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Saturday, 12 July 2014

Punching Up The Salad Blues

Reminiscing about just a year ago when I was commuting for four hours a day changing four buses each way to and from work, I cannot help but feel utter relief about my now half-hour bus journey. Had I gone around to get a bike already, I could now easily do this journey by bicycle. I guess it will have to wait until next Spring. A short bus trip however does give me a bit of time to relax and, more often than not, daze into my habitual daydreams where I am quite cocooned into my own little world distrait from reality. It is surprising how my fabricated world is so vivid with me being this totally different person, carefree and unquestioning, enjoying only this very moment. From time to time, I am bewildered back into the mundane reality as I catch an audible glimpse of the surroundings. The chirping conversation of a few youngsters caught my attention; they were only shooting the breeze but I couldn't help but sink myself into a half smile thinking of my school days. Their chirps somehow moved on a healthy food topic now grasping my full attention with ears untwining into their full sensory ability. Youngsters talking about healthy eating is not something to be casually missed. As their conversation progressed onto salads and dressings, discussing whether a salad without dressing could be called a salad, I started figuring this out for myself. I have many a time eaten an assortment of leaves, raw vegetables, fruit and other toppings without any dressing. So far I have been calling them salads. What's your take on this? Is a salad without a dressing still a salad?

Speaking of salads, midway through Summer and I realize that I haven't featured any of the colourful nutrient-dense salads I've been eating. My salads don't usually follow a recipe and are somewhat spurred-by-the-moment tossed in from fresh ingredients available at hand. Dressing-wise, I sometimes whip up a tasty creative one or, when short of inspiration or time, a squeeze of lemon juice is more than enough if my salad is already rich in flavours. In any case, I usually steer clear of any added refined oil as I try to consume fat mostly in its natural unprocessed form like adding in avocados, fresh coconut pieces or some of the very few seeds that I am not allergic to.

One of my favourite aspect of Summer is the gorgeous Summer berries we get to enjoy. Their frozen version, even though lacking the freshness, do come in handy and contribute in nutritional value during the colder months of the year.
While berries are still in season and abundant, here's a colourful blueberry dressing, no oil added, with a pinch of chipotle or chili punch to go with a very filling artichoke pasta salad that you could very well take to potlucks and picnics. Isn't blue a lovely colour to add to a salad?!

Artichoke Pasta Salad with Blueberry Chipotle Dressing

Ingredients (serves 2 - 3)
2 cups cooked fusilli pasta (can be corn or rice pasta for gluten-free option)
6 - 7 frozen artichoke pieces (you may also use canned ones)
2 cups mixed baby salad leaves (arugula, spinach)
1 carrot, coarsely grated
1/4 cup olives, black and green mix
1/3 cup broccoli florets, lightly steamed or raw (leftovers are perfect)
1/2 cup mushrooms (optional)
1 teaspoon barbecue sauce
1/4 cup beansprouts

1/2 cup fresh (or frozen) blueberries
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or chili powder)
2 pitted dates
1 tablespoon avocado, mashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons water (more or less depending on desired consistency)

Prepare the salad:
  • Immerse the frozen pieces of artichokes into a bowl of boiling water to defrost. Drain and keep artichokes aside. If using canned artichokes, drain the water and just use as is.
  • If using mushrooms, toss them in a pan with a few tablespoons water and 1 teaspoon barbecue sauce. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally until mushrooms are cooked but still retaining pretty much their size. (That is, do not overcook so that they considerably shrink in size and ooze out a lot of water. If this does happen though, you can use this mushroom water as part of the dressing too instead of throwing it away!)
  • Allow mushrooms to cool.
  • Toss all salad ingredients in a big bowl. Mix well.

Make the dressing:
  • Place all dressing ingredients in a blender (you can also use a stick blender), process until smooth.
  • Pour dressing on the salad, mix well and serve.
  • If not serving straightaway, keep dressing chilled separately then add when ready.

So, what's your favourite type of dressing? Leave me a 'dodo love' below.


  1. yes, it's still a salad, I say! I don't always use dressing, especially if I have avocado or beans, etc. Those artichokes look amazing.

    1. Avocados make a good filling addition to salads. I tend to add them when I have them. I've recently discovered frozen artichokes in my health store, they worked great in this salad.


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