Early in September, my husband was given the swing shift at work. Besides the obvious subtraction of time we have to spend together, after seven or so years cooking for Nathan most nights of the week, I just haven’t been making many dinners lately. I knew to expect this change as we knew a swing shift was a possibility, but I didn’t really know how it would feel.
I’m a bit sad; I love to cook, I love to try new recipes, but most of all, I love enjoying food with Nathan as we catch up or share about our days. He is an enthusiastic and adventurous eater of all my experiments, raves over the successes and even praises the failures, and his zeal makes cooking even more fun for me. Have you ever cooked for someone who doesn’t really care about food? Takes the fun out of it, right? Nathan makes me feel like a Top Chef.
I’m funneling my enthusiasm for cooking into our packed lunches in place of our sit-down dinners. Sunday afternoons, after Nathan has left for work, I spend some time in the kitchen breaking down vegetables, soft-boiling eggs, pan-frying chicken, cooking some grains and washing greens. These short hours of work make packing lunches such a breeze the rest of the week. I’m forced to become more creative, which is a challenge I embrace, and as the weather turns cooler, I am transitioning our salads from farmer’s market fresh fare to roasted root vegetables and hearty greens.
Packing salads for lunch is my long-time standard, but I’m proud of this dressing especially. It’s inspired by a store-bought yogurt salad dressing that I love, honey mustard actually, but is just too expensive to justify (as healthful prepared food seems to often be). Making my own made a lot of sense.
I think this yogurt dressing is wonderful with its balsamic, garlicky kick complementing earthy kale greens, sweetly roasted butternut squash and the nuttiness of quinoa. In our lunches it has beautifully dressed peppery roasted rutabega, grains such as farro or wild rice, jewely-crimson roasted beets and fresh or caramelized cauliflower as well. It’s great smeared on a sandwich with shredded carrots and fresh arugula, too.
And unlike a balsamic vinaigrette, which can be abrasively acidic to my tastes, it is creamy and lush with my fave salad dressing components such as shallot and Dijon. Roasting the garlic mellows its harshness and coaxes out some of its sweet flavor, while chopped fresh herbs bring a wonderful brightness to this tangy Autumn dressing. These salads pack a lot of nutrition into our lunches, while still feeling like we’re eating together — separately, yes, but enjoying the same meal. It’s those little things these days. Enjoy!
Balsamic and roasted garlic yogurt dressingyields almost 2 cups Garlic is easily mashed into a paste in a mortar and pestle if you have one, but if you don’t, carefully smash the soft roasted cloves into a paste with the broad side of a knife. Don’t feel like you’ll need to turn the oven on to roast a few cloves of garlic — I do a few in their papers on a dry skillet, over medium heat with a lid set ajar, cooked just until nearly blackened in spots. Perfect.
- 3 cloves roasted garlic, smashed into a paste
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- scant 1 tablespoon molasses or honey
- 1 small shallot, minced
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- salt and pepper
Whisk all ingredients together, season with salt and pepper to taste. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to five days.