Day 21 is a combination of a few things in this salad-eating-month-I'm-in. Have you ever gone out for dinner and eaten something so delicious, you think 'MANG! Imma make this some day at my house and hope I can replicate the taste explosion.' So this salad is a bit of that, specifically a grilled wedge of caesar salad I once had at Notable here in Calgary. File that in the back of my mind. And I could have sworn that my Nourishing Traditions tome (one of the most-oft used cookbooks from my arsenal) had a ranch dressing in it. Coupled those two, and voila, inspiration for tonight's dinner salad, the Grilled Wedge with Prosciutto and Ranch Dressing. Probiotic-rich ranch dressing, that is.
I'll try to keep this one brief, as I tend to rattle on and on. Suffice it to say, there are many studies out there of late that are linking the health of your gut lining with the health of all other bodily systems, from the nervous system, to the brain, to the thyroid, to the immune system, to heart health, to how our hormones work, to the skin, and on and on it goes. There are studies linking the state of your innards to the incidence of arthritis, that an imbalance in your gut flora could be a contributing factor to the occurrence of certain cancers, or having an influence on your anxiety levels or even contributing to depression. How to best support your intestinal lining, then? There are things you can slow down or stop entirely in order to help restore that balance. There is a long list of good things to add to your daily foods, chief amongst them, fermented foods. Ah, these fermented foods are quite magic: they are key contributors to restoring the balance of bacteria (or your microbiome) in your gut, they break down pesticides, they free up a whole host of vitamins and minerals so we can better absorb them, they help keep inflammation down, and again, the list goes on and on. So kids, EAT YOUR FERMENTED FOODS.
Just wanted to get that off my chest first. So yes, this recipe is probioticsfull. I just made up this new word. You too can use it in a sentence, and it will be yours. Probioticsfull. And the dressing is based on one from a blog called Riddlelove. You will find the link below. In the meantime, let me give you the content of one of my favourite topics of fermenting classes of late: CREME FRAICHE. This is how you're going to make some, mon ami(e). In a big litre-sized glass jar, put most of a litre of organic whipping cream. Yes yes, 35%. If you are so lucky to have a milk kefir grain handy or a friend who is willing to share theirs with you, plop that baby right in with the cream, and leave on the counter for 24 hours. And then you pop it in the fridge; your creme fraiche will be ready. If you do not have access to a milk kefir grain (a very different beast from a water kefir grain), you can purchase a package of freeze-dried Kefir Starter culture (like this one - available in the refrigerator section of your favourite local health food store) and you will drop one sachet of that in with the litre of whipping cream in the glass jar, mix it up, and leave it on the counter for a full 24 hour period, at which point you will then tuck away in the fridge until ready to consume. IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE. And make the best base for homemade ice cream.
As for the dressing, I followed loosely the ingredients from Riddlelove's recipe (which you will find a link to at the bottom of this post):
3/4 cups creme fraiche
1/4 cups milk kefir (or yogourt, if you don't have any milk kefir (different than creme fraiche))
1/2 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp of fresh parsley, minced
2 tbsp of fresh chives, minced
1 tbsp of fresh dill, minced
1/8 cup of raw apple cider vinegar
1/4 tsp of sea salt
few turns of my pepper mill
The how-to: put everything in a glass jar. Screw lid on. Shake it with what your mama gave you. Tweak to make it taste to your liking.
I let this sit and meld flavours in the fridge for the better part of the day.
Come dinnertime, as it was only two of us at home tonight, I put the kid to work as she put a few handfuls of frozen peas in a pot and brought to a quick boil, she turned them off and drained them while I sliced a whole head of romaine lettuce in two, keeping the hearts on the wedges so as to keep them together. I brushed the wedges with good quality olive oil, and turned my BBQ on to heat up, along with my cast iron pan. When the pan was hot, I added enough chopped prosciutto ((you could do pork belly here - I think it would be fab!) or do up some fancy salmon) to the pan and tossed around until it got crispy. I dropped the lettuce halves on the hot grill and left them for maybe 2 minutes, enough to get some charcoal marks and a bit of that smoky BBQ taste on the greens, but not enough to wilt the things. And assembled right there, beside the BBQ. Half head of lettuce, crispy prosciutto, barely-cooked peas, and drizzled on that dressing. It was pretty dang good. Enthusiastic thumbs up from my little.
Bon appétit, mes amies. And thanks to Katie at Riddlelove for the inspiration. I was sure there was a ranch recipe in the Nourishing Tradition book…