Remember when you used to gaze at the clouds and find images? It's a fun game to play with your kids, and even something I haven't stopped doing as an adult. This photo was shot by my daughter when she found this cloud shaped like a seahorse. It's pretty cool, isn't it? I can totally see the seahorse, can't you?
Seahorse Cloud on a Sunny Phoenix Day
Well, on to the salad. It's only to be 107 degrees today. And even though that's actually about 5 degrees cooler than a few days before, it's still stinkin' hot! Seriously, when it's this hot, I just hate to turn on the oven or stove and heat up the house. It's already hot outside and the air conditioning is running all day and night. So when hunger strikes, something cold from the fridge will do nicely.
I like salads, but not the usual iceberg, cucumber, tomato salad, which is boring to me. And salad dressing, which has always been pretty sub-par, is now even harder when trying to avoid wheat. But fear not, good salad dressing can be found, and even bettter-it can be made. Just go to foodnetwork.com and you'll see the numerous dressings that can be made.
Bottled dressings, with the exception of one or two, are a waste of money. I've never been able to make ranch dressing very well, so I buy that for anyone visiting who wants it. Also, I think Paul Newman makes a pretty good Caesar dressing. The rest should be made from scratch, unless you happen to know of a good bottled dressing that you prefer. Trader Joe's has a few good dressing that come with their prepared salads, but only a few. Just be sure to check the ingredients of the salad dressing...many contain soy sauce, which is a big no-no for those of us on a GF diet.
Actually, there are two things that truly bug me about salads in restaurants... and I'm going to rant for a moment. The first one is the astronomical costs charged for lettuce and tomato. It's just amazing that a wedge of iceberg with dressing on it can cost $6. How can chopped cabbage and peanut dressing be $8? I know I'm paying for the privilege of eating out and having it made for me, but it's just ridiculous.
The next pet peeve is the size of the lettuce and pieces in a salad. There is no way to eat a salad gracefully without looking like a slob. Lettuce pieces are huge, cabbage slices are 5 inches long. Chunks of tomato are the size of a Roma tomato! Who do these people think we are? No matter how hard you try, it always looks like you're stuffing your mouth with way too much food. And the only thing worse than trying to eat humungous pieces of lettuce is watching someone else do it! I know it looks better on the plate with bigger pieces, and it takes less time to prepare, but it's messy as hell to eat. And cutting a salad is awkward and messy, shooting lettuce and veggies across the table. Does anyone else feel this way?
One of my favorite places for salad is California Pizza Kitchen. They have a great grilled veggie salad, and a miso salad with cabbage and peanuts. But once again, they are pricey and need to be chopped up. Try making them at home. Just grill a few veggies (do it outside to keep the house cool), shake up a balsamic vinegar/olive oil/garlic/salt dressing and put everything over a salad of chopped greens (bite-sized, of course).
There are all kinds of lettuces in bags at the market and I don't mind picking those up. Also, Trader Joe's has a wonderful selection of prepared salads for a great price. If you're not into making salads on your own, take these home and doctor them up, and you've got a great meal. One of my favorites is the TJ salad with white beans and shaved parmesan. It's yummy all on it's own, but I like to add a few candied pecans and dried apricots to it. This gives it more color and crunch and it's just wonderful. And for the price of one TJ salad you get enough for 3-4 people.
Another one of my inspirations is the TJ's Asian Slaw Salad. Of course, you can make this on your own very easily. Buy green and purple cabbage and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add some chopped jalapeno, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and a few grape tomatoes. Toss with a simple peanut dressing made from peanut butter/wheat-free tamari/olive oil/sesame oil/sugar and it's a great, crunchy, cool salad on a hot day.
Asian Slaw Salad
Enjoy, and stay cool!