Categories
Salads Vegan Vegetarian

Lahpet Thoke (Burmese Fermented Tea Leaf Salad)

Several years ago, I ate a salad while on vacation in northern California that was life changing. This lahpet thoke salad was so divinely different than anything I had ever eaten. It was a tastebud-altering experience, to say the least. My mind was boggled by the combination of the complex flavors and the simplicity of the ingredients. 

While I was still sitting in the unassuming Burmese strip-mall restaurant in which this salad first graced my palate, I vowed that I would learn to make this incredible salad on my own so that I could eat it as often as possible. I went home and got to work on replicating this salad. As it turns out, it wasn’t quite as simple as I thought to create a truly wonderful lahpet thoke. 

After many attempts and a few years of not quite “getting it,” I think I have finally found the right balance of ingredients. I have discovered that the true secret ingredient in a good lahpet thoke is a good quality sencha tea.  If you decide to make this, don’t get the cheapest sencha available. Spend a little more to get big, leafy tea without sticks. I promise it’ll be worth it. You may never eat a “normal American” salad again. 

Ingredients:

Fermented Tea Leaves:

¼ c. sencha tea leaves, loose

1 c. water

1 c. vinegar

¼ c. sesame oil

¼ c. olive oil

1 Tbsp. maggi seasoning or dark soy sauce

1 Tbsp. fish sauce or vegan fish sauce

Juice from one lemon

1 inch knob of ginger, minced

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt to taste

Salad:

1 head of romaine lettuce, chopped 

2 roma tomatoes, diced

½ c. peanuts

½ c. sunflower seeds, shelled

¼ c. toasted sesame seeds (I prefer black and white)

½ c. fried chana dal or yellow split peas (see instructions below) 

¼ c. fried garlic, prepared or homemade

Lemon wedges, for serving

The fermented tea leaves will need to be prepared 2-3 days before the salad is served. To prepare the tea leaves, you should first remove any twigs that may be mixed in with the leaves. This is important because you don’t want to bite down on a hard twig when you’re enjoying your divine salad. 

Next, boil the vinegar and water. Remove from the heat and steep tea leaves in the liquid for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse. Then, steep the tea leaves in a bowl of cold water for 1 hour. Drain and squeeze out any extra liquid by pushing the leaves against the strainer. 

Place the tea leaves in a food processor, along with the sesame oil, olive oil, maggi seasoning, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, and lemon juice. Process until the leaves are finely minced. Season with salt and process quickly again. Place the tea leaves in an airtight glass container and set in a cool dark place. Allow the leaves to ferment for 2-3 days.

To make the chana dal, soak 1 c. of chana dal for 4 hours and then drain. In a large skillet, heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chana dal to the pan and stir until cooked. Place the cooked chana dal on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb excess oil. Season with a small dash of turmeric, chili powder, salt, and pepper. 

To make the salad, place the ingredients in separate piles around two plates (dividing ingredients equally). Make sure to include a big scoop of the tea leaves in the center. Squeeze lemon on top, if desired, mix together all of the ingredients, and enjoy!

Categories
Salads Vegan Vegetarian

Vegan Chickpea and Avocado Salad

If you’re anything like me, you ate full force over the holidays and now it’s time to make better eating choices. Eating clean and healthy food doesn’t have to equal suffering, thankfully. Sometimes it’s even a huge relief to begin a healthy eating regimen after gorging yourself for a month – am I right?

This vegan chickpea and avocado salad is delicious and filling, and is a perfect back-to-work packable lunch that will help to clear out those heavy holiday foods from your body. I enjoy eating this salad wrapped up in large collard green leaves, but it also tastes great alone, on top of a green salad, or on a sandwich. Eat like this and you’ll shed some of those holiday pounds. No suffering required. 

Ingredients:

1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

½ avocado, diced

2 green onions, sliced

2 Tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped

2 Tbsp. Mexican crema or vegan sour cream

½  jalapeno or serrano pepper, chopped

1 tsp. cumin 

1 tsp. red chili powder

1 tsp. garlic powder

Squeeze of lime

Salt and pepper to taste

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and place them in a bowl. Mash the chickpeas with a potato masher until they are mashed, but still a little chunky. Add the avocado and mash in with the chickpeas. Add the crema, green onions, cilantro, jalapeno, spices, and lime and mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Serve on sandwich bread, inside of a collard green wrap, on a salad, or all alone!

Categories
Salads Vegetarian

Armenian Jajukh (Cucumber Yogurt Salad)

Armenian cucumbers are popping up in American gardens more and more, which is very exciting because they are delicious and easy to grow. These funny-looking, light green, floppy “cucumbers” are not really cucumbers at all. They may resemble super-long cucumbers in appearance and taste, but they are actually members of the muskmelon family. Armenian cucumbers taste a lot like a combination of a crispy cucumber and a fresh, sweet-ish melon. They are truly special. 

