Sometimes kitchen inspiration strikes when you have the least amount of time, but the right combination of ingredients in the fridge and a particular taste in mind. Remember how I wrote that entry about lightening up for spring? One thing I forgot to mention that is so great about this time of year is that some tropical fruits like mangoes are just at the end of their season. They may not local, but they are abundant and cheap (at least in the C-Town in our neighborhood) and they can liven up some early spring dishes.
The other night I really wanted something that was healthy, crunchy, tasty and lively. I was thinking about a quinoa and black bean salad with mango that I made from the Veganomicon cookbook, but wanted to create something with a little bit more flavor. I decided to make quinoa and black beans separately as a side and concentrate on creating a salad that combined sweet, crunchy, spicy and fresh. I also was still excited about the possibilities of julienned vegetables. Then I started thinking about mango salad in Thai restaurants and decided to make an equivalent. Some slicing and mixing later I had a midweek masterpiece on my hands.
I’ll stop and admit something right here: most of my midweek food is nothing to blog about. It’s healthy, it’s tasty, it’s relatively quick (though I’m a slow cook, just like I’m a slow bike rider), but it’s not particularly inspired. This salad broke the mold. It pushed my tired after grad school taste buds in a new direction and it went perfectly with quinoa and black beans (which you can mix in the salad if you want) and topped with a few seared Maine shrimp.
Magical Midweek Mango Salad
2 stalks celery
1 medium red pepper
1 small red onion or 1/2 medium red onion
1 ripe mango
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
Juice of 3 limes
1 TBL olive oil
Red pepper flakes and salt to taste
Chopped roasted peanuts (optional)
1. Peel the cucumbers, cut them in half and scoop out the seeds with a metal spoon.
2. Julienne (cut into small strips) the celery, cucumbers, red pepper and onion
3. Peel and julienne the mango
4. Wash and chop the cilantro
5. Mix the vegetables, mango and cilantro in a bowl
6. Squeeze the lime juice and drizzle the olive oil over the vegetables and add salt and red pepper flakes.
7. Mix, taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary
If you like you can garnish the salad with chopped peanuts. I opted not to do this time because I had the quinoa and black beans, which are delicious, quick and cheap to make and also extremely healthy.
Speaking of quinoa I really resisted eating it despite all its supposed wonderous health benefits because it just tasted… to healthy. However, I consult Mark Bittman’s How To Cook Everything Vegetarian to refresh myself on how to cook it. So easy! And actually, pretty good.
Quinoa with Black Beans
2/3 cup Quinoa, dry
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
Water, olive oil, salt
Put the quiona in a pan with a lid and cover with cold water. The water should be about an inch above the grain. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium-high heat and then reduce head so the pot simmers, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary. Quinoa should cook in about 20 minutes, but be sure to taste it. If it tastes creamy and not to crunchy, it’s done! Remove from heat and stir in black beans, olive oil to taste and salt. Serve with the salad above or on it’s own. I topped mine with the green salsa I made for Chilaquiles the other night and it was perfect.
Happy mid-week eating! What are your “go to” dishes that you make when you are busy during the week that you think are delicious?