Inspired by Olive Garden’s version of salad, here’s my take on an Italian Salad with some variations. Lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and pickles/gooseberries/mango ginger come together in a colorful and delectable melange, that is just a perfect accompaniment to your summer lunch meal!
Ingredients (serves 4):
- Iceberg lettuce (2 cups – coarsely chopped or torn)
- Cucumber (1/2 cup – cut into cubes)
- Tomatoes (1/2 cup – cut into cubes)
- Pickled cucumbers (1/2 cup – cut into bite sized pieces) (see * below for ingredients to replace this)
- Coriander or parsley leaves (1 tbsp – finely chopped)
- Lemon Juice (1.5 tbsp)
- Salt (to taste)
- Sugar (1 tsp)
- Olive oil (1 tbsp) (optional)
- Black pepper powder (3/4 tsp – freshly powdered)
* Instead of the pickled cucumbers, you can use Indian gooseberry (amla – 1 or 2 should suffice), which is rich in Vitamin C and a great digestive aid. Lightly cook the amla in salt water, cut into small pieces and add to the salad when cool. Another great option is mango ginger strips (1 heaped tbsp) that have been marinated in salt and lemon juice. Please note that both these ingredients are power houses of health in Ayurveda, but have an acquired taste, so add a little bit at a time till you get used to them.
- Layer the vegetables in a salad bowl.
- Add lemon juice, salt, sugar, oil (if using), pepper and toss well.
- Adjust tastes as necessary.
Sweet (lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes), sour (pickled cucumbers/amla/mango ginger, tomatoes, lemon juice), salty (salt), bitter (coriander or parsley leaves), pungent (pepper, mango ginger – if using), astringent (coriander or parsley leaves, lettuce, cucumber).
Lettuce is cooling, light and refreshing for pittas, especially on a hot summer day as part of lunch. The black pepper, lemon, salt dressing helps vatas and kaphas to digest the raw vegetables better. Cucumbers are again very good for pittas. They are a great thirst quencher, especially during summers, help with reducing blood pressure, aid kidney function and detoxifying the blood. Coriander leaves are cooling in nature. Tomatoes are strongly acidic, sour, pungent and sometimes irritating to the digestive tract. They are also considered part of the nightshades family and are not good for people with joint problems or pitta aggravation in the digestive tract. Tomatoes are not advised in Ayurveda since they are considered to cause toxin build-up and heat. But the controversial tomato is also considered cooling for the blood in the raw form, so a little in salads in summer is okay. Gooseberry or amla is considered the world’s richest source of Vitamin C. It is also great for pitta pacification. Amla has numerous health benefits like blood cleansing, detoxification, strengthens lungs (kapha pacification), cooling the body (pitta pacification), good for skin and hair, and boosts the immunity. Mango ginger has good digestive properties and mixed with lemon juice and salt works as an appetite stimulant as well. It is great for kapha pacification, reducing cough, asthma and boosts metabolism. But it does have some pitta aggravating properties due to the heat association and needs to be consumed in small quantities by pittas. Lastly, since most of the ingredients are raw, this salad should be consumed in small quantities by kaphas and vatas especially. Pittas with strong digestive power can have generous portions of the salad as part of a healthful, balanced meal, especially on a hot summer day for lunch.
Largely sattvic if made fresh with mild seasonings and no dominant sour, salty and pungent tastes. Pickled cucumbers are slightly rajasic in nature and can be replaced with the more healthful amla or mango ginger. Stale ingredients or storing the salad for too long and using it after refrigeration will increase tamasic qualities in the salad.