Sunday, January 6, 2019

Saladosity, Part 14: Sweet Tuscany

[This is the fourteenth post in a long series.  You may wish to start at the beginning.  Like all my series, it is not necessarily contiguous—that is, I don’t guarantee that the next post in the series will be next week.  Just that I will eventually finish it, someday.  Unless I get hit by a bus.]

(If you need a refresher about my salad-making lingo, go back and review our first salad.)

Typically, when I want a salad, I want a salad ... you know what I mean?  I’m not dabbling here.  A really good salad is fully worthy of being your entire meal, not just a wimpy side dish.  Still, sometimes you really do need a salad as an accoutrement, or possibly a light snack.  But first, we have to talk about:

Trail Mix

Trail mix is an absolute blessing for people who are trying to snack healthy.  Of course, the vast majority of trail mix that you see in the store has crap like M&Ms in it, which I think defeats the whole purpose.*  If you get the right blend of dried fruit in with your nuts (and seeds, if you’re into that sort of thing), it’s plenty sweet enough without resorting to crappy chocolate (or even good chocolate).  Now perhaps one day I’ll give you my recipe for what I consider the best trail mix of all time, but for now let me just introduce you to my

Stupid Simple Trail Mix

  • 1 part pistachios
  • 1 part cashews
  • 1 part raisins

Seriously, you can’t get simpler than that.  How big is “1 part”?  Well, however big you want it to be.  I often just make this a quarter cup at a time (so I end up with 3/4 of a cup), but a half cup would work, or a whole cup, even, if you plan to eat it all day long.  Just don’t make so much of it that the nuts have time to go bad.  Also, remember that sunlight is the enemy of nuts, so keep your trail mix in a cool, dark place.  As long as you take that precaution, it’ll last almost forever (unless you ignore my advice and make metric shit-ton of it or something).

Oh, and hey, look: one day is today.  Since this is a fairly short entry in our series, I’m going to throw in my personal favorite trail mix recipe.  It has absolutely nothing to do with salads, but it makes a decently yummy snack that you might eat in between salads.

World’s Awesomest Trail Mix

  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ½ cup cashews
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup nuts of your choice
  • 1 cup berry medley
  • ½ cup golden berry blend
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp cinnamon

Now, I know that’s a lot of kinds of nuts.  Trust me, though: it’ll all work out.  That last half cup is dealer’s choice:  Add more almonds if you’re really into almonds.  Throw in something wacky, like hazelnuts or brazil nuts.  I personally like to add a mixture of more almonds and pistachios, and sometimes more pecans as well.  I mix it up.  But the point is, you need a few more nuts to balance out the amount of dried fruit.  Believe it or not, it really is 3 parts nuts to 1 part fruits to achieve the perfect balance.  I suppose your taste may vary—I’ll allow it.  But try it my way first.

For dried fruits, I like the two medleys I listed (both from Trader Joe’s, of course).  The dried berry medley is cherries, blueberries, and strawberries, while the golden berry blend is golden raisins, cherries, cranberries, and blueberries.  However, they both have added sugars, so beware of that if you’re trying to stick to Whole30 rules.  As long as you’re willing to look past that, though, they’re quite excellent, especially with the 2:1 proportion I’m recommending here.  The only real downside is that dried strawberries are HUGE.  It would be nicer if someone were to cut them in half or something.  But I’m too lazy, personally.

The cinnamon is the thing that ties it all together.  It may sound weird at first, but it really does make the whole thing super yummy.  Just dump the nuts and fruits in a big, gallon-size ziploc bag.  Then sprinkle the cinnamon on top and close the bag (don’t squeeze the air out like you normally would—that will come later).  Now just shake the bag like crazy: upside-down, round and round, maybe throw it up in the air a couple of times.  Have fun with it.  Now open the bag again and try your sweet, sweet concoction.  Lick your lips a little.  Now close the bag and store it in a cool, dry place (this time you can squeeze all the extra air out).


Sweet Tuscan Salad

Now for the main event.  This is our second simplest salad because it uses the second (and final) of our pre-made dressings: Tuscan dressing from Trader Joe’s.  It is literally the only dressing you can get at Trader Joe’s that is really really Whole30 safe.**  Now, if you don’t know what Tuscan dressing is, it’s kind of like a dressing version of Worcestershire sauce.  Or A1 steak sauce.  Like halfway between Worcestershire sauce and A1 steak sauce, but a bit thinner so it makes a good salad dressing.  So it has a weirdly savory quality to it, which at first you’re going to think will not work with salad.  But bear with me.

  • base veggies
  • feta cheese crumbles
  • simple trail mix
  • Tuscan dressing (light)

The key to this salad is the raisins, which provide the perfect couterpoint for the tanginess and umami of the Tuscan dressing, and also using less of the dressing than you thought you needed.  Keep it light people: you want your veggies just barely stained brown here.  Tuscan dressing is one of those things that’s easy to overdo.  But, if you get it just right, it’s totally worth it, because the thing that’s awesome about savory (as opposed to salty and sour and all the rest) is that it makes your mouth water.  So we’re talking about a mouth-watering salad here.  Plus the Tuscan is also a bit salty, the feta is a bit sour, the raisins give you the sweet, and the nuts give you a great crunch.  If you really miss having any bitter to go along with all the other tastes, I guess you could grind some black pepper on it, but I don’t really think it needs it.  A small bowl of this really quenches any mid-afternoon hunger pangs I may be experiencing, so I have a tendency to have this for tea (as the Brits would say).

Next time, let’s get a little more complex and actually make a dressing for a change.


* Although, if you do insist on sugary things in your tail mix, I recommend Trader Joe’s power berries and possibly some yogurt-covered raisins.
** Recall that our other dressing, the creamy feta cheese dressing, has dairy, which is a no-no for Whole30.  Also recall that my take on Whole30 means I don’t care.

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