Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Spinach and Bean Salad with Curry Vinaigrette

Today's post is a healthy one. (The kind of healthy that your body craves after a night out with friends, liters of beer, meters of sausage, unquantifiable amounts of spaetzle, and three kinds of fried meat.) And while that thrills me, the real reason I'm excited to share it is that it is also delicious and filling and springy. Greens are just around the corner here, which means our overwhelming, overflowing CSA boxes will start arriving in just over a month, so there will likely be more produce-centric recipes like this throughout the next six months. (Amidst the decadent dessert posts, of course.)

This salad is based on a recipe from 101 Cookbooks, a food blog first introduced to me by my friend Alicia several years ago, and now probably my favorite. I think the reason it's my favorite is that its creator, Heidi Swanson, appreciates a lot of the ingredients that I love and rely on most: legumes, greens, feta, avocado, miso, curry, fresh herbs, eggs, olive oil, and lemon. If you follow her blog regularly, you'll notice that these ingredients are frequent players in her super healthy kitchen, but her recipes don't seem repetitive or boring. She does an excellent job of using a finite array of healthy foods to make new, creative dishes over and over again. She's really quite inspiring to me - if you haven't consulted her website and you are interested in preparing simple, inexpensive, vegetarian meals, get to it!

I'm also excited to share this recipe because I got to use two kind of cool ingredients: Black Kabuli Chickpeas, which are available at our co-op and which taste just the same as regular chickpeas but are a little sexier; and Muchi Curry, which is sold in bulk at our co-op and which is a little sweeter and brighter than other curries I've had. It's a new staple in our home. (Stay tuned for Curry Tuna Burgers, which might be the best thing I've ever made!) The salad would be just as good with regular chickpeas, or any legume really, or with a darker or hotter curry, but I'm mentioning my specs here because I loved this salad just the way it was, and I feel like it is only fair to equip you, reader, with all the tools and tricks necessary to replicate it if you so desire.

Spinach and Bean Salad with Curry Vinaigrette
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks
Yield: about 6 servings

2 cups baby spinach
2 cups cooked garbanzo beans (or other beans)*
2 cups edamame (I used one bag of frozen, just cooked through and drained)
1 shallot, finely sliced (or 2 scallions would be fine, both white and green parts)
1/2 cup celery, chopped
2 tablespoons (or more) freshly chopped cilantro

Curry Vinaigrette**
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain salt
2 teaspoons curry (ideally Muchi!)
1 heaping teaspoon fresh grated ginger
juice of half a lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup olive oil

Layer the salad ingredients in the bowl in which you intend to serve the salad in the following order: spinach, beans, edamame, shallot, celery, cilantro. (Having the spinach leaves on the bottom allows them to catch the dressing so that none of it ends up wasted in the serving dish. The other ingredients wouldn't do as good a job catching.)

Using a mortar and pestle if you have one, or just a good, plain old fork and plate, mash the garlic with the salt until it forms a paste. Put the garlicky paste into a jar or measuring cup and add the remaining dressing ingredients. Shake or whisk until well-combined.

Pour about half of the dressing on top of the salad and toss gently. Add additional dressing and/or salt and pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature.

Notes: We were happy with just half the dressing and no additional salt or pepper, but I really like a lightly-dressed salad and my husband is too respectful of my feelings to add more, even if he thinks it is underdressed. The following day, when I wanted to eat leftovers, some of the dressing had been absorbed a bit, so I added a little more and tossed the salad with some alfalfa and onion sprouts and ate it cold and it was great. The third day, I added some yogurt to the remaining curry vinaigrette and used it as a condiment for tuna burgers.

* To cook dry chickpeas without soaking overnight, I do the following: cover beans in a large pot with twice as much water as there are beans. Bring to boil over high heat. Let boil for two to three minutes and then turn off the stove. Let the beans soak in the hot water for 2 hours. Drain the beans. Add them back to the pot with a new batch of water (enough to be about 2 inches above beans, which ends up being about same 2:1 ratio as before) and bring to boil. Simmer, covered, for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, or until chickpeas are al dente. (I'm not sure if al dente is an appropriate word to use when talking about legumes, but you know what I mean - nobody likes a mushy bean!) I think perfectly cooked (no pressure!) dry beans work best in salads, but well-rinsed, canned beans would probably be fine too. Even Heidi Swanson says so.

** What's the deal with "curried"? Why is that a frequently used word in recipes with curry? It's an ingredient, and I can't off the top of my head think of any other dish in which you make an ingredient a verb. Braised or scalloped or poached, sure, those refer to ways of preparing a dish, but egged or milked or basiled? No. Okay I just thought of one more example though: salted. Wait, two: buttered. Like buttered rum and salted caramel. I still don't like "curried" so much. Hence, "curry vinaigrette" rather than "curried vinaigrette."

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