Mexican Inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad

Mexican Inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad with Cilantro and Lime Vinaigrette

Inspiration for meals can come from many different places. This black bean and corn salad was inspired by the bunch of beautiful cilantro that came in my first vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) box this season.

Fresh cilantro, also known as coriander

Cilantro is often used in Mexican food. So is corn.  I have some sweet, incredibly tasty corn in my freezer from a local farm.  The corn was processed at the farm right after it was picked last summer and it tastes just like corn on the cob at the peak of the season.  I knew I had to use it for this dish.

I chose black beans and bell peppers to round out the salad. For the vinaigrette, I chose limes.  Limes, cilantro and corn.  You can’t go wrong with that combination.  And so this Mexican inspired black bean and corn salad was born.

During the summer, I love serving salads as a meal. On a hot day, I don’t want to slave over a hot stove or turn on the oven.  Salads are a great alternative.  There is no need to be limited to leafy green salads, as this black bean and corn salad shows. It’s packed with protein and fibre, so makes for a satisfying meal.  I served mine in tortilla bowls, making it really feel like a meal.  Alternately, you could forego the tortilla bowls and serve it as a side to accompany grilled meat or tacos.

I highly recommend squeezing your own fresh lime juice for this vinaigrette.  I always keep a few limes in the fridge, because fresh lime juice has such a nice flavour compared to bottled.

A quick tip to get the most juice out of your citrus fruit, in this case, the limes.  Take your limes out of fridge a few hours before you need them (you can even take them out in the morning before going to work) to let them get to room temperature.  Before cutting limes to juice them, roll them between your palm and the counter, gently pushing down.  This technique will produce much more juice than if you use cold limes.

 

Recipe: Mexican Inspired Black Bean and Corn Salad

Black Bean and Corn Salad inspired by the flavours of Mexico

Lime Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup (60 mL) lime juice (from 2 to 3 large limes)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup (80 mL) extra virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Squeeze lime juice into medium size bowl, removing any seeds. Add cumin, paprika, chili powder and salt. Whisk.
  2. While still whisking, gradually pour in olive oil and whisk until well blended.

 

Black Bean & Corn Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cup corn kernels
  • 1 can (19 oz, 540 mL) black beans, no salt added
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced small
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced small
  • 4 green onions (scallions) white and green parts, finely chopped
  • 2 cups packed cilantro leaves and stems, finely chopped
  • Lime vinaigrette
  • Tortilla bowls, optional

Directions:

  1. If using frozen corn, add ½ cup water to small pot. Add corn and bring water to a boil. Boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and let corn cool to room temperature.
  2. In large bowl, add black beans, peppers, onions, cilantro and corn. Mix all ingredients together.
  3. Stir lime vinaigrette and pour into salad bowl. Toss until all ingredients evenly coated.
  4. Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours before serving, so that ingredients absorb flavour of vinaigrette.
  5. If serving as a main dish, serve salad in tortilla bowls.

 

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Winter Slaw with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Winter Slaw Title

Salads are not strictly a warm weather dish for me.  I enjoy eating them year round.  The salads I make in winter are different than the summer ones though.  In part it’s because I have access to different produce in winter, in part it’s because I crave different food during the long cold winter months.

I made a large pot of chili (recipe here) and wanted some salad to go with it.  Although I had some fresh leafy greens on hand, I knew a colourful, crunchy slaw would be the right accompaniment to the chili.  Fortunately, I had some cabbage in the fridge as it’s been making a regular appearance in my csa box this winter.

winter slaw labeled 4

When I make slaw I like to finely chop the cabbage instead of grating it.  Chopped cabbage gives the slaw some structure and keeps it crunchy.  Shredded cabbage is so much smaller and has such a soft texture that I feel it gets lost with the other vegetables in the mix.  However, shredding the carrots and the beets works well as it seems to help release their natural sweetness.  I used Chioggia beets (aka candy cane beets) because they have a lovely deep pink colour when shredded but they don’t bleed.  They also have a mild, sweet flavour when raw.  Any type of beet will do though.

Winter Slaw Labeled 2

I like using citrus in winter salads.  It adds bright, clean favour to it.  This winter vegetable slaw is no exception.  I used the juice of fresh limes in the vinaigrette.

