bean salad

why I don’t like gyms / greek bean salad with tofu feta

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So I’m not really a fan of gyms. Translation: a large grey box where humans donning synthetic, dry wick clothing bounce around in place on Star Wars-ish looking machines covered in sanitary spray and old sweat. I’ve signed up at many gyms over the years, each time with a renewed sense of determination that I can and will be like the rest of the world, and find joy at the prospect of running in place inside an overheated, noisy petri dish of human sweat. But I never do. Perhaps it’s the germs, or the potential for crowds, or the sanitary spray that goes on everything, or the big guy who sweats like a beast and then doesn’t clean his machine, and it’s the only one open.

Don’t get me wrong, I like to sweat; I love the burning feeling you get in your chest that simultaneously hurts and satisfies when you reach the height of your endurance. But I can’t do that inside on a lifeless manmade object that tells me how many calories I’ve burned. I feel like a hamster on a wheel, like Sisyphus on his hill, forever compelled to roll that stupid boulder to the top only to watch it fall back down again. There’s no sense of accomplishment, no rush of excitement when the red glowing numbers on my machine flash meaningless data at me or the miniature television plays E! News, and insults women across the globe by its fascination with Kim Kardashian. In a world where we already do almost everything indoors, short of walking from our homes to our cars, how can I stuff myself into another sunless grey box?

And since it’s nearly spring, and the first green shoots of crocus have sprung from the damp, cold earth, I feel even more compelled to run outside and breathe the fresh air. I also feel like eating something crisp and refreshing. Solution? A high protein blast of Greek bean salad with tofu feta! This salad is a cinch to make and will satiate your belly long after that gloriously muddy hike with your pup. This dish would also be perfect as crudite on whole wheat toast, or as a topping for pasta. Here I’ve served the salad over a giant collard leaf, but I recommend trying it tossed with baby arugula or some crisp romaine. Warning, this recipe makes a lot of feta. I suggest only using half of it for the salad, then storing the rest in your fridge for later use as a delicious protein-rich topping or snack!
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Greek Bean Salad with Tofu Feta

For the salad:

1 can navy or cannellini beans, rinsed

1 tomato, chopped

1 handful kalamata olives, chopped in half

2 T red onion, diced

1/2 cucumber, diced

2 handfuls romaine or arugula lettuce *optional

For the feta:

1 block extra firm tofu, crumbled by hand (I highly recommend The Bridge, a local CT company!)

Splash of fresh water

2 T chickpea miso (I recommend South River Miso Company)

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 tsp sea salt

1 T dried italian herbs

2 T nutritional yeast

In a mixing bowl, whisk together all feta ingredients except for the tofu. Now gently fold in crumbled tofu and coat with mixture. In a salad bowl, add all salad ingredients and 1/2 of the tofu feta. Season with extra red wine vinegar if needed. Makes enough for 2-4 mud-covered unicorns experiencing post-hike bliss.

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malls / quinoa black bean salad with mango

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So I’m not really a mall person. I like clothes and everything, but I’d rather buy online or go to a single store with a single mission. Because malls are time warps. Every time I go into one I find myself burning through hours as easily as if I were stalking people on Facebook. The exits are strategically placed at the ends of dark corridors or in the corners of department stores behind frilly necked nightgowns and granny panties so you can’t find your way out without a struggle. And they’re filled with strange people. Translation: oversized underdressed Americans who like to spend their cash on tube tops and frappucinos. When I enter, it smells like chocolate chip cookies and perfume. I’m made instantly aware of the neon lights buzzing overhead, the clip clop of heels over shiny oatmeal floors, the nauseating bubblegum pop of Katy Perry, and my inner chorus of “What did I come here for again?”

I aimlessly wander through the makeup aisle in Nordstroms. A woman with fake eyelashes and a makeup explosion offers me a sample of Britney Spear’s new perfume. I politely decline, but she sprays me anyway. My unicorn friend sneezes and nudges me towards a Starbuck’s. We both get a hot tea since we’re freezing, then wander into a store. The other shoppers we pass generally fall into two categories: the stressed out I-will-silently-push-into-anyone-looking-through-the-same-sale-rack-as-me nutsos or the salted pretzel eating the-mall-is-my-social-hub tube toppers. There are also the elderly, who treat the mall like a park and stroll about in big white sneakers and sweatsuits with no intention of buying anything.

 Inside the store, folded shirts and the smell of cotton flash me back to my short-lived retail days (see Adventures in Hawaiian Employment ), and I smile apologetically at the salesperson, knowing the torture she is enduring. Translation: an endless day of shirt folding and daydreaming in a windowless white box with bad music and worse pay. My unicorn friend takes some clothes into the fitting room, while I mindlessly slide through hanger after hanger of a sale rack. I pick out a few beaten up looking shirts that have been touched, tried on, and re-folded a thousand times and try them on. The lighting in the fitting room is a dimmish yellow and shines over your body in that flattering way that makes you look a hundred times heavier with dark circles under your eyes. And because it’s a three way mirror I get to see my hot self from the front, side and back all at once. Disgruntled, I put my clothes back on. I momentarily debate whether I should hang the clothes back on their hangers (since that’s what my mom does and I feel like a bad person if I don’t), but instead I channel my inner dad and reassure myself that the salesperson has nothing better to do. Meanwhile, my unicorn friend has been hemming and hawing over whether he should buy a shirt he likes. I can hear my mother asking: “Will you wear it?” or “Do you need another shirt?”, and I suddenly feel exhausted. Mall exhausted. In the end, my unicorn friend puts the shirt on hold, which we all know means I’m not going to buy it.

Now that you’re drained from a trip to the mall, why not refresh yourself with a delicious black bean and quinoa salad? Cumin, mangos and bright crisp veggies play supporting roles in this protein packed summer dish. It’s a cinch to make and keeps well in the fridge too. Hooray for easy summer dishes!

“hedgehogging” the mango
quinoa cooling on a half sheet pan
summer black bean & quinoa salad with mango!

Quinoa & Black Bean Salad with Mango

1 mango, peeled and diced *see my note below on the best way to dice a mango

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1/4 cup red onion, diced OR 1 cup scallions, sliced thin

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

2 cups quinoa, cooled

1 can or 1 1/2 cups black beans, rinsed and drained

3 T red wine vinegar

2 T extra virgin olive oil

1 T tamari or shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce)

2 tsp cumin

juice of 1 lime

fresh black pepper to taste

optional additions include: diced cucumber, diced avocado, crumbled blue corn chips, and hot sauce

Cook quinoa according to package directions. Allow to cool fully on a half sheet pan or cookie sheet. Then combine the cooled quinoa with all of the other ingredients in a large bowl. Serve immediately or chill in the fridge for later. I like to plate my salad over a few lettuce leaves and top with blue chips (Garden of Eatin’s Red Hot Blues are my favorite!) Serves 4 unicorns with post-frappucino caffeine jitters.

*A note on mangos…they are impossibly sticky and have an absurdly large pit in the middle. For a long time, I found them too annoying to eat, until I learned how to “hedgehog” one. Stand your mango up on a cutting board and slice one side from the top to the bottom as close to the pit as your knife can get. Repeat with the other side. Using a paring knife, slice through the two pieces lengthwise and widthwise without piercing the skin. Then invert each piece and gently slice off the mango cubes. See picture above for what your mango should look like!