I try to fix us salads during the week so the weekend splurge isn't all that horrible on the waistline but after awhile, as with anything that's repetitive, it gets boring. One night, in an effort to break away from the ordinary, I tried to mimic one of the salads I get at Panera Bread when I go there. Start with the dressing because that's what makes a salad (IMO). I usually make this for two people so you may have to adjust accordingly. Use about 2 T of Light Soy Sauce, 1 T of Rice Vinegar, a few dashes of Peanut Oil (a little goes a long way), a squirt of Garlic Paste or about a half of a Clove diced tiny, a pinch of Red Pepper or Pepper Paste, diced cilantro stems (save the tops for dicing in the salad) - maybe 5 stems or so, 1 packet of Splenda and about a half a finger of Ginger minced. I also add some jarred Lemon Grass if I have it. Basically, anything that's an Asian ingredient, put a splash or dash of it in. If you have a dressing mixer, turn it on for a bit until it's combined. You can play with this some to make it how you like it. If you happen to have a scallion or a shallot, those are nice in there too but I rarely have them. Sometimes I get it too tart, sometimes I get it too dry. You can add a splash of lime too if you have it. It's a fine balance between choking on it because it's too vinegary / tart to having it too oily. Sometimes, I only put in 1 Tablespoon of soy sauce which makes it more like the Japanese ginger dressing (with the whole finger of ginger). Let that dressing sit for a bit. It needs to "marry".
Now you can assemble your lettuce (I use romaine because it holds up well to all the vinegary ingredients), onion (if you didn't add scallion or shallots to the dressing), red bell pepper if you have it, some sesame seeds if you have some in that spice rack (put them in the freezer - they'll keep a lot longer), cucumber and some chopped almonds. Don't forget to top with the tops of the cilantro. Really, anything you like in a salad is fine. Carrots, tomatoes. I like to keep this particular salad a bit simple because the dressing is really the star so I want nice big leaves of lettuce and the bits of crunch from the almonds and I'm happy.
While you toast up some nice sour dough bread, turn that dressing mixer back on to get it all churned again. If you don't have a mixer, just use a whisk. Drizzle some of that dressing on and serve with a nice glass of green iced tea with lemon. Yum.
I've really gotten into making my own dressings lately. They're so much better for you and you can control what goes in them. I just got sick of those dressing that were fat free, carb free, sugar free, taste free. I mean, what the hell is in 'em if they're free of everything? They all started to taste the same. And why are they so stringy? Ew. I'll include some more salads as we go along and include some of my favorite homemade dressings.