I have a confession to make.
A big, shameful one.
I am vegan, and …. and … I don’t like salads.
Don’t get me wrong … I love almost everything that you put on TOP of a salad. Cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, bean sprouts, avocado, beets, olives, walnuts, grapes, sweet Vidalia onion.
I just don’t like those raw leafy greens!
I was like this even as a child. I can remember going to salad bars (salad bars were all the rage back then) and dutifully putting one piece of lettuce on my plate. At the urging of tiresome adults, I’d add four or five more leaves. And then I’d hit the good stuff, approaching the salad bar the same way I did finger painting, artistically arranging the toppings in a riot of color. (I didn’t know it then, but I was instinctively “eating the rainbow.”)
My family was amazed. They mostly took the opposite approach – a big pile of leaves with a lonely carrot or bean sprout here and there. “Catherine’s salads always look so much prettier than ours!”
And after all these years, not much has changed.
I can still only choke down lettuce if it’s topped with lots of veggie “candy.”
And people still ooh and aah about how great my salads look.
The salad I’m sharing today is my go-to salad recipe, with my favorite salad veggies that I almost always have on-hand. Keep in mind salads are an art, not an exact science, and this is more a template than a recipe. You won’t always have the exact same produce. And you won’t always be in the exact same mood. Some days you may want less tomato and more avocado. Some days you may decide to go crazy with the cucumber. Some days you may decide to throw in some sliced radish just for the heck of it.
Ingredients for Catherine’s California Salad (Raw, Vegan, & Gluten Free):
Approximately 2 Cups Spring Mix
Small Handful Sprouted Lentils (usually sold in stores as Crunchy Bean Sprout Mix)
1 TBL Sunflower Seeds
Handful of Cherry or Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Large Avocado or 1 Baby Avocado
Splash of Olive Oil, Vinegar, and Juice from 1/2 Small Lemon, OR
Splash of Flaxseed Oil and Juice from 1/2 Small Lemon, OR
Your Favorite Bottled Viniagrette
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
Directions for Catherine’s California Salad:
Get out a BIG bowl. This is a meal salad!
Add approximately 2 cups spring mix to the bowl. Spring mix is hard to measure, so don’t worry about exact measurements. (I would say, “whatever amount looks good to you,” but the amount that looks good to me would be about three leaves.)
Take a handful of sprouted lentils/crunchy bean sprout mix and scatter the mix across the salad.
Scatter the tablespoon of sunflower seeds across the salad. (I hope it’s not necessary to mention these seeds should be the plain, hulled kind, not the dill pickle and BBQ flavored ones still in the shell sold in gas stations.)
Take a pinch or two of alfalfa sprouts at a time and “mist” them across the salad, creating a light “fog” of alfalfa sprouts.
Time for tomatoes. I always use at least 5-6 cherry tomatoes or 8-10 grape tomatoes – approximately a large handful. (Don’t worry if your handful is bigger than my handful; if you have bigger hands you’re probably a bigger person and need that extra tomato or two.) Halve or quarter the tomatoes (if the cherry tomatoes are large) and toss them on the salad.
Now, the avocado. Use 1/2 of a big avocado or 1 baby avocado. I really love the baby ones because they are just the right size for one salad, with no leftover half to turn brown in the fridge. I prefer to slice my avocado, but feel free to chunk it if that’s what you like. Add the avocado anywhere there isn’t tomato.
Then, the cucumber. If the cucumber is organic, leave the peel on; if it’s not, peel it. Cut the cucumber into coins and then into half-moons. Arrange around the edge of your salad bowl.
Finally, the microgreens. Microgreens are incredibly nutritious and also make everything look prettier and more appetizing. Sprinkle a few across the top of the salad. Keep in mind this is a garnish – you want your salad to look pretty, not like someone’s yard.
Now’s the part where I should be giving you some yummy homemade salad dressing recipe, but the truth is I usually just use a little flax seed oil and fresh lemon juice. Or I use the old restaurant olive oil-vinegar-lemon juice trick. (Vegan veterans know what I mean – it’s when you go to a restaurant and the only vegan option they have is salad, and the only dressing that doesn’t have dairy is a cruet of oil and a cruet of vinegar, with a slice of lemon on the side.) Just drizzle a little top-quality extra-virgin olive oil, then a little vinegar. Add a squeeze of lemon, concentrating on the avocado. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
If you prefer the convenience of a bottled dressing, almost any light vinaigrette works well, as does French. I like Annie’s Naturals brand (always check ingredients; not all flavors are vegan).
Final step? Chow down! This is a big, meal-size salad that takes awhile to chew, so I like to save these for evenings in front of Netflix.
These ingredients also make a great, classic Avocado Sandwich. Simply toast some sprouted bread, slather with Vegenaise, and layer with sliced tomato, avocado, and alfalfa sprouts. Add some salt and freshly ground black pepper to the tomato layer and a squeeze of lemon juice to the avocado layer. Optional: Add lettuce and/or cucumber.