I had been wondering about the Boston University Gastronomy program and decided to dip my toe in the pool and signed up for a summer class, “Nutrition and Diet: Why What You Eat Matters.” For the past six weeks, most of my conscious nonworking life involved studying, cramming my brain with how our digestive system works, where our food comes from, what nutrients and how much of them we need, what foods have these nutrients, what sustainability means, what causes obesity, and what research has found about various diets. Yep, all in six weeks. The weekly seven hours of class time was riveting, taught by a nutrition and obesity researcher epidemiologist rockstar whose sheer energy, knowledge, and output (on her blog alone!) is an inspiration. And I was joined in class by other foodies including this blogger.
Our final project was to make an entrée that demonstrated what we learned, so my classmates Allison and Shiloh and I chose to makeover a Cobb salad. Our version includes ingredients high in antioxidants, many colors (to add a variety of phytochemicals, substances that may help fight illness), high in fiber and water content (to make you feel full and satiated), and rich in vitamins and minerals. The combination of smokiness from the tempeh “bacon,” crunch from the kale and toothsomeness from the quinoa, and natural sweetness and coolness from the red cabbage seemed just right for a hot day. I’ll add it to my kale salad repertoire.
This salad would work well to bring to a potluck. It feeds a crowd, it’s vegan, and you feel virtuous eating it.
Kale Quinoa Cobb Salad Recipe
2 cups dry quinoa, rinsed
2 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Olive oil cooking spray
1 package Fakin Bacon organic smoky tempeh strips
1 bunch lacinato kale, washed, dried, ribs removed, and cut into thin ribbons
½ head of red cabbage, washed, dried, and cut into thin ribbons
4 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in half
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons water
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
¼ cup fresh chopped herbs (any combination of thyme, oregano, basil, mint, parsley)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cook the quinoa: Fill a small saucepan with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add quinoa, turn heat to low and cover, simmering quinoa for 10-15 minutes until water is gone. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
2. Toss the sweet potato cubes with 1 teaspoon of olive oil on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, toss the cubes with a spatula, and check after 5 minutes. Continue roasting until a fork slides into a cube easily, and then remove from the oven to cool.
3. Lightly coat a large skillet with olive oil cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add half the tempeh bacon strips (or whatever amount will fit without crowding the strips). Cook until browned on both sides, and remove the strips to cool. Crumble the strips once they are cool enough to handle.
4. In a small bowl, mix together all dressing ingredients until blended. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
5. Assemble the salad: Spoon the quinoa over the bottom of a large bowl. Top with all of the salad ingredients, in sections or strips. Add half the dressing, toss, and add more dressing as needed.
Serves 6-8 as a main course salad