Dressed for success

I never liked salad. I know it's healthy. I get that it's part of a balanced diet. I've seen enough "Popeye" cartoons to understand it has the power to make my biceps instantly flex. And, like most Missoulians, I too spend my summer Saturdays walking the rows at the farmers markets and loading up on locally grown leafy greens and veggies. I eat salad, but it's never really been my thing.

I've always been more of a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy. If I ate a side salad before a meal, it was an afterthought. Even when I felt particularly guilty about my gluttony and wandered over to the Good Food Store salad bar, I still ended up piling on enough cubes of turkey and chicken and salami and shredded cheese to insult the notion that I was eating "salad."

This all changed a few years back, during a sweltering southwestern Montana summer, when salad became my family's go-to meal. Our crew craved something crisp, light and refreshing, and I longed for some element of the salad that would get me halfway excited about actually eating it. The solution: homemade dressing.

Like last month's column on dips and sauces, my basic theory here is that a scratch dressing makes everything infinitely better, from greens pulled straight out of the garden to that rubbery spinach in a pre-packaged bag we're sometimes forced to buy. Just as importantly, these three fruit-based recipes are easy and quick to whip up, making store-bought options even less appealing.

click to enlarge pear dressing, mango dressing, raspberry dressing, missoula, salad
  • photo by Cathrine L. Walters

I still may put too much bacon on my salad and appeal for firing up the grill rather than picking through the garden, but these recipes have achieved a once impossible feat—they make me eager to eat greens.

Pear Dressing:

What you need: 1 Bosc pear, 1/2 cup of canola oil, 4 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 4 teaspoons of honey (or to taste).

How you make it: Combine oil, vinegar, honey and 4 peeled pear slices in blender. Puree until smooth and serve.

Put it on: Really good with arugula. Add a few extra pear slices and garnish with fresh parmesan.

Mango Dressing:

What you need: 1 cup cubed mango (fresh or frozen), 2 tablespoons of cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of water, 2 teaspoons of minced fresh cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar and 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

How to make it: Puree mangos, vinegar, water, cilantro, sugar and pepper flakes in food processor or blender. Chill until ready to serve.

Put it on: Romaine or greens of your choice, with fresh mango slices and red onion.

Raspberry Dressing:

What you need: 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup raspberry vinegar (more on this in a second), 1.5 tablespoons of sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of hot sauce (like Frank's), 1/4 teaspoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of pepper and 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. (Now, about that raspberry vinegar: It's hard to find. To make your own, soak a handful of fresh raspberries in 1/4 cup of distilled vinegar for at least 30 minutes. )

How to make it: Combine all ingredients in a jar, seal and shake well. Refrigerate 2 hours, then serve.

Put it on: Spinach, arugula or the greens of your choice. Add some strawberries, avocado and red onion for a little bite.

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