I’ve never been a huge fan of salads – unless it was a Caesar salad with lots of dressing. And if we’re really being truthful here, the the only reason I ate Caesar salads to begin with was to eat Caesar dressing. In the past, I would buy Romaine lettuce or baby spinach because I knew I “should” eat salad. But because I hated salad, the lettuce would inevitably go bad.
Since I began my veganish journey, I made a conscious decision to embrace all of my food preferences. Instead of trying to force myself to like things I did not like, I simply paid attention to what my body craved. I turned walking through the produce section into a spiritual and sensual experience. I would literally stand in front of the piles of fruits and vegetables and practice conscious breathing until it became evident what I wanted to get. I listened to my soul’s urge as I gazed intently at mangoes and rainbow chard. I noticed that there were certain things I’d never tried before – some vegetables I didn’t even know the names of. I paid attention to what I felt attracted as I mindfully touched and smelled cabbages, baby bok choy, tomatoes and radishes. I looked at other people’s vegan recipes and asked my Twitter followers for grocery shopping advice. When they mentioned items that piqued my curiosity, I’d try them. If something didn’t resonate, I didn’t bother.
With regard to salads, I began to notice that I was not against all salads per se – I was against most of the salads I had made – and eaten – in the past. I was dismayed with unimaginative salads, salads where the vegetables were not cut up into bite-sized appetizing portions, salads that were bland. But as I became more conscious about my eating, I began to notice that there were often salads that looked and tasted quite delicious to me at restaurants or friend’s homes. What made them so good? Well, the house salad at my favorite Thai place incorporated delicious dressings with ingredients I love (like ginger) along with tiny bits of tofu. Why did I like the tofu? Well, it added a bit of dimension and texture to the dish. Thinking about texture is particularly important for a plant based diet. When you give up meat, you have to think more carefully about getting various degrees of crunch and chewiness into your food. I began to see that many of my favorite vegetarian and vegan dishes in restaurants and recipes added texture with fried tofu, nuts, crunchy bits like chia seeds, peppers and so on.
So little, by little, I began to find a path toward salads that I could not only live with, but deeply enjoy. Being a Condiment Queen means I must have sauces, spices, herbs, dressings and tiny bits on hand that I enjoy. I realized that I really love salad leaves (cooked or raw) when they are drizzled with lemon juice. A sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper also makes me my mouth happy. I also began to notice that the reason I hated most salads is because most of them are cold. I tend to like my vegetables a bit warm. I’m not sure why, it’s just the way I am. So in the spirit of giving myself what I want, I whipped up this half-cold, half-hot Serenity Salad, made with raw avocado and tomatoes layered over grilled kale and polenta.
Ingredients (2 servings)
- 2 baby Roma tomatoes
- 2-3 cloves of garlic
- 1 avocado
- 3-4 handfuls of kale
- 1/2 lemon
- Extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- black pepper
1) Marinate organic Roma tomatoes in apple cider vinegar, freshly squeezed lemon juice, along with sea salt and black pepper. Chop up one avocado. Set aside.
2) In a large skillet, grill four handfuls of chopped kale in EVOO with fresh garlic over low to medium heat. Stir frequently to avoid burning the leaves. Season to taste and set aside.
3) Slice up two servings of polenta, grill in EVOO. Sprinkle with black pepper and a touch of sea salt. After about 5 minutes, add in the kale and cook on low heat for another 3-4 minutes.
4) In a bowl, layer the kale and polenta with the tomatoes and avocado. Drizzle with dressing. I used my homemade mango-berry vinaigrette. Devour.