Keep your salads fresh and raw, and dress them right
The Indian diner is slowly waking up to more innovative summer salads for taste and health
Winters are on their way out, and, soon, the heat and humidity will bring with them a host of health problems. A good way to keep your nutrition game strong, without loading up on spices, is to have salads every day.
Traditionally served as accompaniments, our salads have ranged from raitas to cucumber-onion-tomato without any real dressing.
Salads are a good way to keep hydrated, keep you full and aid in weight loss. But “our traditional salads are not nutrient-rich enough to be meal replacements because they generally only have antioxidants and fibre but lack fat and protein. Be a little creative with your salad recipe, add nuts and seeds, paneer and chicken to cover the other food groups,” says Tanu Arora, head of the nutrition department at Aakash Healthcare in Dwarka, New Delhi.
Use local and fresh produce, and the correct amount of dressing.
“One of the things we really mess around with is the dressing. The idea is not to drown the salad in your dressing. Understanding the quantity of dressing to be used is vital for a salad to taste fresh and maintain the goodness,” explains Tara Deshpande Tennebaum, whose book, An Indian Sense Of Salad, has been released recently. She says the amount of dressing should depend on three factors—the kind of leafy greens and vegetables that are going into the salad, the kind of dressing you plan to use, and your personal taste. “The general portion per person is 2 tablespoons of dressing to 1K–1O cups of salad,” she says.
According to Anika Malhotra, a senior dietitian at the BLK Hospital in Delhi, the salad dressing is important. “Replace the mayonnaise with hung curd, and oil with olive oil (half a teaspoon only) to make it healthy but retain the flavour,” she says.
Summers can be tricky when it comes to buying and storing vegetables, for they spoil quickly. Tennebaum says you should store them more carefully, not place heavy vegetables on top of anything leafy, and not purchase anything that looks slightly spoilt, etc. She also recommends using microgreens (vegetables in the tiny sapling stage) or the leaves of regular vegetables (like leaves from radish or beets that are available year round) in salads.
Malhotra recommends washing every vegetable to reduce the chances of harmful chemical intake. “Soak them in 1 litre water with a pinch of baking soda for about 15-20 minutes and wash them.”
Keeping the salad fresh and raw will help you gain the maximum benefit. And experimenting with recipes will let you enjoy a wide variety of salads without becoming repetitive.
How to beat the heat
This summer-special recipe recommended by Tara Deshpande Tennebaum will help you take your first steps towards a healthier meal
Watermelon salad with feni dressing
(Serves 12, one wedge per person)
For the salad: 2kg chilled watermelon, halved and cut into 12 wedges (3–31/2-inch triangles) 6 tbsp minced fresh mint leaves, 6 tbsp minced fresh Italian basil, 6 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted.
For the dressing: 2 tbsp cashew feni, 1 lime freshly squeezed, 1/2cup freshly squeezed orange juice, 1 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4tsp peeled and finely grated fresh ginger root, 1 tsp red chilli flakes, pounded lightly (not powdered), 1/2tsp freshly ground black pepper. Honey and salt, to taste.
For the garnish: Wedges of lime.
Method: Shake all the ingredients for the dressing together in a small jar. Refrigerate overnight. Place the watermelon wedges on a large serving tray or small individual plates. Before using, shake the dressing again and taste for salt. Spoon it over the wedges and sprinkle them with pine nuts, basil and mint. Garnish with lime wedges and serve immediately.
Tip: Try using a square or rectangular plate while serving this salad.
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