Monday, June 18, 2012
Meatless Mondays - main dish salads with grains
Now that it's summer, I like to serve main dish salads for dinner on the patio. When we were in Hawaii, I ordered a salad at a restaurant and it had quinoa tossed in with the greens. It sparked an idea! Instead of meat as the protein, why not throw in protein-rich grains, seeds, or legumes like quinoa or lentils?
I also recently had a yummy southwestern lentil salad from the Whole Foods salad bar and I wanted to experiment with lentils. I don't know about you, but I wasn't accustomed to cooking with them much. I have come to learn that they are quite nutritious - they contain about 30% protein, and have fiber, folate, and B vitamins (if you sprout them they are even MORE nutritious). And, if you add in some brown rice, you will have a complete protein. I have been enjoying the convenience of the cooked lentils from Trader Joe's (in a box, in the fridge section by the salad greens), and I just purchased some dry red lentils to work with.
Pictured above is a super easy salad made with brown lentils. The ingredients are:
-chopped baby kale (love this; found it at Whole Foods - in a large plastic box by the other salad greens)
-pre-cooked brown lentils (TJ's)
-diced red bell pepper
-chopped fresh cilantro
And I think brown rice, chopped red onion or scallions, and some sunflower seeds would be an improvement. This was an afterthought :-)
The dressing was simply lime juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a little cumin & chili powder.
Basically, if you have "greens and a grain" you can pretty much add anything, and it's hard to go wrong! Last week we had some ripe nectarines, so I made basically the same salad adding those, some nuts, and dried fruit. I like to make a fruity balsamic vinaigrette for salads with fruit.
If you have small children, you're probably wondering how this could be eaten by them for dinner! Instead of tossing the ingredients into a salad, I would suggest deconstructing it and putting little piles of each of the ingredients onto a plate - and let little fingers serve themselves. It's good for kids to actually taste each food by itself anyways. Or a small bowl with lentils, brown rice, and some very finely chopped greens tossed in (something that can be eaten with a spoon) would work as well. If it's still not enough, just add some cheese chunks or an apple/banana with a nut butter!
Enjoy being creative with your summer salads!