May is here! Which means that summer is just around the corner, along with an abundance of goodness at our local markets. Artichokes are abundant, asparagus is ready to be picked, and my favorite, the mighty avocado is in peak season. Peas and beans are fresh for the picking, as well as early season cucumbers and zucchini. Lots of green goodness around! On the fruit front, early apricots are just coming available, and with strawberries hitting their peak, there is an amazing combination to play around with on any fruit or crumble.
This month’s recipe, Crispy Quinoa Salad with Kale, Lemon, Avocado, and Spiced Onions, is a bit of an ode to not only all the goodness of what is in season, but also highlighting the almighty avocado. We are so lucky to have this heavy hitter around much of the year in California, where they can often reach up to $8 each in other parts of the world. We should have much appreciation for the abundance of this amazing fruit. We hear every day that avocados are especially good for us but what makes this so? First off, and perhaps most obvious, is the fat. Yes, for those still hesitant, some fats are not only essential, but so good for us. What makes the fat in avocados especially good is they are packed full of monounsaturated fatty acids, which is what a lot of the research around the benefits of the Mediterranean diet is about. More and more articles are coming out, proving the benefits of these fats—good for everything from lowering insulin resistance and inflammation, to helping you loose weight and protecting you against heart disease. If that doesn’t convince you to add more of this nutrient dense heavy weight to your diet, the high amount of beneficial vitamins and minerals might! Avocados are packed with Vitamins C, E, K, B vitamins, as well as folate, magnesium and potassium. The same amount of avocado contains more potassium than that of a banana, with zero sugars and 16 grams of fiber (a banana has 6 comparatively). Not bad!
Anyhow, enough nutrition information for one day as what many would argue most important is, how delicious can we make something that is so nutritious? There are many ways to make fresh, in season, fruits and vegetables taste so good and this month’s recipe is one. And, quite honestly, it is one I can’t get enough of. It is packed with complete protein from the quinoa, as well as deliciousness, and texture. Kale is another nutrient heavy hitter and when massaged with lemon juice and/or olive oil, and a pinch of salt, just 30 seconds, most of the bitter compounds are broken down, resulting in an amazing, slightly cooked texture, with still just enough crunch, and great flavor. Sumac is a great spice in this salad and one of my favorites that I always have on hand in the pantry. It is a great addition to so many dishes, as it adds a slightly lemon, acidic, element that results in a fresh flavor that is quite insatiable. This salad goes together real quick and even quicker if you pre-soak or pre-cook the quinoa beforehand. Putting it in the oven for just 20 minutes transforms it, adding great crunch, as well as another layer of flavor. The salad can easily make for a perfect meal, be it for brunch or dinner, with a poached egg, or two. Enjoy it and take note you may feel extra topped up with goodness after.
Crispy Quinoa Salad with Kale,
Lemon, Avocado, & Spiced Onions
Makes 4 servings
For the Quinoa:
1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed
2 tsp sumac
2 T olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
1 lemon, juiced
For the Salad:
2 large handfuls baby kale leaves (or chopped larger kale leaves)
2 lemons, juiced
2 T olive oil
½ tsp sea salt
1 large avocado, peeled and diced into 1cm pieces
Handful of fresh parsley, minced
For the Caramelized Spiced Onions:
1 large red onion, peeled, cut horizontal, then in half moon slices
3 T olive oil
2 tsp garam masala
½ tsp sea salt
To cook the quinoa, place quinoa in a large enough pot and cover by 1 inch of water. Bring to boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes. Drain well. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with baking paper. Sprinkle with sumac, olive oil, and salt and bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown and crispy. Remove from oven and set aside.
To prepare the salad, place the kale in a large bowl with lemon juice, olive oil, and a pinch of sea salt. Get your clean hands in there and massage the kale for a good minute and watch it transform to dark green, full of flavor. Add remaining quinoa, avocado, and parsley, giving it a good toss.
For the caramelized spiced onions, place a good cast iron over high heat with 2T olive oil. Once hot, add onions and let cook without stirring for a couple minutes, until brown on the bottoms. Stir and cook for another 5 minutes. Add garam masala, salt, and remaining 1 T olive oil, turning heat down and cooking for a couple minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
When ready to serve, lightly toss kale salad with spiced onions and top with crispy quinoa.