Salad always seems like so much work for so little pay off. But in my return to vegetarianism, I’m trying to incorporate more of them into my routine. A fast and fulfilling solution turned into what I decided to call the ‘Bleu Valentine’ salad: just as engrossing and delectable as its cinema counterpart (starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) but much less heartbreaking. It brings to mind fond feelings of February with rosy-hued ingredients, topped with tangy bleu cheese crumbles.
A bed of baby spinach is the best base. I rarely bother with lettuce in salads, sandwiches, or wraps, since it doesn’t pack the same nutritional punch as spinach. Here’s the cheat for this treat: I used a Dole salad kit, the Spinach Cherry Almond Bleu variety. Without any extra investment, I got the spinach, dried cherries, slivered almonds, bleu cheese and a White Balsamic Vinaigrette. To that, I added chilled shoestring beets and grape tomatoes. The number of servings on the kit says two and a half, but with my modifications it made four satisfying salads. Obviously those six ingredients and a dressing could be purchased separately to create larger salads, or more of them.
Now, a word about salad dressing. The nutrition content on the kit says a single 3.5 ounce serving is fifteen grams of fat. Thank you, oily dressing and rich bleu cheese. Except to quell a crazy craving, I skip dressings on most occasions because I enjoy vegetables without drowning them in goop, and because they’re usually packed with unmentionables in the fat, calories, and additives departments. If you’re squeamish about drenching your lunch in the saucy stuff like I am, skip it. (When in doubt, I will Sriracha a salad before I’ll add dressing. But that’s a story for another time.) I tried this balsamic on my first salad but ditched it after that. It is delicious, but the tomatoes provide plenty of moisture and the piquant bleu cheese is an impeccable contrast to the sweet veggies and almonds. Healthy 2013. —Casandra Armour