Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Oil-Free Sweet Lemon Tahini Salad Dressing

Greek salad.... oh how I have always loved Greek salad.  The crisp romaine, salty/fruity Kalamata olives, pungent onions, summer-ripe tomatoes and refreshing cucumbers.  I love Greek salad.   Traditional Greek salad dressing is usually extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and/or red wine vinegar, garlic and oregano.  Several months ago, I spent a good amount of time searching for a suitable oil-free vegan Greek dressing or something close.  No dice.. nada, zilch.  I couldn't find anything that even remotely interested me.  While coming up with this dressing it hit me that it would be a great dressing for a Greek salad.  This dressing is quite a departure from the traditional, but what a wonderful combination of flavors it is.  In my normal true form, I snuck in, brought my own dressing to a restaurant last weekend and ordered Greek salad, sans the feta cheese of course.  I might have had an out-of-body experience.  This was delicious!  I know the chickpeas sound a bit odd as a salad dressing ingredient.  Thanks to Healthy Girl's Kitchen and her Caesar dressing for the inspiration on this one.  Chickpeas make an incredibly creamy dressing, provide fiber and protein, while not adding unwanted fat.  The dressing does not taste like chickpeas.  The lemon and tahini are the predominant flavors.  The flavor is bright with lemon, the texture is velvety-smooth and altogether enlightening!  The nice thing about this dressing also is that, at least for me, the ingredients are all staples in my kitchen.

Now I'm going to step onto my soapbox for a moment for a word about lemons.  Is there a National Lemon Board or something?  I'd happily do a free endorsement for them because of my love of lemons.  They are by far my favorite citrus fruit.  The flavor of lemon brightens and enhances so many foods.  Lemons are not only wonderful as a predominant flavor, but also as a seasoning or flavor booster.  A squeeze of fresh lemon juice in many bean dishes, soups, stews, sauces and dressings is the crowning touch to really bring out the flavors.  Try it some time when you feel your dish just needs a little more oomph.  But please , please, please - I beg of you - DO NOT use bottled lemon juice!  There is no comparison to freshly-squeezed juice.  Just as I previously spoke about using fresh nutmeg rather than the jarred crap product, the same goes for lemons.
What a pretty picture I found when searching for free lemon images, huh?
Regarding fresh lemon zest - be careful not to grate too much off the whole lemon.  Use only the outermost part that is bright yellow.  The pith, which is the white part of the lemon rind, is bitter.   You do not want that.  The outer yellow portion is where the lemon oil is and carries most intense flavor of the lemon.  For recipes with a predominantly lemon flavor such as desserts and dressings, I almost always add the zest of the lemon also, whether the recipe calls for it or not. 
Here is the recipe:
Oil-Free Sweet Lemon Tahini Salad Dressing
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, undrained
1 tablespoon lemon zest (zest of 2 lemons)
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of about 3 lemons)
6 tablespoons tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
5 large pitted Medjool dates (or 8-10 small dates) - or other sweetener of choice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
Add all ingredients to blender and process until smooth. 

I did the nutrition analysis based on a 1/4 cup serving.
That might be a little generous, but if you eat giant salads like I do, I think 1/4 is reasonable.  There really is no need to skimp on the dressing. Use as much or as little as you like!  If you are like me - pour it on!

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