I like my salads to be packed full of a variety of ingredients, all adding flavor, texture and balance to the dish. With summer right around the corner and corn making its debut appearance at farmers markets, I’ve been making a variety of salads with a southwestern flair lately. My roommate and I have noticed that it can be a challenge to find a good salad in this city, one loaded with flavor and complementing ingredients. We were throwing around salad ideas the other day, and I was inspired to make this one to share with you all. Corn was what inspired it all and then the other ingredients came together. Creamy avocado is the perfect addition to just about any salad, black beans add substance and protein, add some flavor and punch with cilantro and jalapeno, and a little crisp with some red quinoa and you have yourself quite the salad.
When adding color and texture to a dish, the nutritional complexity is also naturally enhanced. It’s actually quite simple to create a nutritionally balanced meal when playing with colors and textures... nature does all of the work for you. Here are the components that I’ve chosen to add to this salad, and a little about their value when it comes to your health.
red quinoa As a complete protein, quinoa provides your body with all of the essential amino acids that it cannot manufacture on its own. Quinoa is naturally gluten free, is a good source of dietary fiber, and is high in magnesium, phosphorus, calcium and folate (Vit B9).
black beans Black beans are high in protein and fiber, low in fat, and rich in several essential vitamins and minerals. The nutrients in black beans have shown to reduce blood cholesterol, maintain normal blood sugar levels and prevent chronic disease.
corn Corn is high in sugar, but it is a great addition to dishes like this to add natural sweetness. It is a whole grain, but should be eaten in moderation because of it’s high sugar content. Because corn has become such a mainstream industrial crop there is a high chance that you are getting a genetically modified variety, so choose organic. Plus, you’ll be able to tell the difference; fresh, organic corn is unbelievably sweet, crisp, and refreshing.
avocado The Avocado is rich in monounsaturated fat, but don’t let this stop you from enjoying them because monounsaturated fat is a healthy and beneficial fat. Monounsaturated fats have been linked to health benefits such as lowering the risk of heart disease, reduced risk of certain cancers, and lowering cholesterol. Avocados are a healthy source of the carotenoid lutein which is attributed to healthy eyesight as we age and vitamin K which is important for healthy blood clotting. It is also a source of antioxidants including vitamins E and C, and vitamin B6, a water soluble vitamin that boosts the production of antibodies by the immune system and helps to maintain nerve function and the formation of red blood cells.
cilantro, jalapeño & garlic Adding herbs and spices to your foods is always a good idea. They add loads of flavor and are generally packed with essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Their intense flavors generally correlate to their intense nutritional value. Garlic is a prime example of this. Garlic is a superfood that has been used by cultures around the world as a medical food for centuries. The compounds found in garlic have powerful anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties. Recent research has also found a correlation between garlic consumption and iron absorption. A protein, ferroportin, is needed to create a passageway for iron to cross cell membranes and garlic has been shown to increase the bodies production of ferroportin. Garlic is one of oldest cultivated crops, its cultivation dates back over 5000 years. Although the flavor may be a bit harsh in some dishes, it is important to eat garlic in its raw form when possible. This dressing (and dressings in general) provide an excellent opportunity to enjoy the pungent spice that garlic adds when eaten raw.
yogurt I sometimes forget how wonderful yogurt is as a base for dressings and dips. With its active cultures, yogurt is beneficial for a healthy digestive system. When buying yogurt, choose organic to ensure there is no rbST (bovine growth hormone), no antibiotics and that the dairy cows are fed organic feed.
makes 2 large salads (and possibly some leftovers)
- 2 large handfuls of greens (i choose kale, but arugula or crisp romaine would also be great)
- ½ c red quinoa, cooked
- 1 ear organic corn, cut off the cob
- 1 c black beans, cooked
- 1 avocado
- ½ red bell pepper, small dice
- red onion, sliced thin to garnish
- tangy cilantro & jalapeño yogurt sauce (recipe below)
Cook quinoa according to box directions. (I started with ¼ cup of quinoa and a little less than 1/2 cup of water. I add more as needed as I want the quinoa to add a crunch to this salad, and it can be easy to overcook quinoa resulting in a mushy product.)
Cut corn off the cob (then use the back of your knife to scrape the cob and to get all of the goodness out of the germ of each kernel). Heat a medium pan, add a few drops of oil, and saute corn with salt and pepper until golden. Remove from heat.
Dress greens with the dressing and pile on your plate. Top with remaining ingredients, adding more dressing if desired.
Tangy cilantro & jalapeño yogurt sauce
- 1, 6oz organic plain greek yogurt
- ½ jalapeño, with seeds
- 2 T nutritional yeast
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- ½ c cilantro, packed
- juice of 1 lime
Roughly chop jalapeno and garlic. Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until a smooth consistency is reached (30s-1min). Add salt to taste (and more jalapeno if you like a little spice!)
Store extra sauce for up to a week in your fridge. Enjoy as a dip with vegetable or with eggs for breakfast as I did. For a vegan version, try my cashew jalapeño cream.