Saturday, June 06, 2015

Nutrient-Rich Salads That Fill the Plate—and You

Nutrient-Rich Salads That Fill the Plate—and You

Limp lettuce begone! Today’s supercharged salads are so much more than leaves. A riot of rich color, flavor and crunch, they’ve moved from starter to main course

By Aude Lagorce in the Wall Street Journal

HOW THE HUMBLE SALAD has grown. In chic eateries sprouting up on the gentrifying edges of every European capital and at family dinner tables from Paris to Prague, the salad is finally casting off its supporting role for a bright solo career.
Out go decades spent as an uninspiring starter or, worse, dull palate-cleanser following an overindulgent main course. In comes a new age in which a riot of pulses, grains, roasted veggies and toasted seeds take center stage on our dinner plates.
In Europe, this is a food trend that—whisper it—originated in the U.K., where chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi (of “Plenty” cookbook fame) and River Cottage’s Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall have put vegetables and herbs at the heart of their cooking. Via inspirational cookbooks that contrast starkly with the utilitarian vegetarian bibles of the 1960s and television series glorifying the use of unpretentious yet underused ingredients like endive or fennel, these chefs have enticed a growing number of home cooks to swap Sunday roast for salad.
The success of this renaissance can partly be put down to semantics: What these chefs call a salad is so much more than leaves. In fact, the greenery no longer makes up the bulk of the dish. Under its new guise, the salad consists of layers: a base of either a grain or pulse for bulk and energy, then fresh or spiced-up roasted vegetables for nutrients and flavor, and last a sprinkling of toasted nuts and seeds for crunch. Aromatic herbs and tasty dressings complete the seductive picture.
It hasn’t hurt that efforts to reboot the salad have coincided with the zeitgeist. In recent years, the message that consuming less animal protein may be better for both our health and the environment has reached a broader audience, thanks in part to books like Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals” and documentaries with catchy titles like “Forks Over Knives” or “Vegucated.”
In Paris, Jean-Charles Carrarini, owner of the Rose Bakery mini-chain, was one of the pioneers of the idea that even the French might be ready to occasionally swap their blanquette de veau for something lighter come lunchtime. While the café he opened with his wife, Rose, more than a decade ago found almost instant success serving their trademark carrot salad, veggie-centric quiches and sweet treats to hungry-for-change Parisians, he has also run into some obstacles. Making salads that are interesting, nutritious and substantial is both costly and time-consuming. “Offering good salads is a very expensive thing to do,” he says. “It’s easier and more profitable to cook a piece of steak with a side of potatoes. That’s why the people who are creating the sort of salads we are talking about are still few and far between.”
For many home cooks, it’s the perceived fiddlyness that holds them back. But with a little planning—cooking grains and pulses at the weekend, roasting a big tray of vegetables that can feature in several dishes, keeping a jar of homemade dressing in the fridge—the enterprise can be greatly simplified. Cooked beans and grains will keep in the fridge for three days and in the freezer for two to three months.
With most of the prep work out of the way, weeknight cooking will be a cinch. Happy chef, happy guests. And, perhaps best of all, happy waistlines.
Active Time: 15 min | Total Time: 1 hour | Serves: 4
500g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-cm cubes
1 tbsp ground cumin
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Maldon salt flakes
180g pearl barley
100g feta cheese, crumbled
70g rocket
60g pine nuts
1 lemon
1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Shake sweet potatoes in a Ziploc bag with the cumin, 2 tbsp of olive oil and a sprinkling of salt flakes. Spread on a baking tray and roast until cooked through—45 minutes to an hour.
2. While the sweet potatoes are baking, bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add some salt and the pearl barley. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 45 minutes or until the grains have lost most of their bite. Drain and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, mix the barley, sweet potatoes, feta cheese and rocket.
4. In a small pan over medium heat, toast pine nuts for 5 minutes and add to the mix.
5. Make the dressing: Combine 4 tbsp of olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt to taste.
6. Dress salad and serve at room temperature.
Active Time: 15 min | Total Time: 2 hours | Serves: 4
400g cherry plum tomatoes, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
300g puy (or dark green) lentils
60g almonds
200g smoked tofu, cut in small chunks
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
1. Preheat oven to 160°C. Place tomatoes cut side up on a baking tray covered with aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and salt. Bake until caramelized but still moist, no more than 90 minutes.
2. Rinse the lentils in cold water and drain. Place in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. You may need to top up the water.
3. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the almonds for 5 minutes. Slice thinly.
4. Make the dressing: Mix mustard, 5 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
5. Mix the warm lentils with tomatoes, tofu, scallions and almonds. Top with dressing and serve warm.
Active Time: 45 min | Total Time: 45 min, plus marinating overnight | Serves: 4
400g chicken breasts
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lemon
200g quinoa
40g pumpkin seeds
10g fresh mint
10g fresh cilantro
200g full fat Greek yogurt
1 medium zucchini, finely sliced
1 fennel bulb, sliced paper-thin
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1. The night before, place chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag with minced garlic, 2 tbsp olive oil and 3 tbsp lemon juice. Marinate overnight.
2. Rinse quinoa and cook according to instructions.
3. Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large pan. Salt the chicken and fry until nicely colored and cooked through. Cut into strips.
4. In a small pan over medium heat, toast the pumpkin seeds until colored, about 5 minutes.
5. Make the dressing: Blitz the mint, cilantro and Greek yogurt with 2 tbsp olive oil and 2 tbsp of water in a food processor. Your dressing should be runny. Add more water if necessary. Salt to taste.
6. Assemble the quinoa, chicken and vegetables a bowl. Top with pumpkin seeds and dressing, and serve at room temperature.
Build Your Own
Simple guidelines to create
the salad of your dreams
Choose from two families:
1. Grains: faro, quinoa, pearl barley, orzo
2. Pulses: black beans, lentils, chickpeas
Add vegetables
1. Roasted vegetables: pumpkin, sweet potato, parsnips, peppers, fennel, zucchini, red onions, broccoli, cauliflower, leeks
2. Fresh: blanched green beans or snap peas, mesclun, kale, avocado, rocket
Finish with some protein
Smoked tofu, feta, fried halloumi, grilled chicken, flaked poached salmon
Throw in some toasted nuts
Sliced almonds, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds,
sunflower seeds, walnuts

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