Big Salad: Spring in a Bowl

I love salads. They are incredibly good for you and so versatile. We should all eat more greens. Salads make perfect meals and sid...

I love salads. They are incredibly good for you and so versatile. We should all eat more greens.

Salads make perfect meals and side dishes for Spring. Produce at this time of year is flavorful and fresh and there are so many colorful and nutritious ingredients available locally. Spring is the season when I am most inspired by fresh vegetables. I am constantly thinking up more ideas for meals than I have time to make!

I am a Canadian living in Toronto. Most years our winter is pretty rough. This year was no exception. It really took its sweet time to pass. Thankfully it seems to have ended and Spring is finally here. Leaves are budding and flowers are blossoming.

Vibrant vegetables are filling the grocery stores and spring roots are as sweet as ever. 

When I finished University I had a brief professional stint as a Produce Department manager at a healthfood store. I actually really enjoyed the job because I would get nearly daily deliveries of fresh beautiful fruits and vegetables. I even started ordering some exotic seasonal vegetables and fruits whenever I could.

Watermelon radishes, fiddle-heads, candy cane beets, white asparagus, purple cauliflower...they all come to my table in Spring.

If you haven't tried any of the veggies listed above, you should if you can find them near you. They are all so pretty and delicious. I would describe Watermelon Radishes as psychedelic. They are so awesome. Green on the outside, tie dye pink and green inside.

There is a popular vegetarian restaurant chain in Toronto called Fresh Restaurant. It has been cornering the vegetarian market in Toronto since the 90s. The restaurant originally went by the name Juice for Life. When I was little, Juice for Life was my first formal introduction to vegetarian cuisine. My older sister was in highschool at the time and was going through a veggie phase (that didn't last long) and insisted we go there. Back then I really didn't like their food. I ordered the most 'normal' sounding item on the menu -- french fries with miso gravy. I was...disgusted. The gravy tasted like a boozy cheese sauce and I was really not expecting any cheese flavor. I felt...misled.  My drink, however, was amazing. I ordered the Frozen Raspberry lemonade.  I was like a tart raspberry 7-11-style slushy. If you don't know what 7-11 is, its like a supersized convenience store chain in Canada, and the "slushies" they sell are like the "squishees" sold at the Quick-E Mart on the Simpsons....

It wasn't until the end of highschool that I became a vegetarian. It wasn't a hard sell -- most of my favorite foods were vegetarian anyway. 

My dad was diagnosed with high cholesterol and we all adjusted our diets to support him. I pretty much gave up meat then and there. I ate mostly vegetarian (with some fish) for many years after and ate at Fresh restaurant happily. Oddly enough as an adult I came to love their signature miso gravy -- until I became allergic to soy that is.

These days I am mostly vegan. Overall I prefer veganism because it makes me feel good.

I am not a strict vegan -- I make exceptions when I eat out from time to time and sometimes I really crave ice cream and give in to that too. I love the way dairy products taste but dairy makes me feel sick for days after eating it so I try my best to avoid it.

Today's recipe is for a dairy- free cream style dressing which pairs really nicely with Spring salads, cooked vegetables, pastas and grains. It is really easy to make and tastes like a creamy dill dressing.

I enjoyed my dill dressing on a vibrant Spring salad bursting with colorful vegetables. 

This salad reminds me a lot of the giant salads sold at Fresh Restaurant. They offer huge meal-sized salads that are full of raw and cooked vegetables and are usually topped with a creamy vegan dressing. They are really awesome healthy meals that most people (vegans to carnivores) can appreciate. My dill salad dressing would also be great on steamed asparagus or roasted spring vegetables. It would also be nice on cooked quinoa or rice or perhaps make a tangy sauce for a pasta salad.

Today I have included my recipe for a really delicious and Big Salad, drizzled with my vegan creamy dill dressing. Yesterday was Earth Day so this huge Spring salad makes a great and totally appropriate meal if you forgot and still want to honor the holiday. It is cruelty-free and vegan so its a nice way to show your love for the Earth and its beautiful bounty.

If you don't care about Earth Day, think of this salad as an homage to the Elaine Benes character on Seinfeld who always ordered a "Big Salad" at Monk's diner.

If you try out this dressing, I hope that you enjoy it too.

Vegan Creamy Dill Dressing

Makes 1 serving

  • 3.5 tsp soy free vegeanise
  •  1-1.5 tsp vinegar (I used white wine vinegar but you could use apple cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar or fresh lemon juice or orange juice)
  • 1.5 tsp finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1.5 tsp filtered water
  • 1/2-1 tsp onion powder
  • 2 dashes ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp kelp flakes
  • dash of ground cinnamon
Bowl method:
In a small bowl mix together all ingredients thoroughly with a whisk until slightly frothy. Taste! adjust seasonings to your taste. For more saltiness, add more kelp. for more savory flavor add more onion powder. For more herb flavor add extra dill. Pour over your salad, cooked vegetables. cooked grains or pasta and toss to incorporate.

Mason Jar method:
Add all ingredients to a mason jar with a tight fitting lid. Seal the jar with a lid and shake the jar thoroughly until the dressing is thoroughly mixed and slightly frothy. Remove the lid and pour over salad, cooked vegetables. cooked grains or pasta and toss to incorporate. OR refrigerate in the sealed jar until ready to serve.

Big Salad

 Makes 1 serving
  • 2 cups roughly chopped greens (I used green kale and rainbow swiss chard)
  • 1/4 candy cane beet (also known as a chiogga beet), peeled and grated with a cheese grater
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cucumber, grated with a cheese grater
  • 1 zuchini, grated or sliced finely 
  • handful of grape tomatoes
  • 2 dashes kelp flakes
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2 dashes cinnamon

Put each grated vegetable in its own bowl and set aside. Steam half the greens until vibrant and remove from the heat.

Assemble salad. Add your remaining raw greens, your tomatoes and your sliced zuchini to a small bowl. Add the spices and kelp and mix through. Add your prepared salad dressing (reserving 2 tsp of it) and mix all together thoroughly.  Transfer the mixture to your serving plate or bowl. Top the mixture with your steamed greens, and then a layer of grated candy cane beets, followed by your grated cucumber. Drizzle remaining dressing over top. Serve.

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