On a recent trip to the farmers market, I picked up some pea shoots. I wasn’t really sure what I would end up doing with them, nor did it really matter at the time. It was all part of the fun of picking up as-yet-unexplored-by-me produce, and it’s what I look forward to every Saturday morning when I allow myself this $5 or less, single-item indulgence that often widens my culinary repertoire. And this particular Saturday, I was delighted to find a new bunch of greens to play with.
Although I’m generally not a fan of de-podded peas, I love snap peas in salads and stir fries. After tasting the pea shoots, I found their slightly crunchy texture and mildly sweet flavor more reminiscent of snap peas (thank goodness!). Having also picked up a daikon radish (regular radishes will also do) because the pea shoots cost only half of my $5 limit on indulgent farmers market purchases, I added that crunchy, slightly spicy root to the mix, and soon decided to use these veggies in their freshest, most flavorful form: raw.
Having embarked on this salad adventure, I wanted to add something healthy but with a little more heft, so I grated some raw sweet potato. That may sound weird if you haven’t tried raw sweet potato before, but trust me and the variety of raw root vegetable salads and slaws out there. As someone with major texture issues, I promise this one isn’t weird. But if you truly aren’t ready for that, try carrots instead to preserve the same beautiful orange color and a similarly sweet flavor.
I also added some cucumber and chopped cilantro – and while I find that cucumber contributes a lightness that’s wonderful in most salads and I think you can never go wrong with a small addition of fresh herbs, they are aren’t essential to this pea shoot and root vegetable-centric salad if you don’t have them on hand. (more…)
When I informed friends about my plan to exclude meat products from my weekday meals this month, I wasn’t surprised to get a lot of sarcastic “good luck with that” responses. What I didn’t tell them, and what you may have noticed from the “water saute” method I used in my vegan chard and potato soup, is that I’m also reducing my use of olive oil. I can only imagine their already-rolling eyes might have rolled right out of their heads if I had disclosed that. In fact, I think I can hear some of your eyes rolling around on the floor right now.
But I realized that, after years of being encouraged to use this “healthy oil,” I have become over-reliant on it. Whether making a vinaigrette for a “light” lunch salad, tossing kale leaves or chickpeas in it before baking them into crispy snacks, sauteing vegetables in it for a healthy side dish or a soup or stew base, or using it as an anti-stick agent when cooking fish and meat, I had forgotten that olive oil is still an oil, and a 120-calorie tablespoon here and there and seemingly everywhere really adds up.
In trying to reduce my olive oil intake, as well as sugar, I’ve realized that blending fruits into a salad dressing adds the “fruity” element typically added by olive oil without the calories and fat. Bananas are particularly great because they make the dressing sweet and creamy at the same time. But a pure banana dressing would be a bit too sweet, so I added jalapenos, ginger, cilantro, and lemon juice to cut the sweetness with a spicy kick, fresh herbal flavor, and acidity.
The resulting dressing is packed with flavor and nutrients, and tastes creamily sweet with a delightful zing from the jalapenos and the ginger. And you can use as much as you want on your salad because, guess what?? No oil! With this healthy combination, you can drink the entire 2/3 cup of dressing for a mere 130 calories. (more…)