Friday, November 8, 2013

Hold the croutons ...

The Bay City Salad at The Grotto. Oh, my!
And the Bleu Cheese Chips are GF, too!

I haven’t always been a huge fan of salad, but since my celiac disease diagnosis, I’ve discovered that I really enjoy it. People with CD or gluten intolerance are frequently forced to choose salad when dining out with friends, because nothing else on the menu is safe for them. (And beware! Even salads can be dangerous. I must nearly always have them modified in some way: no croutons, no Caesar dressing, no breaded chicken, etc.)

While some restaurants serve bagged salad mix—meh!—I am always excited to find places that serve new and interesting combinations, especially if they are accompanied by safe house made salad dressings. I could eat any one of my current favorites any day of the week. Here are some of my favorites, which can be found right here in Springfield, MO:

1.     The Grotto: (Located at 301 E. Battlefield Rd.) I have had the Bay City Salad several times with no problems. It consists of mixed greens, balsamic, sun dried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, red onion and walnuts. Amazing! They have several other salads, too, but I can’t resist this one, so I haven’t tried them yet.

2.     Big Whiskey’s: (Located at 311 Park Central East; 1440 W. Republic Rd.; and 1550 E. Battlefield Rd.) I almost always choose the Maple Apple Salad, which consists of fresh sliced apples, sun-dried craisins, toasted walnuts, sunflower seeds, and Gorgonzola cheese over fresh salad greens and served with a maple vinaigrette. They also serve a wonderful salad called Strawberry Hill: Sliced strawberries, toasted almonds, craisins, and sunflower seeds over fresh salad greens topped with grilled chicken and balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

3.     The Aviary: (Located at 400 E. Walnut) The Aviary Maison is so wonderful: young field greens, apple rounds, chevre, and toasted pignoles, dressed with apple rosmary balsamic vinaigrette. (You’ll have to tell them to hold the croutons.) The Aviary also has gluten-free crepes, and if it’s fries you’re craving, their Pommes Frites can be made gluten-free, and they’re served with a safe garlic aioli.)

4.     Panera Bread Company: (Located at 2535 N. Kansas Expressway; 500 S. National; 2924 E. Sunshine in Springfield, MO, with many locations elsewhere) Their Fuji Apple Chicken is my favorite, consisting of chicken, field greens, romaine, tomatoes, red onions, pecans, Gorgonzola, apple chips and white balsamic apple vinaigrette. You can get it with a fresh apple or GF potato chips on the side. I also order their Greek Salad, which contains romaine lettuce, tomatoes, feta, pepperoncini, Kalamata olives, pepper, and Greek dressing. They have several other salads that sound equally yummy, but that may require some modification. The problem with Panera is the danger of cross-contamination from all the bread, which is their specialty, so if you are super sensitive, you might need to skip this one.

If you don’t have easy access to these restaurants, throw these salads together at home, using the items listed above. You can easily find recipes for homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressings. Browse such websites as Allrecipes or Epicurious to discover interesting recipes that reflect your own taste. Since my taste runs to the sweet side, I’ve found a couple of wonderful dressings that I whip up all the time.

Maple-Balsamic Viniagrette

½ C. balsamic vinegar
¼ C. maple syrup
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 C. extra-virgin olive oil

Place vinegar, maple syrup, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a blender. Pulse to combine, and then add the olive oil in a steady stream with the motor running.

Honey-Mustard Viniagrette

1 T. honey
2 T. Dijon mustard
4 T. red or white wine vinegar
Carry serving-sized
dressings with you!
½ C. canola oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

Place vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper into a blender. Pulse to combine, and then add the canola oil in a steady stream with the motor running.

One other note about salad dressing:  If you eat out frequently, you might want to purchase your favorite salad dressings in serving-sized packets. (Or save the extra packets they give you at fast food restaurants!) You can almost always order a plain salad, and having your dressing with you will ensure that you don’t have to eat it undressed. Yuk!