Thursday, August 7, 2014

One Great . . . peanut salad

Summer is the prime time for salads that are loaded with fresh produce. But the salad dressings can sink your healthful eating plans. If you want something creamy or high in flavor, that usually ends up involving things like mayonnaise, or actual cream.

Cookbook author Mark Bittman is usually a good source of recipes that balance deliciousness with nutrition. For several years now, he has been working on what he calls "VB6," or eating a vegan diet -- no meat or dairy products -- during the day while eating a wider variety of foods, including meat, at night.

Flipping through his new book, "The VB6 Cookbook" (Clarkson Potter, $29.95), I spotted this very flexible salad. If you make it with cabbage, it's more like a coleslaw, or make it with lettuce for something more like a chopped salad. What I really liked, though, was the dressing, which has plenty of flavor without packing in a lot of fat. You can vary it by swapping out the peanut butter for tahini or almond butter and swapping rice vinegar for lemon juice or even a champagne vinegar or white balsamic.

Peanutty Chopped Salad

From "The VB6 Cookbook," by Mark Bittman.

1/4 cup peanut butter (preferably all-natural)
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped into bite-size pieces
2 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
8 to 10 radishes, chopped

PUT the peanut butter, vinegar, salt and pepper in a large bowl with 1/2 cup water. Whisk until smooth.

ADD the remaining ingredients and toss until coated well. Serve right away.

VARIATIONS: Swap tahini (sesame paste) for the peanut butter and lemon juice for the rice vinegar. Or substitute 1 small head of green cabbage for the lettuce, skip the bell pepper and cucumber, and swap almond butter for the peanut butter.

YIELD: 4 servings.