It’s been unseasonably warm on the West coast lately. We’ve been having beautiful, spring-like weather for about 2 weeks now (I feel bad that everyone else in the nation is freezing to death), and though I love it, it worries me. But rather than go into my tirade about the global climate crisis, I thought I would share a recipe that can best be described as early spring in a bowl. It’s gorgeous, colorful, delicious, and ridiculously healthy.
I’ve adapted this recipe from my favorite salad at a local restaurant here in Midtown. The first time I had this I thought I’d reached some sort of superfood nirvana, hence the name. Quinoa, berries, pepitas, beets, fresh greens, acai berry dressing…… I doubt I’d gotten this giddy over a superfood dish since that macrobiotic plate of deliciousness that I had at the Monterey Music Summit in 2007. Instead of acai berry dressing, I decided to make more of a winter berry vinaigrette with strawberries & blueberries and a little bit of acai berry juice. I added sliced kiwifruit for color and zip, and not finding pepitas anywhere, I’ve thrown in sunflower seeds. This is not a conventional salad but still really tasty.
You’re probably wondering how something so healthy with all sorts of quirky ingredients could possibly be affordable. I’m sure many of you have noticed that the food industry is good at marking up health food and keeping most junk reasonably priced, making it easier to eat fattening, processed foods (which a huge contributing factor to the nation's obesity epidemic, but again, I digress. Sorry, I woke up on the socially conscious side of the bed today!). However, it is extremely easy to get affordable, healthy produce at your local farmer’s market, and that’s exactly what I did to make this salad for about $4 per person, versus the $9 I’ve had to pay for my own serving. Might seem a bit high for a salad, but keep in mind that this is meant to be an entrée, not a side.
Here’s the breakdown on the ingredients: The greens cost $1.99/bag at Trader Joe’s and the frozen blueberries $2.29, also at TJ’s. The beets were about $1/can. I buy my quinoa in bulk and that usually translates into roughly $0.75/cup of cooked quinoa. I also purchased my sunflower and flax seeds in bulk and paid about $0.50 & $0.75/quarter pound, respectively. From the farmer's market I got strawberries, $3.50/basket; kiwis, $1/bag of 10 (!!!); the acai berry juice was about $2.50 at the co-op; vinegars & oil were free since they were already in my pantry. You can see that even if you were to use every ingredient in the amount you purchased, you would still come up with an inexpensive meal.
Some things to note: If you can’t find kiwis right now you can omit them; I know it can sometimes be hard to find exotic fruits in certain areas. The same thing goes for the berries (even I had trouble finding fresh blueberries); you can definitely do this with frozen berries, though the texture will be a little different. I was lucky enough to find some acai berry juice for the dressing at the Sac Foods Co-op, and would assume stores like Whole Foods sell this hip juice du jour. But if you can’t find it, you should be okay using some sort of berry juice (blueberry, strawberry, etc). Lastly for all you moms & dads, this might be a great way to start introducing more veggies & fruits into your kids’ diets. The bright colors and delicious combination of fruits will make this a lot more fun than the average salad. Here’s the recipe!
Superfood Nirvana Salad (serves 4; total cost per person: around $4)
6 c mixed greens (baby lettuce mix, herb salad, etc)
2 c cooked quinoa
1 c strawberries, sliced
1 c blueberries
3 kiwis, peeled & sliced
1 can diced beets
½ c sunflower seeds (hulled)
¼ c golden flax seeds
Berry Vinaigrette Dressing:
½ c olive oil
1/4 c balsamic vinegar
1/4 c white wine vinegar
1/3 c acai berry juice
¼ c blueberries
1/3 c strawberries
Couple pinches of salt
Freshly ground pepper
Prepare dressing by combining all ingredients into a bowl and pureeing with a hand blender until completely smooth. Set aside. (FYI, this will be a thick dressing due to the amount of fruits.)
In a large salad bowl gently toss together the greens, beets, and blueberries. Place equal amounts on 4 plates or bowls and top each with about ½ c of quinoa. Arrange kiwi and strawberry slices on top, sprinkle the sunflower seeds and flax seeds on top, drizzle each plate generously with the dressing, and enjoy!
(For added flavor, take about a third of the quinoa, combine with a couple tablespoons of dressing, then add to the rest of the quinoa and mix well. This gives it an extra bit of pizzazz.)