Kosher Kitchen

Summer’s arrival brings endless salad options. Let’s eat healthy, with homemade dressings.


Salad days are finally here. Fresh green produce is in abundance and I could not be happier. As I continue to look for more nutritious and low-calorie foods for my own kitchen, I also find that many people are doing the same thing.

Michael Pollan once said, “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” I have started to live a bit more by this rule and it has paid off in weight loss, more energy and better health. I have not become a vegetarian, but I have divided my weekly diet into percentages and tried to make plant-based foods about 65 to 85 percent of my diet on any given day.

Plant based foods are good for us and good for the earth. When we plant vegetables, we give back to the earth and help repair it. Plants cut our carbon footprint; they give oxygen to the air and help clean the water beneath the soil. In addition, if you buy locally grown vegetables, you also cut the emissions of trucks needed to haul the produce from places that are further away. And, importantly, you help support local farms.

You can even take one more step: plant your own vegetable garden, and further cut your tiny contribution to global warming and pollution. Your own garden also saves you money in the long run and helps children and grandchildren learn about how vegetables grow and how good they taste.

I know that planting a garden got my kids to eat the veggies we grew – my oldest loved eating tomatoes from the vine starting at about 15 months! My kids harvested and ate as they picked, washing the veggies in a bucket of water I placed in the garden for just that purpose. They ate carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, green beans, peas, red and green peppers, cabbages and more. They tasted fresh mint and basil, chives and leeks, and home-grown garlic.

Now grown, my children are true vegetable lovers, as are their children, and I think having a garden helped foster that.

Salads need salad dressing and that is where the calories lie. It is also where a lot of bad chemicals are found.

As people became more aware of nutrition, labels were very helpful, but what I read on salad dressing labels was scary. Most people keep open bottles of dressing for months, so dressings need lots of chemical preservatives. Some cause male sterility and are endocrine disruptors. Others cause cancer, and still others are thought to interfere with normal brain development in utero. Dyes and preservatives are still in abundance. I am one of those people who can detect Sodium Benzoate in foods, and I could taste it in the “all natural” dressing I had switched to.

The EU has removed some of these preservatives from European markets because they are detrimental to human health; we have not been so protective of our citizens.

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I decided that I could easily make salad dressings. It’s basically oil and seasonings and an acid like lemon or lime or orange or vinegar. And, they would have far fewer chemicals in them, and I would save LOTS of refrigerator space — because three kids, of course, means like four different dressings!

I have not bought bottled salad dressing in over a decade – maybe two. Homemade dressings are fast, easy, and usually made from ingredients on hand. For most salads — for just the two of us now — I mix the dressing right in the salad bowl before I add the greens and the rest of the ingredients. It is so easy — one bowl, no mess, and no harmful chemicals. Homemade dressings are healthier and delicious.

Spring and summer are the perfect seasons to develop the habit of eating more delicious salads. Use your imagination and add any and all the ingredients you like. And then, ditch the bottled dressing and create your own. Your body will thank you and so will our beloved planet.

Roasted Tomatoes Basil and Feta Salad (Dairy)

2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half lengthwise.

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp. brown sugar

1 clove garlic, pressed though a garlic press

1 bunch fresh basil leaves

1 large head Boston or Bibb lettuce

4 oz. fresh baby spinach leaves

4 to 6 oz. Feta cheese, crumbled

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

OPTIONAL: Any greens you like

Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and set aside. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the cherry tomatoes and place in a bowl. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar and pour onto the prepared pan. Roast in the oven for about 20 to 40 minutes or until the skins looks charred in places and the tomatoes have shriveled. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Tear the Bibb lettuce and place in a large serving bowl. Add the spinach leaves and basil leaves and toss to mix. Add the feta cheese and toss. Add the dressing and toss gently. Place the greens on serving plates. Top with the charred tomatoes. Makes 4 to 6 servings. Great with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette.

Roasted Strawberry, Peach, and Goat Cheese Salad (Dairy)

1 pint strawberries, cut in half

2 to 3 ripe peaches, cut in half; each half cut into 4 pieces

2 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 package Spring Mix Greens or baby lettuces mixed with baby spinach

1 bunch pea shoots

3 oz. goat cheese, cut into rounds

1 cup glazed walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with foil.

Place the berries in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil. Place on one pan. Add the sliced peaches to the bowl and toss with the remainder of the olive oil. Pour onto the other pan. Roast for 10 minutes. Check Berries and if darkened in a few places, remove from the oven. Let cool.

Turn the peach slices and roast for another 10 to 12 minutes, until they are darkened in a few places. Remove from oven. Let cool.

Place the greens and pea shoots in a large bowl. Add the glazed nuts and toss.

Place on salad plates. Add some roasted berries, peaches, and the goat cheese rounds. Drizzle with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette dressing or some good balsamic vinegar and serve. Makes 4 to 8 servings.

Roasted Veggie and Everything Salad
(Pareve, Dairy or Meat)

Mixed greens

Roasted yams, carrots, mushrooms, beets, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, pineapple cubes, etc.

Canned chickpeas, Cannoli Beans or Kidney Beans drained and rinsed

Blanched green beans, asparagus, sugar snap peas

Sunflower seeds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.

Sliced chicken, steak, roast beef, salmon, tuna, hard boiled eggs, etc.

Sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, or other toppings of your choice

Olives, Avocado, Beets, Strawberries, Blueberries, Pineapples. Apples, pears, etc.

Cooked rice, barley, farro, any grain

This is one of those, “clean out the fridge” salads I make, for a more Sephardic twist, you can add lots of stuffed veggies like grape leaves, stuffed onions and stuffed zucchini, and lots of olives and more. The possibilities are endless, and you will end up with a nutritious, delicious dinner and maybe even lunch the next day!

