana and I split this for dinner and I hope you find my veggie version of a Waldorf salad as filling as we did.

A seriously filling salad thanks to walnuts and blue cheese and fresh veggies from our garden.

Ingredients:

about 1 cup shredded carrot

2 medium cucumbers, chopped into small bite sized pieces

2 stalks celery, chopped into small bite sized pieces

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/3 cup crumbled blue cheese

For the dressing:

3 Tablespoons mayonnaise

1 Tablespoon lemon juice (I used bottled lemon juice, if you have a lemon, zest it for extra lemon flavor)

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

Prep the veggies and add them to a large bowl with the walnut pieces and crumbled cheese.

Whisk the mayo and lemon juice with salt and cracked black pepper.  Add some lemon zest if you’ve got it.

Mix the dressing in with the rest of the ingredients and enjoy!  This will be good the next day, if you have any left over.

Lemon Cucumber Greek Salad

Lemon cucumbers and one gherkin cucumber from our garden.

I was lucky enough to travel to Greece with my family when I was a teenager and since then, Greek salad (I think they just call it salad there) has been one of my favorite ways to enjoy cucumbers.  These lemon cucumbers from our garden add a lot of bright color to this crisp summer salad.  The lemon cukes are named for their appearance, inside they look and taste like the cucumbers you are used to.  Their skin is thinner than traditional cucumbers which is why you don’t see them in grocery stores, they need to be eaten or preserved with in about 48 hours of picking them!

Sliced lemon cucumber, slightly green and familiar insides.

Ingredients:

3-4 small-ish cucumbers, chopped into bite sized pieces

1/2 of a medium white or red onion, chopped

a handful or more Kalamata olives, pitted (canned black olives have their place, and it is not in Greek salad!)

1/2 cup chopped peppers (green, yellow or red)

1/2 cup  chopped fresh tomato or halved grape tomatoes

Feta, goat or sheep’s milk, crumbled to cover the top of your salad

Red wine vinegar

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Dried or fresh thyme, oregano and basil (Dana used the lemon basil from our garden which was perfect in this salad!)


Assemble the salad and toss just before serving.

Procedure:

Prep all of your veggies, the amounts are not super important, if you want mostly cucumbers, go for it.  Or use an even amount of each, it’s salad, not rocket science, use what you’ve got, it’ll be good!

Sprinkle equal amounts of the herbs over the top of your mixed veggies.

Add salt and pepper and as many olives as you like.

Drizzle olive oil, you won’t need much, toss to coat and then add half as much vinegar, toss again.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Crumble enough feta cheese to cover the top of your salad.

Mix and serve!

I would suggest that you be generous with your servings of this salad.  Feta cheese is naturally low in calories compared to other cheeses.   Cucumbers are a more nutrient dense form of water and the amount of olive oil needed in this recipe is relatively low.  What I am saying here is that this dish is high in nutrients, large in size and low in calories.

A colorful way to enjoy the fresh veggies of late summer.

Lately I’ve been able to eat as many green vegetables as my heart desires as they are growing freely in our garden.  I’ve been eating huge dinner plates full of collards and kale and lettuces, several times a day.  And they make me feel full.  Why?  They are highly nutritious and thus feeding the cells of my body that which they need to function optimally.  And my stomach is literally full of food.  Food that contains fiber and fat, which will take me a while to digest, thus I am full for hours.  Conclusion: eat more nutrient dense foods more often!

So may times I’ve been asked, how can I eat such a restricted diet?  No one seems to understand: I eat a diet restricted to the foods that make me feel energized, satiated, happy and healthy, most of the time.  Everything in moderation, including moderation. We shouldn’t all eat everything all the time just because it’s available and conveniently wrapped in non recyclable garbage with a far off expiration date on it.  Seriously, have you seen these?!  A healthy diet is one that contains the foods that make you feel your best and limits everything else to the occasional indulgence.  Sure, you have to do some research (aka paying attention to what you eat and how it makes you feel) and then you’ll have to eliminate some foods and add in new foods.  It’s worth the effort.  It’s pretty amazing how far you can go on a “restricted” diet!

Fun With Garden Foods

Pretty purple carrots make a great edible center piece.

Dana and I harvested a ton of food from our garden at Green Meads Farm in Richmond last Friday.  We spent the morning and part of the afternoon weeding before filling our bags with future dinners.  The commercial crop of leeks and romanesco we are growing on the Clark’s farm (hopefully soon to be our farm!) is looking hardy after a late, slow start.  Without all the weeds, our garden at Green Meads is looking like a real garden, as in, now we have paths and can see individual plants!  The weed uprising has been quashed, for now.  After all that I  discovered we have lots of lemon cucumbers, gherkins, collards, basil, kale and carrots.  I’m super excited to take pictures and make fun things with the lemon cukes, they live up to their name in appearance and I hope they make excellent pickles.

When we finished our work Dana and I headed home with bags full of produce, hungry for a big late lunch. By the time we got into the kitchen I was running out of steam as far as cleaning all the veggies.  So we put all the carrots (Purple Haze variety, of course) into a big glass pitcher to soak which doubled as a very colorful and edible centerpiece!

Cucumbers, carrots and collards from our garden, eggs from Hannah's grampa, peanut sauce from last nights salad.

We made a frittata with collards, sliced up a couple of cucumbers to go with the peanut dressing from the night before and made two so-called ‘Southamptons’, a drink made with 2-3 dashes of bitters, a squeeze of lime, a bit of sweetener, if you like, and soda water.  This drink is sometimes refered to as a mocktail (versus the more adult, cocktail) but I wonder if the place the drink is named after has anything to do with that reference? No, it’s probably not named after those Hamptons.  Whatever the Southampton is named after, it’s a bitter, tart drink, and it’s soothing to the stomach as well.  It was supremely nice to be able to sit outside and enjoy the food that Dana and I have worked to create.

A simple salad complements the big, late lunch we ate at 3pm.

After a big late meal and the day’s manual labor behind me, I didn’t have a huge appetite for dinner.  I made a light salad, with a mix of all the salad greens from our garden including baby spinach.  I used some Fire Cider, mayo, a mashed garlic clove, salt and pepper to make a quick dressing.  And then for dessert I snacked on the tender young carrots we thinned from the garden and that addictively good roasted almond butter with flax seeds from Trader Joes.  I feel really good about today; lots of fresh veggies in a variety of colors, with my biggest meal in the early afternoon and plenty of time spent outside, doing work that I love with some one I love.  I know that not every day can be as well-balanced and stress free but it’s nice to know I can make it happen!