Thursday, February 21, 2008

Colorful Spring Salad with Cranberries and Home-Made Bleu Cheese Dressing

Remember those evenings when you have had a rough day at work, end up coming late at home, and have nothing to cook except some cheese and a bag of salad greens gawking at you from your fridge!! believe it or not, I have had more than my share of such evenings, especially when it gets really late and I am determined to go to gym that day at any cost. For days like these, salads can act as a welcome retreat. And yet, using the same store-bought salad dressing every time can get kind of boring. So this time around, I set to make my own dressing, which obviously works way better than the ready-made ones because you choose the type and quantity of ingredients that go inside, and hence can make it to suit your taste requirements. The one we get from outside are always a bit more "vinegary" for me, so I was really happy with my Homemade Bleu Cheese Dressing The bag of mixed spring greens was put to good use, combined with some dried cranberries and toasted pecans, mandarins, some baby tomatoes, a dash of olive oil and lime juice and some fresh black pepper. The resulting salad was not only colorful and soothing to the eyes, it tasted way better and fulfilling, thanks to the homemade dressing!

The Bleu Cheese dressing recipe was adapted from one I had seen on Eating Well some time back. I always prefer tossing my greens in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice just to preserve their color and impart some extra flavor. You could even add fresh spinach leaves, replace pecans for any other nuts, and add some seasonal fruits like pears or apricots instead of cranberries.

Ingredients
1 bag of mixed spring greens
1/2 cup dried cranberries
3 tbsp toasted pecans - chopped
1/2 cup mandarin slices
a fistful of fresh spinach leaves
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper

For the Salad Dressing
1 cup (about 4 ounces) crumbled blue (bleu) cheese
1-1/2 cups low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low-fat sour cream
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp fresh or dried parsely

Method

Toss the spring greens with the olive oil and lemon juice and keep aside.

Coarsely grind the pecans in a grinder to form smaller pieces (or leave them whole if you prefer so) Take a pan and roast the pecans on medium-heat, constantly turning them around so they don't get burnt. You can do this step in advance and store the roasted pecans and keep.

For the Blue Cheese Dressing, beat all ingredients together, except vinegar until fluffy. Blend to form a smooth puree (or leave some chunks of cheese if you like that kind of texture), adding the vinegar slowly as you blend it. Check for taste; add more vinegar if you like it tangy. Then transfer to an air-tight bottle. You can refrigerate and store this for about 2 weeks.

Layer the salad greens on a plate, add the spinach,toasted pecans and cranberries, mandarins and baby tomatoes. Then add some fresh black pepper and drizzle with the homemade bleu cheese dressing and enjoy the salad that is both, colorful and healthy!

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