The crunch of the cabbage, sweetness of the carrots and beets, and the fresh flavour provided by the lime and cilantro complement the spicy flavours and soft texture of chili as I had hoped.  Chili and winter slaw really do make for comfort food on a cold winter day.

 

Recipe – Winter Slaw with Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

Winter Slaw Labeled 3

Ingredients:

Slaw

  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped cabbage (about 1/8 of a large cabbage)
  • ¾ cup shredded carrot (about 2 large carrots)
  • ½ cup shredded beet (about 1 medium beet)

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 1 large lime)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Wash cabbage. Chop in half, then in quarters. Finely chop one of the quarters until have 1 ½ cups.
  2. Wash and scrub carrots. Peeling is optional, depending on condition of skin.  Shred carrots using box grater or shredding disc on food processor.
  3. Wash and peel beet. Shred using grater or shredding disc on food processor.
  4. In medium mixing bowl, add cabbage, carrot and beets.
  5. In small mixing bowl, add cilantro and lime juice. Whisk in olive oil and stir until blended.
  6. Add vinaigrette to vegetables and toss to coat evenly.
  7. Add salt to taste.

 

Napa Coleslaw with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

It’s grilling season again.  Hurrah!  It was a crazy long winter here, so I am so incredibly happy that spring finally arrived.  Once spring arrives, we start cooking as many dinners as we can on the grill.  A classic side dish to accompany a meal prepared on the grill is coleslaw.

Napa Coleslaw with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

I don’t know about you, but if I am going to eat coleslaw, I want one with an oil and vinegar based dressing; none of that creamy coleslaw for me.

Last week, I shared my strawberry cucumber salad with wheat berries in which I used Napa cabbage.  I really liked the Napa cabbage and I thought it would make fabulous coleslaw.  It does.

Napa cabbage is often referred to as Chinese cabbage.  It has a mild flavour compared to other types of cabbage.  I do cut out the base of the rib though, as that is the part that has the most bitter flavour.

Napa Cabbage Coleslaw

Cutting out the base of the rib removes the most bitter part of the otherwise mild cabbage leaf.

The Napa cabbage is really good.  It needs vinaigrette of the same caliber.  This lemon thyme vinaigrette transforms coleslaw, a fairly common side dish that is often an afterthought, into a lovely salad that deserves some attention.

The lemon thyme vinaigrette is light and refreshing. This week we’ve used it on the family’s regular, every day salad.  It changes the feel of the salad completely compared to the balsamic based vinaigrettes we tend to favour during winter.  If you are looking to change up your salads, give this vinaigrette a try.

The coleslaw will have more depth of flavour if it is allowed to sit for at least 30 minutes (a couple of hours is preferable) before serving.  Any leftovers that are not eaten right away can be safely stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for about a week.

Recipe:  Napa Coleslaw with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette for Napa Coleslaw

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 green onions (scallions) finely chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • ½ teaspoon lemon zest
  • Juice of one large lemon, about ¼ cup
  • 1½ tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

Directions:

Place first six ingredients in a small bowl.  Whisk.  Continue whisking as you pour in the olive oil.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.

 

Napa Cabbage Coleslaw

Napa Coleslaw with Lemon Thyme Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (packed) finely chopped Napa cabbage
  • 1½ cups grated carrots
  • Lemon thyme vinaigrette( from recipe above)

Directions:

Put cabbage and grated carrots in large bowl.  Add vinaigrette.  Toss vegetables to evenly coat.  Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving.

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Wheat Berries and Orange Maple Vinaigrette

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Wheat Berries and Orange Maple Vinaigrette

This hearty strawberry cucumber salad with wheat berries is somewhat of a departure for me.  It includes Napa cabbage.  Cabbage is not something that usually makes it into my grocery cart.

My strawberry cucumber salad was inspired by this delicious looking Strawberry Tabbouleh by Min over at Adventures of MJ and Hungryman, and particularly by the comment by Jill about using strawberries in the place of tomatoes.

The truth is, I don’t like tomatoes.  Shocking, I know. People are always surprised when I say I don’t like raw tomatoes.  I don’t.  At all.  Can’t swallow them.  I’ve tried.  And tried.  And tried.  No dice.

I had already bookmarked the tabbouleh recipe, because I really want to make it.  I can tell that it will taste fabulous.  Then I saw Jill’s comment.  A light bulb went off in my head.   In any salad that normally uses raw tomatoes, I could just substitute strawberries.  Wow.  What a brilliant concept.

