Since returning stateside on Friday, I’ve been in full healthy hedonism damage control mode.
The Wellness Project Italia: No Gluten-Free Noodle Left Behind, turned my brain cells and limbs into pasta. It was a total eclipse of the heart and stomach and liver. And though I have zero regrets, as per usual, it’s time to even the scales this week.
The only thing that this week and last week have in common is salad.
Charlie and I made it our unofficial Healthy Hedonist Italy Rule to always order an insalata mista at lunch as an appetizer or to share with our entrees. We also took a break from indulgent 3-course, pasta-filled meals to actually cook!
For the mid-point of our trip, we found ourselves at a shared villa in Tuscany. The room was outfitted with one of the most brilliant small kitchen set-ups I’ve ever seen: a converted wardrobe that opened into a stovetop. The biggest perk was being able to help ourselves to whatever we wanted from the garden, which included heads of tender, sweet lettuce, zucchini with their blossoms, cucumbers still warm from that blazing Tuscan sun, and of course, tomato upon tomato.
We ate some version of these things for breakfast, lunch and dinner with just a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic. Balsamic so thick you could polish your boots with it.
Since we got home, I haven’t been thinking about pasta or pizza. All I’ve wanted is this salad. But unfortunately, Tuscany ruined us, and no lettuce or tomato will ever taste the same.
I remedied our vegetable snobbery with one of the most delicious dressings I’ve ever made. It incorporates all the flavors I missed while in Italy, i.e. those found in a sushi takeout order. Instead of just recreating a traditional carrot-ginger dressing though, I kicked up the health a notch with some kimchi for heat and gut health.
This end of summer cobb salad, packed with anything and everything you could possibly have in the garden or leftover from the farmer’s market, is the perfect shop-stopper for company. If you’re entertaining friends over the long weekend, I highly recommend it. Dishes with lots of menial chopping are perfect for eager house guests who just want to help but don’t want to steer the ship.
It’s also a great weeknight meal if you’re in need of something that will tip the scales back towards health, and not make you cry too hard for the dog days of rose summer.
Stay tuned for a few Italy guides coming your way this week. If you haven’t already, make sure you check out my Fall Book Tour dates. I’d love to hang with you.
And finally, those of you fortunate enough to make salads in the kitchen this weekend, I hope you’ll donate to the Houston Food Bank.
From one healthy hedonist, to another,
End of Summer Cobb Salad with Creamy Carrot-Kimchi Dressing
For the dressing:
- 2 large carrots peeled and roughly chopped
- 1- inch ginger root peeled
- 1 large garlic clove
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped kimchi
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 teaspoon honey preferably raw
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or vegenaise
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt plus more for seasoning
- 1/4 cup grapeseed safflower or other neutral oil, plus more for greasing
For the salad:
- 2 ears sweet corn shucked
- 3 heads of romaine or hearts of romaine, thinly sliced
- 1 medium zucchini finely diced
- 1 bunch radishes about 6, thinly sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 2 avocados thinly sliced
- 4 hard boiled eggs quartered
Make the dressing: combine the carrots, ginger, garlic, kimchi, vinegar, honey, mayonaise or vegenaise, and sea salt in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add the oil and whiz a few more times to incorporate. If the dressing is too thick, add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is the consistency of ranch dressing (I used about 1/4 cup total). Set aside or store until ready to eat (the dressing can be made up to 4 days in advance).
Char the corn: heat a gas grill or cast iron skillet until quite toasty. Brush the corn light with olive oil and add it to the grill or pan. Char on all sides until the kernels are blackened in places and the kernels are a vibrant yellow, about 5 minutes total.
Assemble the salad: on a large platter, scatter the romaine. Drizzle lightly with dressing, then arrange the zucchini, radishes, and tomatoes on top. Season the veggies lightly with salt. Finally, nestle the avocado slices and hardboiled egg quarters in the salad. Serve immediately with the remaining dressing on the side.