If you can’t decide what to eat, why not make a dish with a little bit of everything? Leftovers and odd ends from your fridge are welcome to join this party. Is there half of a cucumber lying around? Great! Shred it in. A funky, overripe tomato? No problem! Some cooked quinoa or rice leftover from yesterday’s dinner? Hi. Nice to meet you. Get in the bowl!
This dish couldn’t be simpler.
It is a shame that salads have a reputation as lifeless or boring. The easy solution is including a variety textures and flavors. And a flavorful dressing drizzled over the lot makes the act of eating a pile of vegetables truly enjoyable. Take this dish, for example: Crunchy grated carrots and beets, soft and silky zucchini, fresh tomatoes, fluffy and chewy quinoa, dense kale, snappy peas, creamy dressing, flakey chilis, and spriggy dill fronds. Each forkful grabs a different combination of ingredients, making every bite varied and exciting.
Recently, I made a variation of this dish and brought it along to a potluck. Halfway through the meal, the salad bowl was empty! Since when were raw vegetables the popular choice amidst a cornucopia of potatoes, pies and pasta? Dumbfounded, I asked the group what happened? ‘‘It was so pretty,’’ a friend remarked. ‘‘All the colors in their little piles!’’
Since then, I have served most salads this way: Deconstructed. It is my favourite presentation hack. People love seeing what goes into their food and being the master mixer of a dressing. It offers a level of control — amidst a world of hydrogenated Frankenfoods — that feels empowering. Luckily, this culinary ‘‘hack’’ actually requires less work than normal. Simple… don’t mix the salad! Voila. Gourmet.
After everyone oohs and ahhs, and you capture an Instagram snap, feel free to mix all the ingredients into a saucy vegetable confetti. The salad won’t become soggy like lettuce-based alternatives, as vegetables like carrots, beets and zucchini respond well to a generous soaking time. Moreover, I encourage you to throw whatever bits and bobs from your fridge or pantry into the salad. Some welcome additions could be tofu cubes, cooked edamame, diced red pepper, sprouts, sunflower seeds. Be creative and follow your taste buds.
The dressing — Creamy Cashew & Dill — is a great example of how to make vegan food dairy-like. Cashews, unlike other nuts, do not need to be pre-soaked before blending into a creamy texture. (Although it helps, soaking is not a mandatory step). Hemp seeds offer a creamy nutritional boost in the form of essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, magnesium, and iron. Fresh lemon juice is always a good idea. And anti-inflammatory spices, like turmeric, don’t hurt either.
Overall, this dish is great for intuitive cooks because it exercises an “a little of this, a little of that” philosophy.
CONFETTI SALAD RECIPE
(serves 2 — double or triple mixture to make a party bowl for a group)
- ½ cup dried quinoa
- ¼ cup frozen green peas
- 1 carrot
- 1 raw beet
- ½ zucchini or cucumber
- 4-5 stalks of any kale (green, dinosaur, etc.)
- Chili flakes
- Any extra seeds, sprouts and other such ingredients you like
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot. Add your quinoa and reduce to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes, covered with lid. Bring pot to a boil once again and add the frozen peas. Reduce to simmer and cook 5 more minutes, covered. When the liquid is fully absorbed, fluff the quinoa and peas with a fork and let cool.
2. Use a cheese-grater or spiralizer to shred the carrot, beet, and zucchini or cucumber. Dice the tomato into small cubes. Discard their seeds and juice if you don’t like the texture. Remove the kale leaves from their woody stalks, roll up, and slice thinly into long strands.
3. Place ¾-1 cup of quinoa and peas per person in the bowl. Arrange the vegetables in separate piles around the quinoa. (Add any additional ingredients you fancy). Drizzle over the creamy cashew and dill dressing. Sprinkle with chili flakes and garnish with dill fronds.
4. Mix all ingredients together before eating.
CREAMY CASHEW & DILL DRESSING RECIPE
- 1 handful of cashews
- 2-3 tablespoons of hemp seeds
- A handful of fresh dill
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 1 clove of garlic
- ½ teaspoon of curry or turmeric powder
- A dash of cayenne pepper
- Salt & pepper
- 1/2 avocado
1. Add everything except the avocado and water to the blender. Once the ingredients are inside, add enough water fill ¾ the volume of the ingredients. Puree for a long time into a very smooth paste.
2. Add a little more water, if need be, until you have a thick dressing consistency. Check for flavors and adjust seasonings if necessary. A little more lemon? A little more cayenne? You are the boss.
3. When you are happy with the flavor, blend in the ½ avocado until extra smooth and creamy.
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