It was a cold and rainy day in April and the winter felt endless. My friend, Stephanie, and I were both desperate for warm, spring sunshine. We met at a French/Senegalese restaurant in Brooklyn called Cafe Rue Dix and ordered a simple salad of baby, mixed kale and avocado with basil dressing. I took my first bite and the fresh basil burst on my palette. It was as if the cold rain disappeared and my friend and I were transported to a sunny picnic in the middle of a flower field. Sometimes you need inspiration to imagine a different world and this was one of those moments. My friend instructed me to figure out how to replicate this dressing so here is my humble attempt. This one’s for you, Steph!
Easy Basil Dressing
- 4 large basil leaves
- extra virgin olive oil
- Rinse 4 large basil leaves (or 6 to 8 small/medium leaves) lightly under cold water and pat dry.
- Using a mortal and pestle, crush the basil with 4 tablespoons of good quality, extra virgin olive oil. Do this for a few minutes, releasing the oils from the basil until the leave begins to turn brown. The oil should taste sort of spicy in the back of your mouth.
- Strain the oil using a fine mesh sieve, and pour over your favorite salad, grain and vegetable dish, or lightly cooked fish.
- Sprinkle with rock sea salt. (This will cut some of the spice.)
We’re approaching the end of the local winter crops here in the Northeast and *some of us* might be a little sick of the all too popular kale at this point. If you are looking to switch things up, consider turnip greens. They are packed with calcium (4 times more than broccoli, cabbage, and their relatives), folate and Vitamin K1 (good for the pregnant ones out there or those trying to get pregnant). Turnip greens might be a little harder to find than spinach or kale so check your local farmer’s market. Some might find turnip greens to be on the bitter side so I’d recommend that you give them a quick steam (5 minutes) and then toss with something rich or tangy, like browned pieces of local bacon sautéed with onions and crushed red pepper, or this vegan dressing: mix raw tahini with hot water (3 parts tahini: 1 part water). Stir in a small amount of non-soy miso paste while the water is still hot (available at most health food stores in the refrigerated section) and add more paste to taste depending on how salty you like it. Take note: those with existing kidney or gallbladder issues might stay away from turnip greens as they may exacerbate your symptoms.
Every office has a way to make boiling water and you can use it to blanch fresh greens, like swiss chard which is in season in New York from May November.
Here is an easy Swiss Chard recipe you can make in less than 5 minutes:
Swiss Chard Recipe
- few pieces of swiss chard (or the whole bunch if you're really hungry)
- 1tbsp unrefined extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, or sesame oil (I like Napa Valley Naturals Cold Pressed Organic Sesame Oil.)
- pinch of salt
- Wash and tear into 1-inch pieces, discarding the stems if you do not like that much roughage.
- Put the greens in a mug or a bowl, cover with boiling water for 30 seconds, discard the water.
- Toss the greens with 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Add a pinch of salt and you have a delicious snack or side dish almost instantly.
- To increase the nutrition level, decrease or eliminate the salt and add gomasio instead (sesame seeds mixed with salt and seaweeds), which you can find in most health food stores.
- To turn this into a quick meal, buy a side of plain, steamed brown rice from your local sushi joint or Asian restaurant. Cut up a hard boiled egg, add your blanched greens and seasonings as mentioned above. You have near instant un-fried rice that is loaded with iron, magnesium, B vitamins, as well as fiber and healthy fats.