Because these fruits are so cool and refreshing, they are very popular in Armenia and other middle eastern locations. Most often, Armenian cucumbers are mixed into a garlicky yogurt sauce and served alongside grilled foods or as a light, healthy snack. This recipe for traditional Armenian jajukh combines all of the best elements of sweet, salty, briny, and refreshing flavors  to result in a simple, tasty salad that can be enjoyed by all. 

Ingredients: 

1 Armenian cucumber (make sure to remove the skin and scrape out the seeds) or English cucumber

2 Tbsp Greek or Bulgarian yogurt

1 small clove of garlic, minced

2 tsp. fresh mint or 1 tsp dried mint

Pinch of salt

Mix together all ingredients in a large serving bowl. Season with salt, chill in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes, and serve.

Categories
Salads Vegetarian

Summer Mexican Corn Salad

Sometimes during late summer, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of veggies growing in my yard and piling up in my fridge because what can I say, I love farmers’ markets and gardening. While I do realize that an overabundance of healthy, colorful, fresh food is hardly a problem, sometimes I feel like there are so many veggies and so few meals. 

For this reason, I love recipes like this one for a lovely summer Mexican corn salad. All of the veggies included in this salad are fresh, bountiful during this season, and taste so perfect all together. The creamy, spice-touched dressing seamlessly pulls together the freshness of the corn, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and herbs, giving it a decadent edge. The cotija cheese rounds out all of the sweetness of the veggies with a salty, tanginess that is perfect for a summer side dish. Serve with grilled meat, chicken, or fish for a quick and delicious meal that is ideal for enjoying those last few weeks of summer. 

Ingredients:

4 c. fresh corn, cut from the cob

2 fresh tomatoes, diced

1 serrano pepper, seeded and chopped

½ c. green onions, chopped

¼ c. cilantro, chopped

¼ c. mayonnaise

¼ c. cotija cheese, crumbled

2 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. cumin 

1 tsp. smoked paprika

Juice from one lime

Salt and pepper 

Combine the corn, tomatoes, serrano peppers, green onions, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. 

In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, chili powder, cumin, paprika, and lime juice until it’s the consistency of a salad dressing. Pour it into the corn mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top with cotija cheese, mix again, and serve.

Categories
Salads Vegetarian

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad with Feta

Ahhhh, summer: the season for fresh, crunchy, water-filled fruits and vegetables that make your body feel so hydrated and your mouth as happy as a pup at the dog park. Watermelon and cucumber happen to be two of my favorite refreshing summer treats, and they go together like peanut butter and jelly. Maybe better.

This vibrant salad combines the sweetness of watermelon, cucumber, and mint with the salty tanginess of lemon and feta cheese (and just a tiny bit of salt). And it’s just plain delicious. Enough said. 

Ingredients:

4 c. watermelon, cubed

2 c. cucumber, quartered

Juice from ½ lemon

2 Tbsp. mint leaves, chopped

⅓ c. feta cheese, crumbled

Salt to taste

Add the watermelon and cucumber to a large serving bowl. Squeeze the lemon juice in and mix. Add the mint leaves and feta cheese. Season with a pinch of salt and mix together. Serve chilled.

Categories
Salads Vegetarian

Armenian Cucumber Salad with Feta Cheese

If you have never had the pleasure of eating an Armenian cucumber, you need to add them to your veggie garden seed shopping list for next year. I was lucky enough to be given a seedling for an Armenian cucumber plant this year, and I will never go without these beauties in my garden again. 

This simple salad showcases the unique sweetness of Armenian cucumbers without overpowering the flavor with unnecessary and forceful ingredients. It’s perfect as a side dish or as a topping for a pita sandwich. If you can’t find Armenian cucumbers, you can substitute English cucumbers. Or perhaps this will persuade you to plant some Armenian cukes next year, which is what I’m hoping you do! 

Ingredients:

1 large Armenian cucumber, chopped (you can also substitute 2 English cucumbers)

¼ c. shallot, finely chopped

¼ c. feta cheese

2 tsp. olive oil

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Pinch of fresh dill, finely chopped

Salt and pepper

Combine the cucumber feta cheese, olive oil, and vinegar in a serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper, toss, and serve cold!

Categories
Fish/Seafood Salads

Healthy Seared Ahi Tuna Salad with Quinoa and Wasabi Vinaigrette

This superfood-packed meal isn’t just gorgeous – it’s also full of life-extending health foods that happen to taste like a dream come true. Somehow this meal feels like finding the end of the rainbow. It’s just perfect, and everything lovely is there. No pot of gold needed, because this is better. 

Sesame-crusted seared ahi tuna takes center stage in this beautifully well-rounded meal that includes seaweed salad, quinoa, avocado, and greens drizzled with a lip-smacking wasabi vinaigrette. It really is like the perfect meal. Money (or a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow) can’t buy happiness, but food certainly can. No chasing rainbows necessary.

