Have I told you that I watch a little too much Food Network? I have to confess that I do. The worst part is that I have begun to watch Food Network when I am at the gym. I enjoy it, but I feel self conscious like I am a cliché: the tubby girl watching Food Network while she works out. Now the reason why I am making this admission to you is because of Rachel Ray. For a while there, I was addicted to 30-minute meals. The thing I noticed after watching scores of episodes was that although Rachel Ray uses such short cuts as bagged pre-cut veggies and bagged pre-shredded cheese, she always takes the time to make salad dressing from scratch. I tried making a couple of her dressings and they weren’t half bad. I had made some salad dressings from scratch before watching 30-minute meals, but watching that show made me realize that there was really no reason to buy salad dressing. A good dressing could be constructed in a few minutes.
I often make Mexican style meals because they are as easy to improvise as pasta. Do you have a bag of corn tortillas, a jar of salsa, some leftover chicken and some cheese? Well, my friend, you have enchiladas! One day when I was tossing things together, I decided a nice crispy green salad would be great to go with our meal. I didn’t want a regular creamy style dressing and vinaigrette didn’t seem right either. I hate it when you go out for Mexican food and they can’t give you a salad that seems authentic. The choices are usually Ranch or Bleu cheese. I wanted something that felt more like the simple tomato and cucumber salad my friends make but would also be reminiscent of something like ceviche. I had a lot of citrus fruit and the idea of something tart sounded so good. I thought about what would compliment the flavor of orange juice and lime juice and chili powder sounded good. I improvised a dressing and loved the result. I made it maybe one more time and forgot about it.
Tonight, I decided to use some leftover chicken to make quesadillas. As I was making guacamole, I realized I had plenty of limes left over and a bowl of oranges. I made the citrus chili dressing from earlier in the summer, adding ground cumin to the recipe. I scavenged in the fridge and found all sorts of yummies to make salad with. In a stroke of insight, I decided to add fresh cilantro and chunks of cantaloupe to the salad. Those two additions to the salad complimented the dressing well.
Salad is a lot of work but I felt really good about balancing out a cheesy meal with something really healthy. I hope you like the result of my improvised salad. As a suggestion, add tomatoes and avocado if you have them. I had to use mine up for the guacamole but they would add even more flavor to the salad.
Cilantro and cantaloupe green salad with citrus chili dressing
½ cup olive oil
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
salt to taste
½ head of red leaf lettuce, washed and torn into bite sized pieces
½ large cucumber, peeled and chopped
6 radishes, sliced
1 small red pepper, sliced
¼ – ½ cantaloupe, chopped
½ red onion, thinly sliced
2 handfuls chopped cilantro
Mix together citrus juices, chili powder, cumin and salt. Slowly pour oil into citrus mixture as you whisk with a fork or small whisk. Set dressing aside. Chop and slice all of your salad ingredients and add them to a large bowl. Add as much dressing as you like to the salad and toss. This makes close to a cup of dressing and the dressing is pretty thin. I use it all but you may want to add less, toss and taste. If you feel like you need it all, add it all.