02 December 2013

Eats: country Italian salad (a la Shutterbean a la Trader Joe's)

Happy Monday after Thanksgiving, dear readers! I bet you’re starving this morning. You’re absolutely dying for a good recipe. The idea of putting more food in your belly is totally not grossing you out!

Oh, maybe it is, a little? Because you ate more last weekend than you did in the past two weeks total? Yes. I just spent my holiday with a family whose motto is “Too much is just enough”. Five days of that motto means I’m acutely suffering my poor life choices.

I need a detox. You might need a detox too.

Let’s have a salad.

Tracy Shutterbean posted this Trader Joe’s Country Italian Salad copycat recipe a couple of weeks ago. I immediately pinned it, not because I know anything about the Trader Joe’s version (I always bypass their premade foods) but because it just looked easy and delicious. And it was! This is basically my new favorite lunch salad. You might have to stop me from eating it every dang day.

Let’s start with the salad dressing. This recipe will make six generous portions of dressing, so you’d only need to make this once a week. Gather up Dijon mustard, minced garlic, red wine vinegar (NOT the accidentally-purchased pomegranate-infused variety), olive oil, Italian seasoning, and dried basil.

Oh, and CHEESE. Parmesan! You can grate your own pricey block of the stuff, you can buy the green can. I won’t judge. I went mid-range and bought the fancy grated kind.

Ok. First, you gotta sauté that garlic – two cloves, or two teaspoons of the pre-minced stuff – in a tablespoon of olive oil. It only needs a couple of minutes over medium-low heat (don’t let it burn!).

Tracy didn’t do this step, but I think it’s absolutely crucial. Raw garlic is just too strong for me. Sautéing the garlic will mellow it out and make the flavor more savory!

PS, it’s super weird to make your house smell like garlic at 7AM, so I’d recommend doing this the night before (maybe while you’re already in the kitchen cooking). But even if you’re stuck doing it in the morning, don’t skip this step. Garlicky-house-smell at 7AM is better than a dressing with raw garlic taste!

While you’re letting the garlic cool, mix a quarter-cup of vinegar with a half-cup of olive oil. Marvel at the magic of hydrophobicity.

Then add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard (upped from the source), a teaspoon of dried basil, two teaspoons of Italian seasoning, and a bit of salt and pepper.

Once the garlic is cooled, add that too. If it’s warm, it’ll melt the cheese into a globby mess, so wait until it’s nearly back to room temperature.

Speaking of the cheese: you need a third of a cup of it. If you make a mess measuring it, you’ll be in good company.

Stir it up. Shake it up! Feel the satisfaction that comes with making your own salad dressing that is more delicious than anything you can buy in a bottle.

I stored the dressing in the refrigerator and it lasted all week, but I made sure to leave it unrefrigerated for the few hours before lunch. It doesn’t combine as well if it’s shaken when cold, so serve it at room temperature if you can.

As for the rest of the salad, it’s just as simple. Dice up some bell peppers (I used red and yellow, obvs) and julienne some carrots.

If you don’t have a mandolin and don’t want to risk slicing off your fingers to julienne the carrots, I am sure sliced carrots will taste exactly the same.

Add that to chopped romaine lettuce and top with cannellini beans. The beans are fantastically filling! (I skipped the green onions because I am just really into onions, but you could add them if you like.)

And that’s it! To transport this to work, I just took the salad veggies and beans in the container above and carried the entire small jar of dressing separately. At work I shook the dressing to combine and added it to the veggies. Super easy! And it’s even pretty in laboratory break-room lighting.

So there you have it: my delicious Thanksgiving detox plan. Sure, it’s loaded with oil and cheese, but fresh veggies are always a good thing, especially after a Thanksgiving filled with carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Plus a little dressing goes a long way – you could definitely cut back and get more servings out of that jar of dressing. Mr. P actually preferred shaking the dressing ingredients over his salad with a smaller proportion of cheese.

However you make it, I hope this salad assists in your Thanksgiving recovery – or enjoyed anytime throughout the year!

And finally, this week’s we-had-to-shop-for-two-weeks-at-once meal plan:

Sunday: jambalaya with smoked sausage

Monday: pasta fagioli soup

Tuesday: chili with baked potatoes

Wednesday: leftovers

Thursday: chicken masala

Friday: miracle mac & cheese with broccoli and bacon

Saturday: leftovers

Have a great start to December, dear readers!