Ingredients:

Tuna:

2 ahi tuna steaks or 1 lb. ahi

1 Tbsp. avocado oil

3 Tbsp. sesame seeds (white, black, or both)

Salt to taste

Wasabi Vinaigrette:

2 tsp. wasabi paste

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 Tbsp. soy sauce or tamari

1 Tbsp. mirin

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. ginger, minced

Salad/Quinoa:

1 c. quinoa, uncooked

4-5 c. mixed greens

1 avocado, sliced

1 c. prepared seaweed salad

¼ c. green onions, sliced

1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, deseeded and sliced

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside.

Combine all ingredients for the wasabi vinaigrette in a small bowl. 

Pat the ahi dry and season with salt. Coat all sides with sesame seeds. 

Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat. Let the oil get hot in the pan for about 2 minutes before adding the tuna. Add the tuna and sear for one minute per side. 

Allow the tuna to rest for 2 minutes or so. Slice into strips. 

To assemble, place half of the quinoa on two plates. Add the mixed greens, seaweed salad, and avocado to each plate. Top the mixed green with the ahi slices and top the quinoa with green onions and serranos. Drizzle dressing over the greens, tuna, and quinoa. Enjoy! 

Categories
Salads Vegan Vegetarian

Moroccan Cucumber Salad with Olives

When you’re feeling like it’s just too hot outside to cook, this fresh and cool Moroccan cucumber salad is what you need. Not only does it only take a few minutes to throw together, it is also so crisp and invigorating served alongside just about any main dish. 

This refreshing salad is simple, but demonstrates a complexity of sweet, briny, and herby flavors. I like to serve this salad with Moroccan-spiced chicken or fish because the cucumbers really balance the heat. So tonight make this salad, sit outside, fire up the grill, pour a glass of wine, and have a lovely  evening. Ahhh, I love summer. 

Ingredients: 

2 cucumbers, sliced and quartered

¼ c. kalamata olives

2 tsp. white vinegar

1 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. agave

1 tsp. oregano

1 tsp. thyme

Salt to taste

Combine all ingredients except for the olives in a large serving bowl and stir to combine. Chill for at least 30 minutes. Add the olives before serving. Enjoy!

Categories
Fish/Seafood Salads

Healthy Mediterranean Tuna Salad

Tuna salad. Some people hate it, some people love it. It’s a fairly polarizing food, but those of us who like tuna salad REALLY love it. I like old school tuna salad with mayo and dill relish as much as the next tuna salad-loving guy, but during the summer I crave something lighter, healthier, and full of fun ingredients. 

When I want something clean and fresh, my mind almost always turns to Mediterranean ingredients like sundried tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons, olives, capers, and fresh herbs. Tuna fits into that ingredient list, but mayo kills the healthy, light vibe. Enter Greek yogurt. If you’ve never made tuna salad with Greek yogurt, try it. It’s every bit as delicious as the mayo version, but so much more nutritious and tangy. And with the combo of fresh and briny Mediterranean add-ins, this may be your new go-to tuna salad. 

Ingredients:

2 5 oz. cans of albacore or skipjack tuna, drained

⅓ c. Greek yogurt

Juice from one lemon

1 Tbsp. capers

1 Tbsp. sundried tomatoes, finely chopped

1 Tbsp. kalamata olives, pitted and finely chopped

¼ c. cucumber, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped

1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

1 tsp. red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a sandwich, on top of a salad or with crackers. 

Categories
Salads Vegan Vegetarian

Lemony Hearts of Palm Salad

I remember the first time I had a hearts of palm salad. I was at a family friend’s house in the south of France and this uniquely gorgeous Meditternean salad was plunked down in front of me. It was full of so many lovely ingredients, but I was most impressed with the zesty little rings of hearts of palm that adorned the salad. It was there that I fell in love with this awe-inspiring vegetable. 

Hearts of palm, a vegetable harvested from the inner core of certain types of palm trees, taste like a cross between white asparagus and artichoke hearts. In other words, they are absolutely wonderful. For that reason, hearts of palm are a terrific addition to pizza, sandwiches, salads, and pasta.

In the summer, I like to serve hearts of palm in a vibrant, fun salad. In this version, the hearts of palm shine alongside fresh cucumber, tasty tomatoes, fresh avocados, tender green onions, and freshly-harvested parsley from the garden. A light lemony dressing is all you need to make this a truly memorable summer salad. 

Ingredients:

Salad:

1 cucumber, quartered

1 large tomato, diced

1 14 oz. jar of hearts of palm

1 avocado, cubed

¼ c. fresh parsley, chopped

2 green onions, sliced

Dressing:

¼  c. olive oil

Juice from one large lemon

2 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 tsp. garlic powder

Salt and pepper

Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. 

Combine all salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Drizzle the dressing onto the salad, mix, and taste until it’s coated to your liking. Serve immediately.