My first thought was of a Greek salad.  I loved the idea of pairing strawberries and cucumber.  I often do that with a spinach salad, and then add a bit of goat cheese.  That’s when my thoughts veered towards this salad.  I knew I wanted to use cucumbers, strawberries, pecans and feta.  Adding wheat berries seemed perfect to make the salad more of a meal. If wheat berries are new to you, find our more with this earlier wheat berry salad recipe.

I knew my salad concept was missing something: another vegetable or herb.  Off to the grocery store I went.   That’s how the Napa cabbage made it in.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that’s what my salad needed.  This is odd, as I don’t think I have ever knowingly eaten Napa cabbage.

salad recipe using Napa Cabbage

Napa cabbage is milder than other cabbages, with a sweeter taste – it works really well in this salad.

My instincts were right.  The cabbage was a great addition.  Napa cabbage has a milder flavour than regular cabbage.  I did cut out small triangles of the white centre of the stem, to remove the most bitter part of the leaves.  The Napa cabbage holds up well and gives the salad some structure and crunch.

A great salad deserves equally great vinaigrette.  The presence of the strawberries demanded vinaigrette with a bit of sweetness to it.  Not too much, and it should be balanced with some light savouriness.  I think you will find this orange maple vinaigrette is a perfect match.

Cucumber Strawberry Salad with Wheat Berries and Orange Maple Vinaigrette

I’m totally in love with this salad.  I’ve made it several times already.  This strawberry cucumber salad with wheat berries is a bit like the intersection between winter and spring.  The cabbage, wheat berries and pecans bring the heartiness and comfort of winter.  So does the orange in the vinaigrette.  The cucumber and strawberries, as well as the maple syrup and fresh dill that are in the vinaigrette evoke spring.  They are fresh, light flavours, full of life.  Spring is the season of re-birth and this salad is the return to mild, refreshing flavours, after a long, dark, cold winter.

 

Recipe:  Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Wheat Berries

Makes 2 meal size portions or 4 side servings

Strawberry Cucumber Salad with Wheat Berries and Orange Maple Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped Napa cabbage (chopped into long strips)
  • ¾ cup cooked wheat berries (*see note for cooking instructions)
  • 3” (7.5 cm) long piece English cucumber, coarsely diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup coarsely diced strawberries
  • ½ cup (70 g) crumbled feta
  • ¼ cup chopped pecans
  • Orange maple vinaigrette (recipe below)

Instructions:

Put cabbage in large bowl.  Add wheat berries, cucumbers and strawberries.  Top with feta and pecans.  Add vinaigrette to taste.  Serve and enjoy.

* Note:  To cook wheat berries, measure ½ cup dry wheat berries.  Rinse them.  Add 1½ cup (375 mL) water and the wheat berries to a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the wheat berries are tender, which could be up to 90 minutes, depending on type of wheat berries.  Start checking for doneness after 40 minutes.   I cooked mine for 70 minutes.  When done, drain excess water from wheat berries.

½ cup dry wheat berries will yield 1 ½ cup cooked wheat berries.

 

Recipe:  Orange Maple Vinaigrette

Makes about 1 cup vinaigrette

Orange Maple Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • 2 green onions (scallions) finely chopped (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh dill
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

Add first five ingredients to medium mixing bowl.  Whisk ingredients while pouring in olive oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

This recipe makes about 1 cup vinaigrette, which is much more than you will need for the salad.  The fresh flavour of the orange maple vinaigrette pair well with other light salads.  Pour extra vinaigrette into a jar with lid and store in fridge for up three weeks.

The olive oil will solidify in the fridge. Take the vinaigrette out of fridge and leave at room temperature for 30 minutes before using.

Quinoa Recipe – Greek Quinoa Salad

gluten free greek quinoa salad

Quinoa is a very “in” food at the moment.  Everywhere I look, I see quinoa.  I see quinoa recipes all over the net.  I see it on the dinner plate of friends and family.  It is even present at the salad bar in my building’s cafeteria.  Quinoa has definitely hit the mainstream.

As part of my goal to eat more whole grains and a greater variety of whole grains, this winter I decided it was time to give quinoa a try.  My favorite result so far is this Greek Quinoa Salad.

