Two Years Ago: Baked Italian Sandwiches
This salad is a great example of clean eating that won't make you feel deprived even though it's vegetarian. The secret is the variety of tastes and textures: juicy tomatoes, creamy avocado and beans, toasty quinoa, and crunchy corn and pepitas. There's so much going on that you'll never miss the meat, I promise. The crunch factor is key, and the surprise ingredient is freeze-dried corn which is my newly discovered favorite. The corn is dried with no additives or other ingredients, and it's naturally gluten, dairy, wheat and nut free. It's very light and crunchy with a naturally sweet corn taste and is very low in fat and calories. It makes a great snack but I particularly like it on salads because of its color, flavor and crunch. You can find it in bags (or possibly a plastic container) in the produce aisle of your upscale grocer or natural foods store.
Note that the quinoa needs to be cooked and cooled for this salad, so you might want to start with that or cook it in advance. After that, you just shake up the vinaigrette, chop a few things, and assemble. Fast, easy, delicious, and healthy!
Mayan Quinoa Salad
For the sherry vinaigrette:
1 medium shallot, minced
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
½ cup uncooked red or white quinoa
1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
½ cup freeze-dried corn*
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup pepitas (roasted salted pumpkin seeds)
2 cups slivered cherry tomatoes
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
For the vinaigrette: stir shallot, vinegar, lemon juice and mustard in a small bowl and let stand for at least 15 minutes to blend. Gradually whisk in oil (or shake in a jar to combine). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Prepare the quinoa according to package directions and let cool.
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit, then score the flesh in a crosshatch pattern with the tip of a knife. Using a large spoon, scoop the chunks into a small bowl and toss with the lemon or lime juice to prevent browning.
To assemble the salads, place each ingredient decoratively in strips on the plates with complementary colors next to each other: avocado, tomatoes, quinoa, spinach, beans, corn, and pepitas. Garnish with cilantro leaves and drizzle with vinaigrette, passing extra vinaigrette at the table.
*Note: you will find freeze-dried corn in a bag or package in the produce aisle with other dried vegetables.