I love when we start gravitating outdoors to enjoy our meals while taking advantage of the warmer weather. Barbecues with neighbours and luncheons with friends take precedence and the daylight extends to the evenings as we enjoy the warmth till dusk.
I’m all about combining some of your favourite foods with a few new ones… with twists on old stand-by recipes.
Try a variation of the ever-popular broccoli salad, one that delivers a delicious dose of vitamins, thanks to vitamin C-rich broccoli and apples, and vitamin B-abundant tahini and pecans. Broccoli is also a great source of fibre, and high in selenium and dindolylmethane, two cancer-fighting nutrients. Tahini packs a punch of calcium, and, along with pecans, is high in protein and a good source of healthy fats. (Pecans, in fact, are lower in saturated fat than any other nut.) Even red onions shine with their appearance in this salad, as one of the richest sources of chromium, a mineral that helps protect against diabetes.
Pasta salads usually make their way into the picnic basket, but swapping it for another grain is a great way to get familiar with new flavours. You are probably familiar with tabbouleh, a popular Lebanese dish featuring bulgur wheat, lemon and parsley. But switching the main grain for kasha (roasted buckwheat groats) gives a new twist with a toasted, nutty flavour. Kasha is rich in protein, with nearly six grams per serving and high in fibre (with, in fact, more than 20 per cent of the daily recommended intake in one serving). It’s also loaded with B vitamins, phosphorous, potassium, iron and calcium, making you wonder why you don’t eat it more often.
The other main ingredient in tabbouleh is parsley. Often used just as a garnish, we’d never think of parsley as a powerhouse, but it’s time you knew: parsley (especially in these quantities) packs in a significant amount of beta carotene and lutein, which protects the body from free-radical damage and preserves your vision.
The short version? Eat these. They are better for you than the stuff you can get at the grocery store in a plastic container. (Enjoy with some nori rolls and mango-strawberry smoothies!)
Broccoli Salad with Tahini Dressing
If you make it the night before, double the dressing and toss it again it right before you leave. If you’re serving it right away, this step isn’t necessary.
In the salad:
2 bunches of broccoli (4 to 6 stalks), cut in florets (I like cutting in the stems, too… but that might just be me. Or use it for this)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans
1 Empire apple, cut in bite-sized pieces
For the dressing:
2 cloves garlic
Sea salt to taste
3 tablespoons tahini (raw or roasted)
Juice from 1/2 a large lemon
1 teaspoon agave nectar, or to taste
Water, as needed
Put broccoli in a large bowl. Set aside.
With a mortar and pestle, or the back of your knife, mash garlic with a few sprinkles of sea salt, working it together until it becomes a paste.
Transfer to a bowl and add remaining ingredients, stirring until a creamy dressing texture is achieved. Add water as needed, and salt to taste.
Make sure your hands are washed. Pour dressing over broccoli, and using your hands, massage into the broccoli, getting into all the crevasses.
Add onion, pecan and apple, then mix to combine.
Traditional tabbouleh gets a twist with this version featuring kasha instead. Quinoa, wild/brown rice, and millet also are great alternatives.
2 cups water
1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat groats) (uncooked)
Sprinkle of sea salt
2 large tomatoes, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
1 large bunch of flat-leaf parsley
2 small lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring two cups of water to a boil in a medium-sized saucepan. Add salt and kasha, reduce to a simmer and cover, letting cook for about 13 to 15 minutes, until water has absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork and transfer to bowl. Allow to cool (place in the fridge, if necessary).
Once cooled, mix kasha in a large bowl with tomatoes, scallions and parsley. Toss with lemon juice and olive oil, with salt and pepper to taste. If you are making it the night before, test for seasonings the next day, as well as lemon flavour — you might find it mellows, and you’ll want to add some more.