I love those on these salads. Toss everything together or use a bed of greens and pile on the additional ingredients. Toss with dressing or drizzle on top. Anything works here. Great with any dressing you like.

30-second Vinaigrette (Pareve)

I never really measure the ingredients for this. I make it often and add all kinds of dried herbs and spices and just get surprised each time. I have even added orange juice or maple syrup or pomegranate juice! This is more a grab and mix kind of recipe and it is always delicious. The ratio is usually 1:2, acid to oil. Any other ingredients are up to you! Try it and enjoy!

1 clove garlic, grated

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

Pinch sugar or drizzle honey

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

I grind of black pepper

Pinch salt

Whisk all ingredients together in the bottom of the salad bowl. Taste and adjust ingredients. Add greens and toss well. Add the rest of your salad ingredients and toss. Serve.

Sweet Poppy Seed Dressing (Pareve)

Kids love the sweetness of this dressing that is perfect for spinach salad or a salad with cranberries and pecans.

1 cup sugar (up to 1/4 cup less is fine)

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 tsp. salt

1 very small yellow onion, finely minced

1 tsp. paprika

1/2 tsp. celery seed

1 Tbsp. poppy seeds

1 cup vegetable oil (less if you can get away with it.)

Combine the sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Add the rest of the ingredients except the oil. Pour into a large glass jar and let cool. When cool, add the oil and shake well to emulsify. Makes about 1 cup.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette (Pareve)

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

4 to 6 Tbsp. honey (I like Orange Blossom for this)

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar, or white wine vinegar

1 tsp. finely grated sweet onion

2/3 cup canola oil or corn oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and taste. Adjust to taste. Makes about 2 cups.

Easy Garlic Oil Vinaigrette (Pareve)

1 large (or 2 small) cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press

3/4-1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/2 cup garlic wine or red wine vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

1 tsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper

1/8 to 1/4 cup water, if necessary

Other seasonings YOU like such as, rosemary, thyme, paprika, etc.

Press the garlic into the olive oil, stir and set aside.

Place the garlic wine vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, sugar, oregano, salt, and pepper in a container with a tight-fitting lid and shake well. Add the garlic oil mixture and shake to blend. Taste and adjust seasonings.

If too strong, add a bit of water and shake. Shake again just before using. Makes about 1-1/2 cups.

NOTE: For a delicious taste treat, use black garlic! It is a tad sweeter and a bit different, but it is still decidedly garlic!

Greek Salad Dressing and Dipping Oil (Dairy)

Greek Salads are delicious with the tang of Feta cheese and some delicious dressing. This is tangy and bright with Sumac and lemon juice.

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 to 3 cloves garlic, pressed though a garlic press

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. sumac

1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper

1 tsp. honey, to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Crumbled feta cheese

Blend all ingredients except the oil and cheese until well blended. Taste and adjust ingredients. Add the oil and mix to emulsify. Add the cheese and mix well. Pour over salad or use as a dipping oil with bread.

Green Goddess Salad Dressing and Dip (Dairy)

Make this by taste, vary the herbs, and use more of what you like.

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped, stems removed, to taste

1/4 cup fresh tarragon, thyme or basil, chopped, to taste

3 to 5 Tbsp. fresh chives, snipped, to taste

2 to 3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 cup mayonnaise (regular, low or no-fat)

3/4 cup sour cream (regular, low or no-fat)

Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Palace all the herbs in the bowl of a food processor and or pulse until finely minced. Add the lemon juice, mayonnaise and sour cream, salt and pepper, and process until the mixture reaches the desired consistency. Taste and adjust any of the herbs or seasonings you like. Works as a dip or salad dressing. Makes about 2 cups.

NOTE: Add cilantro, thyme, rosemary basil, if you like. Any herbs will do.

Simple, Light, Roasted Garlic Salad Dressing (Pareve)

1 to 3 heads garlic

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tbs. red wine vinegar

1 to 2 tsp. honey or pure maple syrup

Pinch salt

Pinch freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, high heat safflower oil or cold pressed corn oil

Cut off the top quarter of the garlic head, place on a sheet of heavy to duty foil, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Wrap in the foil. Roast at 350 degrees for 40 to 60 minutes. Check to make sure cloves are very soft. Remove from oven and let cool.

Remove the cloves of garlic from the skin of 1 head and place in a food processor. Discard skin. Add the vinegar and honey and process until smooth. Add the safflower oil, salt and pepper and pulse until smooth. Taste. Add more garlic if needed and process until smooth. If it is too thick, add a bit of water or lemon juice. Adjust seasonings. Makes about 1/3 cup. Use remaining garlic for dips or with mashed potatoes.

Parsley and Chive Vinaigrette (Pareve)

I originally made this for Passover (to use up the extra parsley and the newly harvested chives from my garden). But it is delicious year to round.

2 cups packed, flat leaf parsley

1/2 cup minced fresh chives

1 to 2 garlic cloves, more to taste

4 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 to 2 Tbsp. white wine or champagne vinegar

Pinch sugar

Pinch salt and pepper

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup canola oil

NOTE: You can add a little grated shallot to this. It is delicious.

Place garlic in a food processor and pulse. Add the parsley and chives and pulse 2 to 3 times. Add the lemon juice and vinegar and pulse to blend. Add the oils and pulse until emulsified. If it is too thick, add a bit of lemon juice, vinegar, or water. Add the sugar, salt and pepper, pulse 1 to 2 times and scrape into a container with a tight-fitting lid. Makes about 1-1/3 cups.