Fresh-from-the-Garden Salad with creamy herb dressing (Oil-free, plant-based, vegan)

Once the backyard veggie garden is planted, half the fun and excitement is waiting for the first harvest. The earliest things that I have seen (besides rhubarb) are many of the returning perennials, like sorrel, chives, mint or other herbs, radishes and different varieties of lettuce. 

Fresh Romaine, Arugula, Mint and Dill minutes after harvest and ready to form the backdrop for the Garden Salad

When the lettuce comes in, there is a window of opportunity to eat it before it bolts to flower and the leaves become bitter. Nothing beats this freshly-picked lettuce and other early crops to make a wonderful summer salad. A nice base is a combination of romaine leaves and spicy arugula, with a bit of chopped mint and a little bit of dill. It’s also fun to mix lettuces: leaf lettuce, boston, romaine and sorrel.

Artfully arrange brightly-coloured additions on top of the greens, such as:

  • Radish slices
  • Green onions or chives
  • Diced cucumber
  • Halved grape or cherry tomatoes
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)
  • Seeds (sunflower or pumpkin)
  • Edible flowers (zucchini blossoms or nasturtiums)
  • Fresh fruit (berries, sliced peaches or nectarines, pears)

Finally, a fresh, creamy oil-free dressing using the herbs from your garden.

Creamy Herb Dressing (Oil-Free)

A bright and delicious dressing or dip using fresh herbs from your garden.
Prep Time 10 mins
Course Dressings and Dips, Salad

Equipment

  • High-Speed Blender

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 10 to 15 minutes
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of basil, parsley, cilantro, chives, oregano, marjoram, lovage, thyme or mint)
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • lemon or lime juice from 1/2 a lemon or lime
  • 1/4 cup water or vegetable broth, drizzled in as required to thin the dressing
  • Salt to taste

Instructions
 

  • Soak raw cashews for 10 or 15 minutes
  • Drain cashews and add to high-speed blender, along with all of the herbs, garlic and lemon juice
  • Blend at high speed until creamy consistency is reached. If dressing is too thick, thin with a little water or vegetable broth
  • Season with salt to taste - not too much salt!
  • Drizzle over arranged salads or use as dip for crudités 
  • Will keep in refrigerator for up to a week

Notes

I would not recommend using rosemary or sage here, as their flavour profile is too strong and would overpower the dressing.

 

Game Changer: Fat-Free Onion Cream

One of the most difficult parts of transitioning to a low-fat whole-food plant-based diet is trying to figure out sauces and dressings that don’t involve oil. Tahini and hummus take on a much bigger role in salads than ever before. When I found this onion cream at Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen, I fell in love and  had to share it.

This recipe uses only three ingredients: onions, lemon juice and a little salt. I used plain old yellow onions, but I suppose it would work with other kinds. The process is simple too – all you need is an oven and a blender.  The end result is a savoury and bright cream sauce that you can use in countless ways: mix into soups or stews, stir into a risotto or pasta sauce, use as a base for oil-free salad dressings and dips, or use instead of hummus or mayo in wraps and sandwiches. I even top my baked potato with it. I could eat it from the jar with a spoon, I love it so much!

2 tablespoons contain approximately 22 calories.

The recipe makes enough to almost fill a 500 ml mason jar, which will keep in the fridge for at least a week. It won’t last that long. 

Recipe for Fat-Free Onion Cream may be found at Susan Voisin’s Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.