Fresh

The season of fresh vegetables has arrived. Here is a wonderful way to use them indiscriminately.

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Summer Salad

yield: one entree-sized salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 t (1 clove) minced hardneck garlic*
  • 1/4 c romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 c arugula*
  • 1/4 c baby kale*
  • 1/4 c spinach*
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • 1 c chopped veggies (my favorites listed below with recommended amounts)
    • 1/2 large, deliciously ripe tomatoe
    • 1/4 pepper
    • small handful of peas
    • 2 T sprouts
    • 1/4-1/2 strong onion*
    • 5 mushrooms (i like to sauté these for a minute with just a tiny bit of oil, or else chop them really finely. same with zucchini and squash)
    • 1/2 small zucchini
    • 1/2 small squash
  • 2 T sunflower seeds
  • 3 T original hummus
  • + dressing*

Dressing

  • 1-2 T unfiltered oil
  • 2 t lemon juice
  • + salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • cook quinoa (1 cup uncooked with 1 1/2 cups water for about 20 minutes makes enough for some extra to use later)
  • cook any vegetables in a little oil, if desired
  • meanwhile, mince garlic and place in bottom of bowl
  • chop lettuces and add
  • chop any other vegetables and place over greens
  • sprinkle on the seeds
  • add quinoa to salad, once ready (about 20 minutes, or until little tails are unfurling from each grain and basically all the water has been absorbed)
  • dollop hummus on top
  • squirt dressing over all and enjoy

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Tid Bits:

My advisor through high school showed me what truly listening and caring looks like. After three years with me, he had listened and cared through many a long ramble of mine and was able to gift me one of the most wonderful, interesting, exciting books I have read in a long time. Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson is a fascinating read for food science nerds, which I think most of us are without even realizing. Going through each class of vegetables and fruits, Robinson clears up misconceptions, illustrates mind-bogling reasons behind how we cook everyday and shares some tips on how to treat plants with care and get the most out of them, nutritionally.

*Hardneck Garlic*   Hardnecks are distinguished by their, well, hard necks. You see, garlic grows underground and shoots up a stalk that takes in energy from the sun to enable it to grow. To tell the difference, hardneck varieties have a hard stalk coming out the middle, while softneck varieties have that flimsy clump of papery coating protruding from the top like an onion (softneck are more common, and probably what you have been buying…don’t worry i was too!). The reason this distinguishing characteristic is important, and why hardnecks are better, is that they are more closely linked to the original, wild garlic that grew before humans began altering food away from nutrition and toward better taste.

Garlic’s unique nutritional value comes from its most active ingredient: Alliicin. This is a cancer-fighting and blood-thinning magician, but is only created when garlic is chopped, pressed, chewed, etc. These processes are vital to introducing the enzyme, alliinase, and the protein, alliin, to each other, creating allicin.

One tip for cooking garlic is that if you chop it and immediately add it to heat, you kill most of the alliinase and prevent a lot of allicin from being produced. If you want the most out of your garlic, wait at least ten minutes before introducing heat and most, if not all, the allicin that has been created will have been in that time.

*Arugula, Kale, Spinach* Red, purple, and dark green leaves are the best. Sure, they are often the more bitter of the lettuces, but that is why you mix in equal parts romaine or iceberg and other toppings to disguise them (chopping them very fine also helps)! The reason darker colored lettuces are better is that they have the most phytonutrients. Anthocyanins are the specific type of phytonutrients responsible for the especially deep colors. They are antioxidants helpful in fighting cancer, lowering pressure of the blood, postponing age-related loss of memory, and countering the intake of overly sugary and fatty foods. Lutein is to blame for the dark green leaves (the second-best). Another antioxidant as well as a protector of eye health and fighter of inflammation, lutein-ful green leaves are pretty good as well.

In addition to the color of your lettuce, you want to look at (or know something about) the way in which it grows. If the leaves are closely bunched and wrapped around each other, the leaves all get minimal amounts of exposition to UV rays, meaning their leaves can slack off on producing protective phytonutrients. Looseleaf lettuces, on the other hand, have to produce many more phytonutrients because all of their leaves are exposed to much more UV rays and need the protection. When we ingest these leaves, we get all those protective nutrients–cool, right!?

*Strong Onion* The stronger the onion, the more likely it will be higher in antioxidant levels. Varieties such s Western Yellow and New York Bold are two of the best. Small onions are also more packed with phytonutrients and all are better eaten raw, if you can stand it (again, chopping them really finely into a salad, such s this one–i promise you won’t even notice they are there).

*The Dressing* Topping your salad right is actually vital to absorbing the nutrients in the salad, If you have a dressing with no fat, your body is unable to absorb most of the nutrients. Olive oil is the best fat to use, since it makes those nutrients available to your body very easily. Unfiltered olive oil is the best of the best because it has not been robbed of its bionutrients (unfiltered also keeps longer).The most simple recipe for dressing comes to me from the Greeks, through Robinson. With a layer of olive oil, a few squirts lemon juice and salt and pepper sprinkled over top, you will not miss the sugary dressings of your youth and you will be able to enjoy the bursts of flavors coming from the freshest veggies of the year!

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