The Ugly Duckling Salad

by Cate on September 1, 2010

Ugly Duckling Salad

When it comes to salad dressing, I’m not a big fan of most of the bottled ones you can buy at the grocery store.  Too much junk in them that we don’t need.  And besides, when you can whip up a delicious one with common ingredients found in your pantry, who needs them?  Case in point: the dressing on this Ugly Ducking Salad.  But first, the back story.

There is a new show on the Food Network called Aarti Party.  The host was the winner of The Next Food Network Star, winning her very own show (natch).  Although she battled her confidence a bit midway through the competition, she was a front-runner from the get-go.  She is poised, warm, accessible, likable and easily brings something new to the Food Network family, a show on American dishes with an Indian twist.  Since I love Indian food (and don’t get it nearly enough), I was glad to see her win, and was especially looking forward to trying her recipes.

When I got home from the gym tonight, the kids were already in bed, having happily eaten their dinner hours ago, and it was late.  I debated about skipping dinner, but I’m trying to heed the advice of my old trainer (love him!) that it’s better to eat late than to eat nothing at all.  Since time was ticking away, I wanted to keep it simple and healthy, and salad is a perfect fit.

A few (mostly) common ingredients and you have this amazingly good salad dressing.  I do realize that pistachios might not be a ready-to-grab pantry ingredient, and that’s usually the case in my kitchen too, but I happened to have some on hand, and they’re worth keeping in your kitchen just so you can whip up this dressing.  As an aside, pecans or walnuts would work equally well.  The dressing is tangy, a little creamy and packed with full-on flavor.  The only detail is, I’ve got to say, that the dressing doesn’t necessarily *look* especially appetizing because of the blenderized pistachio nuts in it, but I can definitely overlook it in terms of getting to the taste.  I swear I did everything but lick the plate.  And I just might have done that too.

The salad is so named because of the “ugliness” of the celery root.  Saving a trip to the store, I did skip that part of it.  Since the salad would end up being my whole meal, I also added in some pieces of grilled chicken, to get an added boost of protein with every bite.  It would also be great with grilled shrimp.  Dig in, folks, bottled salad dressing has nothing on this one!

Project 365
September 1, 2010, Photo #156

Maddie's Money

Madeline has this semi-new obsession with money, specifically “dollars.”  She has been caught fishing around in my wallet more than once, absconding with fistfuls of money and hiding them in her little purse.  When I’m paying for something, she puts her little hand out, and asks for money.  I usually give her a quarter and she puts her hand right out again.  “More, please.”  I sometimes attempt to distract please her with play money, but the girl is smarter than smart and totally knows the difference.  That’s my kid!

The Ugly Ducking Salad
Recipe courtesy of Aarti Sequeria

Dressing:
1/2 cup shelled pistachio nuts, plus more for garnish
1 to 2 cloves, garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (use 2 only if you really like garlic!)
1 lemon, juiced
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce, (recommended: Sriracha), optional
About 1/2 cup hot water
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup canola oil
Splash good extra-virgin olive oil, for dressing

Salad:
1 bag baby spinach
1 Fuji apple, cored and sliced1 celeriac bulb, peeled and grated (do this right before serving so it doesn’t oxidize and turn brown)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Warm a small skillet over medium heat. Add pistachios, shaking the skillet frequently so that nuts don’t burn. Toast until the pistachios turn a little brown. They should smell delicious too. Quickly remove the pan from the heat and transfer the nuts to a bowl; otherwise they’ll keep cooking and burn.

Add the pistachios to a blender along with the garlic, half of the lemon juice, the hot sauce, if using, hot water, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and the canola oil. Blend until smooth. If it doesn’t form a paste, add more water and more oil and blend until smooth. The consistency should be like a thin hummus; don’t worry if you feel like you’re adding a lot of oil. Taste and add a little extra-virgin olive oil and more lemon juice if you want more zing, which I recommend. It cuts the oils from the pistachios. Set aside once you’re happy with it.

Wash the spinach and dry thoroughly, so the leaves can be coated with the dressing.

Toss the spinach, apple, and celeriac in a large serving bowl and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour 1/2 of the dressing over the salad and toss again. If you prefer more dressing, add it all, which I recommend. Let it sit for 5 minutes, then garnish with pistachios and serve.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Joanne September 2, 2010 at 6:15 am

I was so happy when Aarti won! The FN could use some more Indian food. (In my opinion.) This dressing sounds great. Pistachios are a favorite nut of mine and yes, I do always have them on hand!

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Ramona September 2, 2010 at 11:48 am

We watched all the shows and she almost always got great reviews by the judges.

Sounds like a good late night meal.

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Krisinda Averette-Thomas September 10, 2010 at 5:38 pm

Omg! First time at Waffle House and Bob Evans. Looooove those bfast places, well Waffle House is a guilty greasy pleasure. Hope you and your family enjoyed. Sounds like the kids enjoyed themselves at the park.

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