Chef Oonagh’s version of a ‘Life Alive’ restaurant salad

Chef Oonagh's Version of 'Life Alive' salad


Life Alive look-a-like ginger nama shoyu dressing.


There are lots of look alike recipes on the internet for this basic dressing/vinaigrette from the Life Alive restaurants in Lowell, Cambridge and Salem Ma. I tried one that was heavy on the tamari/soy sauce and included tahini. Far too salty, didn’t taste like dressing from the restaurant and was dark brown in color while theirs looks almost white. I then made this one, it tastes good to me, and we both enjoyed the taste. Most recipes include a large amount of raw garlic and I have never noticed an overpowering taste of raw garlic when I’ve eaten at Life Alive, haven’t had raw garlic taste in my mouth all day or garlic repeating on me. They say ‘selecting local ingredients wherever possible for flavor, health and ecology, our organic produce is delivery fresh daily’. So I’m sure that they use fresh garlic, not powdered or jarred.

This only makes about ¾ cup so enough to experiment. Remember a look alike recipe will never taste identical since we don’t know exactly what ingredients and what proportions were used and commercial ingredients usually differ from what we can buy in the store. Plus when you make it, your taste for salt etc will be different from mine. Use it as a base and go from there, but enjoy. Don’t substitute garlic powder or ground ginger for fresh garlic and ginger, it just doesn’t taste.



1 tbsp (15ml) of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped.

2 small garlic cloves, peeled.

1 tsp (5 ml) soy sauce or tamari (gluten free soy sauce – I use San-J brand low sodium)

1 tsp (5ml) lemon juice – fresh of course, not bottled.

1 tsp (5ml) sesame oil – optional if you don’t have it in the pantry and makes a darker colored sauce

½ cup (120ml) olive oil

1 tsp (5ml) honey



I peel and crush my fresh ginger and garlic and freeze them flat in ziploc bags and break off pieces as I need them. As a rough rule, most recipes quoted twice as much ginger as garlic in their versions.

1. Put ginger and garlic in clean coffee grinder, or vitamix and chop to a fine paste if you can. I use my immersion blender for such a small quantity but it doesn’t go totally smooth when you start with finely chopped ginger and garlic.

2. Add tamari, lemon juice, sesame if using, honey, pepper and olive oil and process until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. I found with low sodium tamari sauce I did need to add some salt. Plus realize that a sauce tasted on a spoon or fork is far stronger than the sauce mixed with quinoa, veg etc.



Either ½ c raw quinoa cooked or another time I cheated and bought a ‘seeds of change’ 8.50 oz bag of ready cooked quinoa and brown rice and keep quinoa hot. (available in Costco, Whole Foods and Hannafords) Contrast of hot grains and cold veg is wonderful.

1 small, raw zucchini or summer squash, washed, trimmed and cut into thin slices on a mandoline so slices drop straight onto the bowl of hot cooked quinoa.

2 small raw carrots, peeled and chopped small or shredded

½ small head of raw broccoli, including stalks, cut very small.

1 cooked beet, peeled and cut into small dice. There are cans of cooked beets in brine available, I love fresh beets.

I added some fresh sweet corn as well, mentioned in another salad.

1 hard boiled egg – optional

cubes of avocado – optional

cashews – optional.

feta cheese – optional, my husband’s choice


1. Layer ingredients in order listed on large plate or wide but shallow bowl. Drizzle with ginger nama sauce. I used about ½ cup sauce in total, it’s not overpowering but adds lovely flavor to everything. My picture shows this recipe which divided onto two plates then feeds two of us generously.  And my husband who definitely likes his meat is very happy with this meal.