I’m so happy it’s the weekend!! And it’s a long one too. Happy Independence Day, Malaysia!
I love the weekends, and I usually use the free time to be in the kitchen to cook or bake, but that’s just me. And after the bombardment of the long work week, I won’t feel like eating meat since meat can be very inflammatory, so I will make myself very vegetarian or vegan dishes. A salad, if it is a particularly hot day. People don’t get how I can be satisfied with eating a salad as a meal, but when a salad is well made I really feel full and that good type of full, without the lethargy that comes with eating heavy carbs and meat dishes. It’s important that the salad is not just leaves and dressing, as it should have a good amount of protein to keep you going.
Protein is so important to keep your body healthy as they form the vital building blocks of nearly everything from your tissues to enzymes and hormones.Unlike carbohydrates and fat, our body doesn’t store protein so we need to keep a steady intake to maintain a healthy body. Out of 20 protein amino acids, we need an external supply of 9 of them. Most plant-based proteins provide only part of these 9, so you usually have to take a combination of them to get what you need although quinoa, pumpkin seeds, chickpeas and black beans are actually sources of complete proteins. You really don’t need animal protein at all.
Lentils are low in calories and packed with protein at 18 grams per 1 cup of cooked lentils. There are a couple of varieties, and I use black/green ones here as it cooks with a bit more bite. The red/yellow ones, usually used in dhal, just goes soft and mushy. Great for dhal, not so great for salads. In addition to the lentils I add buckwheat since I’m on a buckwheat craze, both sweet or savoury. I can’t find the resources but both should be providing a different set of amino acids.
Whenever the cheaper kale comes in stock, I am such a happy camper and will grab myself a couple of bunches to last me the week. Kale is a healthy eater’s best friend. It is an absolute powerhouse vegetable packed with nutrients, high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Kale is also a great source of manganese, calcium, potassium and iron. It is a superb detox vegetable and can even lower cholesterol, especially so when it is cooked via the steaming. Since it is a rather tough leaf, it’s not too bad an idea even before eating it a salad to lightly steam it for a couple of minutes, then let it cool before continuing with the recipe. You can also just massage it gently with olive oil for about a minute to break down the fibres slightly.
For a salad that is quite hardy on the vegetables I thought a creamy dressing would go along very well with it. I always wanted to try a tahini-based dressing that I’ve seen recipes for all over. Tahini is a paste made from sesame seeds, another great ingredient providing you with loads of copper, magnesium, calcium, iron and zinc – really good for the health of your bones. Tahini is really nutty and creamy, which goes very well with the rest of the salad.
As I was assembling, I felt like I wanted to add something a little sweet-sour, and I so happened to have a pomegranate and I love pomegranate seeds in my salads. Absolutely love. What I like to do is get all the seeds out of the fruit and keep it in a container in the fridge to sprinkle on yoghurt, oats or salads. And needless to say it is an antioxidant crazy fruit, just look at all that red colour, it just has to be good for you! I’m really happy I went for it because it really brought the whole thing together.
- 2 large handfuls kale (1 per person. This was about one medium sized bunch for me)
- drizzle of olive oil
- ⅓ cup green or black lentils (uncooked)
- ⅓ cup buckwheat
- 1 handful cherry tomatoes (maybe about 10-12 tomatoes)
- ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds
- Tahini dressing:
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 clove garlic
- juice of half a lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Chop the garlic, then stir together the dressing ingredients. Set aside.
- To cook the lentils and buckwheat, measure them out into separate pans and add one cup of water to each (1:3 ratio). Bring to a boil, then let it simmer till all the water is absorbed. Both the lentils and buckwheat will still have a bite to it when they are done. Take off the heat and set aside to cool.
- As the lentils and buckwheat cool, prepare the kale. Wash well and tear off the leafy bits from the tough stems into a bowl - save the stems for juicing, don't waste them! I usually leave the stem in at the tip because that's soft enough to eat. In this salad, I just drizzled a little olive oil on the leaves and massaged the leaves a little bit to break them down. Set aside.
- Chop up the tomatoes and deseed the pomegranate. Throw everything into a big bowl and mix well with the dressing. You can keep it in the fridge for up to a couple of days if not eating straightaway. Serve and enjoy.
EDIT: Just occurred to me to mention that as kale is still a new vegetable in our markets, it might not always be available and the imported ones are a bit costly so look out for the local Cameron Highlands one at Ben’s Independent Grocer. You can use baby spinach leaves in it’s place and it will still be delicious. Don’t need to do anything to the baby spinach since it’s a delicate leaf, just toss it in with the rest of the ingredients. It also won’t be as hardy as the kale version, so won’t keep as well.