Friday, October 31, 2008

Salads for One: An Exercise in Simplicity

Food prep for one is a delicate art. Since my lovely partner is still in Adelaide, I've been on my own at mealtimes lately. And while making food for little ole' me doesn't exactly inspire me to get elaborate in the kitchen, I also don't want to neglect my sense of gustatory pleasure. I deserve a nice meal alone just as much as with a companion - perhaps even more so since the dining experience is just me and the food, sans conversation. On the other hand, I honestly can't be bothered spending too much time making something when nobody else is there to oooh and ahhh over my creative genius with me. I suppose that's what the blog is for: the technological solution to the old conundrum of "If genius occurs in a forest, does it make a sound?"

The other problem with food prep for one is that I can only stock a limited amount of ingredients, since I am mentally allergic to throwing food away (I can still hear my mother's voice saying "wasting food is like throwing money in the garbage"). The answer to these two problems? The three S's of raw food: SEASONALITY, SIMPLICITY, AND SALADS!

My definition of salads is quite broad, and can generally encompass a wide range of whatever I happen to have in the refrigerator. For example, recently I thought I had nothing much to make a meal out of in the house. But I managed to make the following absolutely fantastically satisfying concoction out of a few fresh ingredients, and it was one of the best and most original meals I've had in ages. Absolute proof that necessity is the mother of invention.

YUM! Those are cos (romaine) lettuce wraps with fresh paw paw, avocado, ground linseed (flax), tahini, and dried shredded coconut. Fantastically balanced and nutritious (omega 3's, anyone?), not to mention a perfect contrast of textures and flavors. I ate these sitting outside in the sunshine in my garden. This photo is only 2/3 of my meal - I'll admit I ate one before I had the presence of mind to take a photo. I was hungry!

The next salad was inspired by the gorgeous Thai green mango I found at the Queen Victoria markets. If you've never had a green mango, you simply must try it. They are longer and thinner than normal mangoes, and eaten when they look green and unripe outside. The flavor is much more tangy-tart, similar to tamarind, and crunchier in texture. Lots of crisp asian greens, some creamy avocado, a gorgeous spicy almond dressing, and a generous topping of fresh coriander complimented this exotic fruit perfectly. Yes, I made lots of noise eating this salad - I just can't suppress my sighs of pleasure over a good meal.

Another tasty treat: quinoa tabbouleh! Based on a recipe from Matthew Kenney's Everyday Raw, this one takes a little more prep but is still pretty simple. It also makes enough for about three meals worth, so I've been taking it to work for my lunch. The only time-consuming task here is soaking quinoa overnight, but really all that this requires is thinking 24-hours ahead. The fresh flavors of tabbouleh - lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, mint, tomatoes - marry so beautifully with germinated quinoa, a wonder-grain from the Andean region of South America. Did you know that quinoa contains 12-18% protein, a balance of all essential amino acids, is high in fiber, and is gluten free? I am always amazed by how many people ask me, "but how do you get protein?" First of all, most people eat way too much protein, which interferes with absorption of other nutrients. But regardless, there are lots of plant foods that are full of protein if one is just a little bit creative. Quinoa also has a wonderful nutty flavor, and is a great and easy grain to sprout.

Here are the recipes, all designed to serve one. Use them as a starting point for creating your own free-form salads with whatever you have on hand.

3 large outer leaves of cos lettuce
1/4 red paw paw, cut into large dice
1/2 ripe but firm avocado, cut into large dice
1/8 cup flax/linseed, ground in coffee or spice grinder*
good drizzle of tahini
handful of dried shredded coconut

Rinse, dry, and arrange cos leaves on a plate. Divide paw paw and avocado cubes among the lettuce leaves. Sprinkle with linseed, drizzle with tahini, and top with a sprinkling of dried coconut. Dig in!

*Linseed (aka flax in America) must be ground rather than eaten whole, because the outer hull is too hard for the body to break down, so this nutritional powerhouse will simply pass through your system if it is not pre-ground. Grind it up to get all that omega fatty acid goodness!

1 bunch of bok choy, roughly chopped
1/2 small cucumber, julienned
1/2 small carrot, julienned
1/2 Thai green mango, julienned
1/2 ripe but firm avocado, sliced
1 big handful of bean sprouts
1 small handful of pea shoots
1 few sprigs of fresh coriander, chopped
Spicy almond dressing (recipe follows)

Place chopped bok choy in the center of a plate. Top with julienned cucumber and carrot, mango, avocado, bean sprouts and pea shoots. Drizzle with dressing and sprinkle fresh coriander over the top. I dare you to eat this without sighing with pleasure!

1 handful germinated almonds
1 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp tamari
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
2 tsp honey/agave
1 small Thai chili
small knob of grated ginger

Combine all ingredients in blender or food processor. These are kind of approximate measurements - when I created this dressing, I kept adding and tasting until it seemed right to me. I follow a wonderful little piece of advice that I read in Victoria Boutenko's 12 Steps to Raw Food, which is this. Your dressings/soups/recipes should contains 5 elements: sweet, salty, spicy, sour and bitter. When making this dressing, keep tasting and asking yourself, is it sweet enough? Is it sour enough? Etc., until it tastes just right to you.


1 cup quinoa, rinsed and soaked for 24 hours
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 large lemon, or 1 small
1 tsp sea/himalayan salt
1 cup diced cucumber
1 cup diced tomatoes
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup minced fresh mint

Drain quinoa well and place in a large bowl. Add diced cucumber, tomato, parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Toss well, and taste. Adjust seasoning if you wish. In the original recipe, Matthew adds minced red onion, but the taste of raw onion is too strong for me. I think spring onion would be lovely if you want some onion flavor but less strong. You can eat this immediately, but I think it's better if you leave it for a while to let the flavors mingle.


Debbie Took said...

What wonderful salads! We don't have paw-paw in the UK. I'm assuming it's a different fruit from papaya?

Jessica Loyer said...

Hi Debbie!
Actually paw paw is just the Australian name for what is called papaya in the UK. There is another completely different fruit called pawpaw which is native to eastern North America (which is funny because that's where I grew up and I've never come across it).
Glad you liked the salads.

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