It’s a good bet that anyone who has been vegetarian for any length of time has been presented by a waiter with more than one limp-looking bowl of iceberg lettuce. This nutritionally-sparse offering usually comes with a thin slice of tomato, a little shredded carrot, maybe a slice of raw red onion, and, if we’re really lucky, a cucumber slice or two. For ovo-lacto vegetarians, sometimes shredded cheese and maybe a half a hard-boiled egg are also included. Because that’s what vegetarians like, right?? Not any of the vegetarians I know!
As a result, I for one am not a huge fan of salads. There are just so many more interesting things to cook and eat! There are two ingredients that will always interest me in a salad, though: 1) avocado, and 2) a really good dressing. Avocados fill in nicely for dairy and egg, I think, in both creamy texture and the satisfaction you get from a little fat (although of course avocado fat is a “good fat,” a fact of which I have to remind myself).
I found a really good dressing at Trader Joe’s the other day — Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette. Don’t let the jalapeños listed on the label scare you, it’s not terribly spicy, just enough to give a salad some flavor.
The other ingredients in my supper salad:
Trader Joe’s Baby Arugula Blend
cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 avocado, sliced
handful of marinated baked tofu cubes
Baking and marinating tofu gives it the flavor of whatever you’ve marinated it in, plus a pleasant, chewy texture (but not too chewy, ala the rubbery texture of frozen and thawed tofu). Press drained, sliced tofu for 20-30 minutes, then mix with marinade (in this case, my new favorite Trader Joe’s salad dressing), and spread in a single layer in a metal or glass pan. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 30-40 minutes, turning about halfway through baking.
This has got to be one of the prettiest salads I’ve ever made, and the fresh parsley is what makes it so visually appealing. It tastes fresh and tangy and very much like spring! I have this salad every time I go to my favorite Middle Eastern restaurant, which sits unostentatiously in a run-down strip mall (don’t all of the best restaurants??)
As a teenager, I worked for a Palestinian family in their (now long-closed) sandwich shop, and developed a taste for Middle Eastern food in general and falafel in particular. Unfortunately, I haven’t yet figured out how to make falafel that doesn’t fall apart in the frying pan… 😦 Fortunately, I CAN make Jerusalem Salad — and with fresh pita bread, kalamata olives, and dolmas from the Mediterranean market, it’s an easy meal.
The dressing recipe makes much more than you’ll need for this amount of salad, but it keeps for several days in the fridge — and you might want more salad…
If you’ve never had occasion to buy tahini, you’ll find it at Middle Eastern or Mediterranean markets and some health food stores. It’s crushed sesame seeds made into a paste that’s nice and creamy for dressings.
I was told at my Mediterranean market that my jar of tahini would keep for a year in the fridge… I’m doubting that, but am willing to bet that it will keep longer in the fridge than in the pantry! Lemon juice bleaches the tahini in this recipe, so it’s an almost white dressing. It also makes a great dip for falafel, and is an essential ingredient in homemade hummus.
1 medium or large cucumber, diced
2-3 small tomatoes (Romas work well), seeded and diced
1 handful fresh parsley, chopped
4 Tbsp tahini dressing
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup Tahini
¼ cup water
5 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
Combine cucumbers, parsley and tomatoes in a bowl. Add tahini dressing and pepper and mix. Chill before serving. Enjoy!
Do you shop at ethnic markets? What is your favorite?
I have been eating a lot of fast food lately, and too much of that included dairy and fried stuff. So I wanted something light and fresh for supper — and something that would last a couple of days for lunch at work, so I can avoid said fast food!
Cannellini beans, a/k/a White Kidney Beans, have a very mild flavor and soft texture that makes them perfect for salads.
Kalamata olives and plain old black olives are my favorites… never been a big fan of green olives, so I wasn’t excited to spend money on them, let alone put them in a salad. However, don’t ever let it be said that I’m not willing to try things — these were very good chopped up in little pieces in salad!
I’m virtually incapable of following a recipe exactly — I always have changes to make and the directions portion is usually lost on me, as I follow my own directions (which are, on occasion, wrong and make a big mess)! So here’s the original recipe: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/white-bean-salad-2/detail.aspx
My version below:
2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 ounce) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/2 cup green olives, sliced
1 cup roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 ½ cup tomatoes, diced – I used some halved yellow grape tomatoes in the mix, which in addition to being sweeter than regular tomatoes, are prettier!
2 celery ribs, diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp dried rosemary
1 teaspoon garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
Stir together the beans, artichokes, olives, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, celery and green onions in a large bowl; set aside.
Whisk together the vinegar, Dijon mustard, parsley, thyme, rosemary, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Gradually pour in olive oil until well combined. Pour the dressing over the salad, and stir until all ingredients are coated. Refrigerate at least one hour or overnight before serving.
This recipe is the creation of my friend Donna, moderator and owner of Yahoo’s vegetarian_group: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vegetarian_group/. This group is so much fun – great recipes and wonderful, kind, generous, funny people. Also one of Yahoo’s Top 10 Groups — I highly recommend joining.
Depending on where you live, you might find nopales, an edible Mexican cactus, in a jar at Wal-Mart in the Mexican section. They are kind of tangy but very fresh-tasting. I have yet to make this with fresh nopales, but if you have a Mexican market near you and want to prepare them yourself, ask for “nopales limpios” — “clean nopales” (as in, cactus needles removed, and sometimes even cut into neat little strips). Here’s an interesting link to information on nopales and how to prepare fresh ones: http://www.desertusa.com/magdec97/eating/nopales.html.
1 cup chopped nopales
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup corn
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 – 15 ounce can of black beans, rinsed and drained
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
dash of red pepper flakes
1 or 2 squeezed garlic cloves
1/2 Tablespoon sugar
2 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
Mix all ingredients; pour vinaigrette over, chill at least 1 hour.
A new and exciting place for me to shop is my huge local Asian market. A large variety of produce, rice, beans, sauces, dried mushrooms are available — and three whole aisles of nothing but noodles! Japanese udon noodles have become a favorite, and they’re great in this dish. Even if you don’t have an Asian market near, soy sauce, seasoned rice vinegar, and sesame oil are easily found in most large grocery stores.
It’s very easy to make vegan Asian food, because tofu is a common ingredient, so it’s easy to leave the meat out. Asians don’t seem to eat a lot of dairy, either. The inspiration for this dish, however, was something I scooped up off the salad bar at Whole Foods recently – cool, tangy, sweet, and a little spicy, this is perfect for the 100+ degree F temperatures we’ve been having in the Midwest!
¼ cup seasoned rice vinegar ½ Tablespoon sugar ½ Tablespoon lite soy sauce ½ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced or julienned 8 ounces dried spaghetti or udon noodles, cooked ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped 2-3 green onions, sliced 2 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
In a large bowl, stir together rice vinegar, soy sauce, salt, sesame oil. Add cucumbers and cooked spaghetti.
Add red pepper flakes, fresh parsley and green onions. Chill one hour. Top with sesame seeds and serve.