Let’s take a little trip down memory lane, shall we? Today’s memory is gardening. It was prompted by the view from my bedroom window. This year’s garden is on its last legs. It happens every year – the sunlight grows a little less warm, leaves and vines become wilted and turn brownish.
This change in the seasons reminds me of how the whole process started. It jogs memories from the past and how early spring meant getting up extremely early (too early for a little kid to be up) and planting. Dad was the gardener in the family. My mom assisted here and there, but Dad was the one diligent about remembering to water and weed.
He’d have the soil turned in preparation for planting days. We’d use a long, skinny piece of wood to act as a guide for creating rows. Everything was orderly and space was capitalized on to get the maximum vegetable yield.
We started with the garlic and onions since they were bulbs – he’d remind me every time which end was the correct way to plant. Next was the seeds. He’d have specific requests of whether to scatter them liberally or sparingly. Looking back it was fun. He’d talk a bit here and there, but mostly it was about putting your head down and working diligently.
Beyond spending quality time with my Dad, my efforts had a purpose. Through my eyes, the crowning glory of the garden was strawberries. It didn’t matter which house we lived at, there was a special area dedicated to them. Usually along the sides of the garden (probably to prevent me from trampling everything). They were planted in long rows of mountainous dirt so they had room to extend their roots, without disturbing the rest of the soil.
The strawberries that grew were teeny tiny. Only a few at a time would be ready, but eating them was something of a religious experience. Their colour was deep red. The flavour was spectacular – sweet, yet made you pucker your mouth from the tartness. I’d want to pick them daily.
It’s been weeks since strawberry season ended, but this dressing is perfect for strawberries purchased from the store (fresh or frozen). Store strawberries are somewhat red, but not fully matured and still have a flavourless white halo near the stem.
You will be fooled into thinking this dressing is sinfully unhealthy. Nope. This is healthy. It is spicy, sweet, yet tart – the perfect balance. Bonus: it has cute little poppy seeds suspended throughout.
If you remember nothing else about making dressings, remember this: the magic ratio of oil to vinegar is 3 to 1. As long as you know that, you won’t need to consult a dressing recipe ever again. So, is the 3:1 ratio set in stone? Umm…actually NO. It really depends on the type of vinegar you may use – they differ in their acidity. You may also want a more tart dressing at times (like me) versus a milder one (more oil equals milder).
Now I know most people will suggest to whisk dressings. I have no time for that. I use a blender. Using your blender works great for dressings, because it emulsifies them really well. As with most dressings this gets better as it sits in the fridge.
Now this dressing can be used on anything within the “lettuce” family. However, sometimes I don’t want any lettuce in my salad. I want something different like shredded daikon and sliced avocados. This combination is easy, unexpected, and will make your soul sing. Seriously, you could prepare these ingredients blindfolded. (But don’t. I don’t want to be responsible for any knife injuries.)
Avocado & Daikon Salad with Raai Strawberry Dressing
1 cup fresh/frozen strawberries (leave whole)
¼ of an onion
4 cloves garlic
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
½ to 3/4 cup oil (any flavorless oil)
2 teaspoons raai seeds (black or yellow mustard seeds)
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon salt (more if needed)
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon amchoor (dried mango powder)
½ teaspoon ground chili powder
1 tablespoon black poppy seeds
2 avocados, thinly sliced
½ to 1 cup daikon, shredded
Combine all ingredients into a blender. Puree for a minute or two. Keep in a jar or container with a lid, and chill till ready to use. Keeps for 7 to 10 days (not really though, because you’ll eat it all before then).
Arrange avocado slices on a platter. Top with shredded daikon on top. Drizzle with Raai Strawberry Dressing. Sprinkle with additional poppy seeds if desired.