The weather has been extremely weird here in Shanghai this month. January 2015 is unusually warm and temperatures keep rising to spring like conditions. This means I am craving a lighter salad, that reminds me of the freshness and blossoming greens of spring. Bring on this zucchini spring salad! The combination of leafy kale, nutty edamame, and creamy avocado is a true winner.
I am sure most of you will have tried edamame at a Japanese restaurant, where they are usually served as an appetizer in the pods, sprinkled with some salt. But how do you prepare them at home? You can sometimes find them fresh; they look just like green snap peas. The pod is inedible and you are looking for the beans inside the pod. Peeling them fresh is kind of a nuisance, so I like to throw them in boiling water for up to 15 minutes. This will soften the shell. Strain them, run some cold water over, and you can squeeze out the beans easily. If you are not lucky and can’t find the fresh ones, look in the frozen section. You can often find big bags of already shelled edamame there. Same thing: just throw them into the boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes until they are soft and cooked through. The frozen ones are great to keep in the freezer when you are running out of other nutrient beans to add to your daily meals.
There has been a lot of controversy around soy in the past years, and it can get confusing with so much contradicting information out there. Here is a snippet of my take on it: In the West, we like quick fixes in our diet. A high protein diet will make us lose weight? Great, bring on the steaks, cheese, and other meaty dishes! Japanese women have less breast cancer? It must be because of all the soy, let’s eat more of it!
In the early 2000s you could see soy taking over every snack shelf, breakfast cereal, and wannabe vegetarian dinner plate. Soy comes in many forms like the fresh soy beans (edamame) or dried ones, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, soy bean oil, and more. These are just the products we see on the shelves. There are dozens of food additives derived from soy. On top of that, most of the live stock around the world is fed with soy products. This presents two very crucial problems:
With the amount of soy needed in the world, there is no way it can just be grown organically on a picturesque farm. Soy is one of the most genetically modified crops out there so chances are when you use soy you are ingesting something that has been genetically modified.
Soy is in EVERYTHING! We are exposed to soy from breakfast to dinner: breakfast cereal? Check! Toast for your lunch sandwich? Check! Chocolate bar pick-me-up in afternoon? Check! Your burger and fries for dinner? Check! Overloading your system with one nutrient is never a good idea no matter if there may be potential health benefits to this ingredient. Paracelsus, the father of toxicology already knew in the 16th century: “The dose makes the poison”.
So what to do? Personally, I believe if you avoid processed, packaged foods, you are already eliminating over 90% of soy additives in your diet. I do not have soy products on a daily basis, but I also enjoy a scrambled tofu or some edamame once in a while. If you do want to use soy, I suggest you stick to young, mostly unprocessed or fermented products such as edamame or tempeh. Tofurkey may be a great vegetarian deli meat substitute but check the label - there is nothing natural about it.
If you are avoiding soy because of allergies (and there are a lot of people out there who don’t know they are allergic) or your own soy believes, then simply substitute with fava beans or other beans of your choice in this recipe.
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
For 1 main serving:
For the salad:
1 cup kale, finely chopped
1/2 cup edamame beans
1/2 yellow (or green) zucchini
20 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 avocado, sliced
3 Tbsp slivered almonds
For the dressing:
juice of 1 lemon
3.5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
1 Tbsp honey (or other liquid sweetener of your choice)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
First, boil a small pot of water to cook the edamame. See above regarding frozen or shelled edamame.
In the meantime, take a peeler and slice the zucchini lengthways. This will create long ribbon like zucchini slivers.
Toast the almonds to get them extra crunchy: heat a small pan over medium heat, and add the almond slivers. Keep tossing and turning them, so they don’t burn. After 2 minutes they should be browning on all sides. Immediately take them out of the pan and put to the side to top your salad later.
Now make your dressing by combining all dressing ingredients. Whisk until you have a creamy vinaigrette. Season with sea salt and black pepper.
Toss the zucchini with the kale, edamame, and mint leaves in the dressing in a bowl. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and top with sliced avocado.