When I informed friends about my plan to exclude meat products from my weekday meals this month, I wasn’t surprised to get a lot of sarcastic “good luck with that” responses. What I didn’t tell them, and what you may have noticed from the “water saute” method I used in my vegan chard and potato soup, is that I’m also reducing my use of olive oil. I can only imagine their already-rolling eyes might have rolled right out of their heads if I had disclosed that. In fact, I think I can hear some of your eyes rolling around on the floor right now.
But I realized that, after years of being encouraged to use this “healthy oil,” I have become over-reliant on it. Whether making a vinaigrette for a “light” lunch salad, tossing kale leaves or chickpeas in it before baking them into crispy snacks, sauteing vegetables in it for a healthy side dish or a soup or stew base, or using it as an anti-stick agent when cooking fish and meat, I had forgotten that olive oil is still an oil, and a 120-calorie tablespoon here and there and seemingly everywhere really adds up.
In trying to reduce my olive oil intake, as well as sugar, I’ve realized that blending fruits into a salad dressing adds the “fruity” element typically added by olive oil without the calories and fat. Bananas are particularly great because they make the dressing sweet and creamy at the same time. But a pure banana dressing would be a bit too sweet, so I added jalapenos, ginger, cilantro, and lemon juice to cut the sweetness with a spicy kick, fresh herbal flavor, and acidity.
The resulting dressing is packed with flavor and nutrients, and tastes creamily sweet with a delightful zing from the jalapenos and the ginger. And you can use as much as you want on your salad because, guess what?? No oil! With this healthy combination, you can drink the entire 2/3 cup of dressing for a mere 130 calories.
Jalapeno-Spiced Banana-Cilantro Dressing
Makes about 2/3 c.
1 banana, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
1 lemon, juiced
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
1/4 c. fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped (substitute parsley if you prefer)
1 to 2 1/2 tsp. jalapeno, chopped
1/4 c. water
Blend all ingredients in food processor until smooth (start with 1 tsp. jalapeno, but add more to suit your preference for spiciness). Dressing will keep up to 5 days in refrigerated, airtight container, but you’ll need to whisk it with a fork to mix the banana froth back in!
Serve over Mixed Greens, Chopped Peanuts, and Farro Salad. Or add some vodka and club soda for a spicy-sweet cocktail.