Pureed fresh fruit thickens dressings without adding fat

SLIMMING DOWN SUMMER SALADS

July 04, 1993|By Marlene Sorosky | Marlene Sorosky,Contributing Writer

With the abundance of summer's fruits and vegetables, it's easy to conjure up delicious, healthful, low-fat summer salads. But low-fat salads can become high-fat disasters with the wrong dressing.

Traditional dressings are loaded with oil. Typically they have two to three parts oil to one part acid. When you try to reduce the oil, you find it contributes more than just taste. Without oil, the dressing is unbalanced and becomes pungent and overly tangy. When you cut back the oil, the acid -- usually vinegar or citrus juices -- must be reduced as well. With less vinegar and oil, you are left with an insipid dressing that needs additional flavors to spark it up. Oil also adds thickness and richness. Although chicken broth, fruit juice, vegetable juice or water can be substituted for part or all of the oil, the result is a thin dressing. It does not provide the mouth-feel we have become accustomed to with oil-based dressings.

The solution: Substituting fresh fruit for at least half the oil. When soft fruits are pureed, they become thick and creamy. They also add a burst of fresh flavor that complements most salad greens, vegetables, meats and fish. The sweetness of the fruit is offset by vinegar, lemon, lime or grapefruit juice, plain yogurt or buttermilk. The flavors are varied by a sprinkling of herbs and spices.

Here are three substantial salads based on pureed fruit dressings. Each is stalwart enough for a fancy luncheon or light dinner, yet simple enough for a family meal. You will find that each dressing contains a small amount of oil. Although it may be eliminated, a little bit goes a long way to balance flavors and add richness.

Papaya plays a dual role in the grilled chicken salad with papaya, jicama and toasted pecans. Some of it is sliced into the salad, and the rest is pureed in the dressing. When buying papayas, look for those with a golden skin which give slightly when pressed in your palm. You may choose to toss all the ingredients together before serving. Or make a composed salad by arranging the ingredients on a platter or individual plates, passing the dressing separately. Without the chicken, this sunshine salad makes an impressive first course for an important dinner.

Pureed oranges constitute the base of the invigorating green and orange shrimp salad. You may either grill or saute the shrimp right before serving or refrigerate the cooked shrimp overnight. Or, cut your work in half and buy already cooked shrimp.

For an Oriental twist, puree kiwi with ginger, lime and sesame oil. The enticing pale green dressing is dotted with tiny black seeds resembling pepper. Its creamy texture and delicate flavor bring a new, lively taste to this vegetarian salad.

Supplement your salad selection with bread or rolls, a chilled, fruity Rhine wine and a heaping serving of strawberry or mixed berry shortcake for a breezy summer supper.

Crispy Chinese salad with kiwi vinaigrette

Makes 4 servings

Prep time: 35 minutes

Advance prep: Vinaigrette may be refrigerated up to 3 days. Vegetables may be grilled a day ahead, and greens may be refrigerated overnight.

FOR THE SALAD:

1 small eggplant (about 3/4 pound)

1 red or yellow bell pepper

vegetable oil

8 to 10 large napa cabbage leaves, bok choy or green cabbage, cut into 1-inch squares, thick stems discarded (about 3 cups packed)

1/2 small head romaine lettuce, torn into 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups packed)

3 ounces bean sprouts, rinsed, dried and cut into thirds

1 cup chopped cucumber, peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces

1 can (8 ounces) sliced water chestnuts, drained

1 medium carrot, peeled and thinly sliced

kiwi vinaigrette (see below)

FOR THE KIWI VINAIGRETTE:

1 piece fresh ginger, about the size and thickness of a quarter

2 large or 3 small kiwi, peeled and coarsely chopped

4 teaspoons fresh lime juice (about 2 limes)

scant 1 teaspoon sesame oil

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

3 tablespoons orange juice or water

1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste

2 to 3 teaspoons honey

To grill vegetables: Slice unpeeled eggplant into 3/8 -inch-thick rounds. Cut pepper in half. Remove seeds and pulp and cut into chunks. Oil grill rack and prepare coals. Brush vegetables lightly with vegetable oil. Grill over hot coals, turning until browned and tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and refrigerate until serving. (Vegetables may be refrigerated overnight. Cut eggplant rounds into 1/2 -inch-thick strips.

To make salad: Refrigerate cabbage, romaine and sprouts in a plastic bag or bowl. (The greens may be refrigerated overnight.)

To make vinaigrette: In a food processor with the metal blade, process ginger until minced, scraping sides of bowl. Measure 1 teaspoon and return to processor. Add kiwi and process until pureed. Add lime juice, oils, orange juice or water, salt and honey and process until mixture is smooth and creamy. Remove to small bowl or jar. (The dressing may be refrigerated up to 3 days.) Makes about 3/4 cup.

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