I’m one of those people that genuinely enjoy a mouthwatering, crunchy salad – one that comprises of more than just an ‘insalata mista’ packet, cherry tomatoes, and a tablespoon of quinoa. I’m talking about a nutrient dense salad that not only tastes good, but looks good too. After all, we eat with our eyes first, right? Which means it is unquestionable that whatever we are eating looks good to eat.
Salads unfortunately don’t have the best reputation in the food industry. Many may consider them to be bland and boring to eat, lacking in colour and flavour which in turn results in eating something which you’re not too happy to eat – something you’re eating for the sake of being healthy. Theare is also the idea that you’re likely to feel dissatisfied and it won’t be long until you reach out for that tub of peanut butter and wiping it clean (don’t worry, we’ve all been there before!).
Don’t be fooled by the salad section when dining out. Most salads are burdened with meat, cheese, and unnecessary oily dressings which easily add up the calories and saturated fat content. Opt for a salad with leafy greens, grilled vegetables, and avocados, and ask to have the dressing on the side.
Salads can really put you to the test when it comes to creativity, flavour pairings, and presentation. I love them because I can add whatever I like, however, it’s important to keep your cool and not go crazy by adding 10 different things. This can end up being harsh on your digestive system, and cause gas or bloating. It’s best to keep it simple. For the base I always add some romaine lettuce and local rucola. An essential component of all salads should be leafy greens, and these include spinach, kale, chard, and mustard leaf. These dark leafy greens are high in chlorophyll, magnesium, antioxidants, iron, protein, calcium, and other minerals and vitamins which are vital for one’s wellbeing. If you find they’re too tough to eat raw – especially kale – I suggest that you wilt your greens, rather than cook them.
Wilting basically means giving the greens some extra TLC (tender loving care) and a five minute massage with some good quality salt and olive oil to make it softer and easier to digest. This only takes a few minutes and this process retains all of the amazing nutrients and minerals which your body will just love! You’ll know that your leafy greens are wilted when they feel softer and would have shrunk in size.
An avocado is always a good idea. You can either slice it or mash it up with some lemon juice, mustard, cayenne pepper, and tahini… and you have yourself a healthy dressing which not only tastes good but is also a fantastic source of healthy fats, calcium, fibre, and vitamin K.
Now to add some colour – raw veggies not only make the plate look aesthetically pleasing, but also add more nutrients to your dish. Try and work with local and organic produce. Get your hands on some asparagus (which is in season at the moment), low in calories, and a great source of folate which is a cofactor of DNA synthesis, antioxidants, and B Vitamins. Broccoli, carrots, leeks, celery, green peas, and broad beans are also blooming during spring time!
Want to go that extra mile? Why not spiralise some carrots, zucchini, cucumber, or beetroot?
If you’re not a fan of the raw veggies, lightly stir fry your vegetables in coconut oil or sesame oil. My favourite combination would be carrots and bell peppers cooked in sesame oil with lemon, cumin seeds, and a teaspoon of natural agave syrup or some baked sweet potato. YUM!
Hey what about protein? For those who want to bulk up their salad, the choice is endless. You can soak seeds or nuts the night/ a few hours before and sprinkle them onto your salad. This process releases the phytic enzymes which makes the nutrient in the nuts/seed more bioavailable and easier to be digested. You can also add some boiled lentils, beans, or gluten free grains like quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth or millet.
TIP: Choose just one source and don’t go crazy by adding all beans, nuts and seeds. Even though they are all considered to be healthy, adding them all to one plate can cause bloating and be harsh on the digestive system. Less is more!
Summer is just around the corner meaning salads and fresh food is even more enjoyable! Adding cucumber or celery for the extra crunch and hydrating element always helps too!
Now for some recipes. I put together a basic green salad with sauteed oyster mushrooms. This is topped with salad dressing and carrot and beet slaw. Carrots are great source of beta carotene, vitamin A and B6. Beetroots are a great source of folate and glycine betaine which can lower homocysteine levels and promote a healthy cardiovascular system.
1. Wilt the kale and spinach as explained earlier on and add a teaspoon of the umeboshi plum paste.
2. Mix everything together.
3. Heat up a non-stick pan.
4. Melt the coconut oil and add the garlic.
5. Add the rest of the ingredients and saute until the mushrooms are soft, but do not overcook them.
6. Place the salad into a bowl.
8. Add the beet and carrot slaw and the sauteed mushrooms.
9. Drizzle a tablespoon of tahini over the mushrooms and a teaspoon of sesame seeds or flax seeds over the whole salad.
10. Add as much of the ‘Ultimate Green Salad Dressing’ as you wish! You can also add half an avocado or half a cup of some boiled buckwheat or millet.
© 2018 – VIDA Magazine – Martina Camilleri