Although quinoa is new to me, it is in fact a very ancient food.  It was domesticated in the South American Andes 3,000 to 4,000 years ago and became a staple in the diet of people of that region.

ancient grains quinoa

Quinoa is treated as a grain and is often ground into flour.  Despite this, it is a seed, not a grain.  The quinoa plant is closely related to beets, spinach and Swiss chard.

One of quinoa’s most interesting nutritional values is its protein content.  Quinoa is higher in protein than most cereals, although not as high as beans and legumes.  Unlike most cereals, quinoa has complete protein, as it contains all essential amino acids.  It is also a source of iron and of several B vitamins.

So far I’ve been using quinoa in salads.  I’ve been trying out different types of grain salads and legume salads to include in our lunches.  At work Greg does not have access to a refrigerator or a microwave.  What he brings needs to be safe for consumption if only cooled with a small ice pack. It must also taste good eaten cool or at room temperature.  This Greek quinoa salad fits the bill, and tastes great too.

As a bonus, this salad is gluten-free.  Neither Greg nor I have issues with gluten, but my sister and her two children are both gluten intolerant.  This Greek quinoa salad can make an appearance at family gatherings (we always share the responsibility of bringing food) and everyone can partake.  It’s also a great substitute for a Greek pasta salad to bring to potlucks, especially if you don’t know what food sensitivities others might have.

Greek Vinaigrette

greek vinaigrette recipe

I love the fresh flavours of Greek vinaigrette.  It feeds my obsession with fresh herbs and garlic, and the lemon brightens the flavour.  Greg also enjoys Greek salad, so this is a win-win.

Greek Quinoa Salad rceipe with vinaigrette

I’ve also discovered a new product recently that I love in this vinaigrette.  It’s part of the President’s Choice (PC) Black Label collection.  It’s a grape condiment that I am using in the place of red wine vinegar. It is called Lambrusco Grape Condiment. I find it smoother and sweeter than red wine vinegar.  If you are able to find this product, I recommend that you give it a try.  If you don’t have access to this product, red wine vinegar absolutely works too.

 

Recipe:  Greek Quinoa Salad

Greek Vinaigrette – makes about ½ cup

Greek Vinaigrette for greek quinoa salad

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons PC Lambrusco grape condiment or red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 large clove garlic (or 2 small cloves), chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • ½ tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Put all ingredients in small bowl and whisk well.

 

Greek Quinoa Salad – makes 2 meal or 4 side servings

Greek Quinoa Salad - gluten-free salad

Ingredients

  • ½ cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 1 cup water
  • Greek vinaigrette to taste (recipe above)
  • 1/3 cup sliced Kalamata olives
  • ½ cup crumbled feta cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (I prefer the taste of those packed in oil)
  • 2” piece English cucumber, chopped

Directions

  • Place quinoa in fine mesh strainer and rinse under cool water, rubbing quinoa together. This is to remove any remaining saponins in the quinoa, which creates a bitter taste.
  • Bring one cup water to a boil in a pot with a lid. Add quinoa to water and return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 12 to 15 minutes, until all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and let stand for 15 minutes, keeping pot covered.
  • Fluff quinoa and add it to a medium size bowl. Add Greek vinaigrette and stir to coat quinoa.
  • Add Kalamata olives, feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and cucumber. Toss salad to mix ingredients.
  • Refrigerate to 30 to 45 minutes. Serve and enjoy.

 

Have you discovered quinoa?  If so, what is your favorite quinoa dish?

 

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In Search of Whole Grains: Wheat Berry Salad Recipe

whole grain salad with orange and pomegranate

What Are Wheat Berries?

In my quest to add more whole grains to my family’s diet, I have discovered wheat berries.  What is a wheat berry, you ask?  Wheat berries are the entire wheat kernels, which includes the bran, the germ and the endosperm.  Only the hull has been removed.

wheat kernels

Uncooked hard red wheat kernels

Wheat berries, or wheat kernels, are what get ground into wheat flour.  There are different types of wheat berries.  Hard red wheat kernels are typically ground into all-purpose or bread flour.  Soft white wheat kernels are typically ground into cake and pastry flour.   Whether it is hard red wheat or soft white wheat, the wheat berry is a true whole grain.  While wheat is not new to me or my family, eating it in the form of the entire wheat kernel is.

