Wednesday, March 14, 2012

UnRecipe: Here's to Your (Un)Health

Leave it to Wasabi to make a salad unhealthy. It's not like I made it out of marshmallows and peanut brittle, covered in chocolate sauce, but when I made a batch of cornbread muffins and mixed them into a salad with roasted walnuts, crispy bacon bits and creamy goat cheese, well... it just goes to show that I can destroy anything that had the intention of being good for you. This is why we can't have nice things, Wasabi -- you just ruin everything, including the hopes of eating healthy!

Cornbread salad-wich - Photo by Wasabi Prime
I think Panzanella is the secret Italian code word for Sounds Better Than Calling it Carb Salad. Don't get me wrong, I love a good panzanella done the proper way, with in-season vegetables like ripe tomatoes, fresh cheese, mixed with a good bread to soak up all the liquids and get almost like a pudding -- it's definitely a seasonal dish that has the flavor of summer. Maybe my version with cornmeal chunks and walnuts tossed with bacon fat and toasted in the oven is more like the salad of winter, where there's no danger of bikini body weather coming around anytime soon. It was all roasty-toasty warmth, with the heat of the toasted bread and crisped bacon lightly wilting the spinach greens. I made a balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette and warmed it slightly, just to further the wilting. Having a mix of heat and cold in a salad is such a great mouth-feel. And it helps soften the giant chunks of goat cheese crumbled on top. I also added slices of warm, roasted beets -- for my salad, of course, the Mister wasn't having any of it! But the beets added a nice texture and flavor to the mix. Go Beets!

So what the heck brought about this flavor explosion, set off on this poor, unwitting salad? Fresh-baked cornbread muffins, mostly. I made this a while back, right after the ice storm and power outage -- I think it was a combination of the desire to celebrate the fact we had power and just bask in the warm glow of central heating, filling the house with just-baked goodness. Isn't that just pure, instant Prozac -- the smell of something baking in the oven, whether it's bread, muffins or cookies? It's warm, sweet and comforting. It lets you know something really good is about to happen and you're in the safety of your own home to enjoy it.

Happiness is an oven working overtime - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Yes, "shame on me" for cooking up a bunch of bacon and saving the fat to toast the cornbread and walnuts to crispy goodness, but it sure made the salad mighty tasty. It was a reminder that salads don't have to be boring or a consolation prize meal in lieu of something else. You can of course make it as unhealthy as you like, dousing it in an avalanche of ranch dressing, but even with health-conscious ingredients, you have the opportunity to pick and choose the flavors and textures you want, making a salad as hearty as you like. You can use slices of fruit -- raw apple and pear are great for salads if you don't have a lot of fresh greens. A mix of dried fruit like cranberries and some crushed walnuts give a nice mixture of chewy sweetness with nutty crunch. I've never understood those sad-looking side salads made up of boring iceberg lettuce chunks, a few shreds of purple cabbage and maybe a carrot shaving or two. Even though I went overboard with all these rich ingredients, it does prove that a salad can be a main course without the feeling that you're eating like a rabbit. I definitely wasn't hungry afterwards, that's for sure!

And for no other reason than to be silly, enjoy this The Office/Battlestar Galactica meme. I stare at this every day, as it's the background for my computer screens, so maybe that's why I always have beets on my mind. And yes, I totally can't wait for Emerald City Comicon in late March, because Fact: I am a Big Fat Nerd.


  1. Hmm... thanks for the information. I never compromise about health issue. healthy food i will always be with it.

    George McGuire
    breville bov650xl


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