Friday, October 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Co-op column: Go ahead and toss up a healthy dinner

By
From page A5 | September 19, 2012 |

For September, I had planned to write about Hot Dish, those lovely, simple and oh-so-economical casseroles that are so welcome in the cool and busy days of fall. Since we’re on day 14 of a string of 90 degree days as I write this, however, it makes far more sense to turn to another lovely, simple and economical supper, the main dish salad.

The nice thing about big salads for dinner, aside from the glow of virtue for eating a healthy meal, is that most of the work can be done ahead of time. Washed and torn lettuce stores well right in the salad spinner in the refrigerator. Grains can be cooked days in advance and chilled, as can proteins like bacon and hard-boiled eggs. Salad dressings keep well, and hard vegetables like bell pepper and carrots can be chopped and stored for up to five days. With a little advance prep, main dish salads can be on the table in just a few minutes.

Be flexible about your salad ingredients! If there’s a bargain at the Farmer’s Market or grocery store or a bumper crop in your garden or from a friend, use those vegetables in your salad instead of being set on a particular recipe. Don’t restrict yourself to traditional lettuce-tomato-cucumber style ingredients. Lightly sautéed summer squash is a delicious salad ingredient, as are cold cooked green beans. If you have the grill going for dinner, throw a few extra vegetables on, then chill them for salad the next day.

A good, basic big dinner salad doesn’t really require a recipe. Pile nicely washed and torn greens on a plate and top with small amounts of several different vegetables, cooked or raw according to their nature. Add protein in the form of leftover cooked meat or tofu, a hard-boiled egg, canned fish or beans. Toss in a little starch — cooked grain, croutons or bread and butter — and top off with toasted nuts or seeds, olives or dried fruit for extra yumminess. Salad dressing can come from a bottle, or be mixed fresh to your taste. If you’d like inspiration, here are three salads that are often the starting point for dinner at my house.

This recipe is based on one developed by Rae Gouirand for a Davis Food Co-op cooking class. Quinoa is a complete protein, and a great base for a salad. Without the avocado, this recipe does beautifully in the lunch box.

Quinoa and corn salad with pumpkin seeds
serves 4
The ingredients:

1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
sea salt

4 cups cooked quinoa (~ 1 1/2 cups dry, recipe below)
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
3 scallions, thinly sliced (including green parts)
(1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced, optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 medium head lettuce
2 medium tomatoes, cut into wedges
1 ripe avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Putting it together:

Whisk together dressing ingredients and let rest. Mix cooled quinoa, corn, red pepper, cucumber, scallions, jalapeno and cilantro in a large bowl. Add 1/2 cup dressing and salt to taste; mix to combine.

Divide lettuce between 4 plates and mound quinoa mixture in center of each. Arrange tomato, avocado and lime around quinoa on top of leaves. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over salad. Serve immediately or hold for a little while at room temperature (to enhance the flavors) with remaining dressing.

Basic quinoa recipe
Always rinse quinoa before cooking it — otherwise it will taste bitter. To rinse, add quinoa to a large bowl of water, swirl it around with your hand or a spoon, allowing the grains to rub against one another. Pour the water out and repeat until the water is free of cloudiness, then pour the quinoa into a sieve and allow it to drain.

Bring one part quinoa and 1 1/2 parts water to a boil, reduce heat and simmer on very low for about 15 minutes. Let stand a few minutes and fluff with a fork.

____

This is a standard at my house whenever there’s too many cherry tomatoes. If you don’t care for avocado, simply use a creamy dressing that you do like!
BLAT salad
Serves 4 as a main dish
The ingredients:

8 slices bacon
4 cups torn lettuce
4 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
4 cups fresh croutons (below)
6 basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
Avocado dressing (below)

Putting it together:

Wash lettuce and tear into bite-sized pieces.
Heat a large skillet. Use scissors to cut the bacon into 1” pieces. Cook until crisp. Reserve. Remove most of the fat from skillet, leaving around 1 tablespoon. Return to medium heat. Add tomatoes, cut side down — they should sizzle a good bit. Cook over medium heat 3-5 minutes. When tomatoes have cooled slightly, add to salad bowl along with bacon, onions, croutons and basil. Toss well and dress. Serve at once.

Creamy Avocado Dressing
The ingredients:

½ of a ripe avocado
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon honey or rice syrup
any sort of milk
Putting it together:

Mash avocado with 1 tablespoon oil, salt, lemon juice and rice syrup until smooth. Slowly stir in just enough milk to make a pourable dressing. Serve at once.

Tasty croutons
The ingredients:

8-10 slices day old bread
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic granules
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Putting it together:

Cut bread into cubes. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium low heat. Add garlic, oregano and salt. Toss in bread and stir to coat, adding more oil as needed. Continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until light brown. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to five days.

____

This is more of a special occasion dish, since salmon is a bit pricey.
Pan-Asian salmon salad
serves 2 as a main dish
The ingredients:

1 teaspoon minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon oil
1 clove garlic, minced
4 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 teaspoon honey or rice syrup
6 oz salmon fillet
2 cups bean sprouts
6 cups shredded lettuce
juice of 1 lime
1 tablespoon nut butter

Putting it together:

Mix vinegar, soy sauce and honey together. In a non-stick pan, sauté ginger and garlic in oil until fragrant. Add green onions and cook another minute. Add vinegar mixture and bring to boil. Add salmon, skin side down. Cover and turn heat to low. Cook 10-12 minutes, depending on how you like your fish. Flip salmon to coat with pan juices, then remove from pan and let cool. Add bean sprouts to pan, cover and cook 2 minutes. Remove cover and let cook until sauce is slightly reduced, 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Mix lime juice and nut butter. Toss lettuce with nut butter mixture, then make two nice thick beds on serving plates. When salmon and sprouts have cooled a bit, remove skin from salmon and check for any bones. Top greens with sprouts, and then with salmon.
— A new menu is available free of charge every Friday afternoon at the Davis Food Co-op, 620 G St. Back issues also are available. Email Julie Cross at jcross@davisfood.coop

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