I was able to purchase my wheat berries in bulk form at The Bulk Barn. What I found was hard red wheat kernels.  I haven’t found any at my local grocery stores, but some natural food stores do stock them.

Cooking with Wheat Berries

So, what to do with wheat berries?  While they can be eaten plain in the place of rice, I wanted to do something different with mine.  I found a recipe for a wheat berry salad on theKitchn which I adapted.  I wanted a great winter salad that takes advantage of some of the produce that is available in winter.  And so, a wheat berry salad with feta, citrus and pomegranate was the result.

whole grain salad

The first time I made the salad, I used a clementine as my orange.  It was sweet and juicy, and I would recommend using a sweet orange if available.  The second time I used a Cara Cara orange.  Any type of orange would work.  If I had a blood orange I would try that, as it would also add a bit more colour to the salad.  The pomegranate adds a pop of colour to an otherwise beige salad, as well as a burst of juiciness and some crunch.

The cooking time for the wheat berries can vary, depending on the type of wheat berry used and how tender you want them to be.  Soaking overnight to soften the kernels is not necessary.  I didn’t and they turned out fine.  It is however important to rinse the wheat berries before cooking them.

The recipe for the onion vinaigrette makes about one cup, which is four times the amount needed for the salad.  It stores well in the fridge for several weeks and can be used on mixed greens salads, or you can make the wheat berry salad again, maybe trying a different type of orange.

Recipe: Wheat Berry Salad with Feta, Citrus and Pomegranate

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn

winter salad with oranges pomegranates and wheat berries

Ingredients

Salad:

  • ½ cup hard red wheat berries
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) onion vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1 orange
  • ½ cup pomegranate arils
  • 1/3 cup (1.5 oz, 43 g) feta cheese, cut into small cubes
  • small handful of Italian parsley leaves, chopped

Onion Vinaigrette:

  • 2 tsp (10 mL) olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • ½ cup (125 mL) olive oil
  • ¼ cup (60 mL) cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tsp (20 mL) sugar
  • ½ tsp salt

Directions

  1. Start by cooking the wheat berries.  Rinse the wheat berries.  Add 1 ½ cup (375 mL) water and the wheat berries to a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until the wheat berries are tender, which could be up to 90 minutes, depending on type of wheat berries.  Start checking for doneness after 40 minutes.   I cooked mine for 70 minutes.  When done, drain excess water from wheat berries.
  2. While wheat berries are cooking, make onion vinaigrette:
    1. Heat two teaspoons olive oil in skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and a bit of salt and cook until translucent and soft, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and thyme and cook another one to two minutes.
    2. If using an immersion blender, transfer onion mixture to a tall sided container.  If using a regular blender or food processor, transfer it to the appliance’s container.  Add ½ cup olive oil, cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, sugar, a small pinch of salt and a bit of black pepper.  Blend until smooth, using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor.  The vinaigrette will keep in fridge for several weeks.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine the drained wheat berries with ¼ cup onion vinaigrette.  Stir to combine.  Cut the orange into segments and dice into small pieces.  Cut the pomegranate and remove arils.  Add the feta cheese, orange pieces, pomegranate arils and Italian parsley.  Toss and serve.  Leftovers will keep well in the fridge for up to one week.

Great Find at the Farmer’s Market

Yesterday I had an unexpected find at the farmer’s market: local strawberries.  Yes, that’s right, local strawberries at the end of July!  I was so surprised to find these, and asked about them.  Apparently they are their “all season” variety. 

I love strawberries, and the local ones are the best kind in my opinion.  They are juicier and have so much more flavour than the imported berries.  I always look forward to berry season, and feel sad when it’s over.  So it was such a wonderful surprise to have a second go at strawberry season.  I didn’t hesitate and bought the biggest basket they had. 

Having the berries influenced my lunch plans.  I made a wonderful strawberry and goat cheese salad, using the spring mix that I bought from the same local producer.  I love that particular spring mix as it has some lettuces and herbs that I don’t find in the mixes available at the grocery store.  And of course, it’s much fresher.

It was a simple, but delicious and satisfying salad.  I usually include some protein in my salads, often in the form of cheese and seeds.  And I love adding fruit for sweetness, so this salad was right up my alley. 

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Salad

  • Washed spring mix greens
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Goat cheese
  • Pine nuts