Categories
Mucho Gusto

Spring Salad

As the seasons change, so do cravings. Specific dishes just make sense in different parts of the year. On rainy autumn days, I always want to curl up with a bowl of warm soup; on frigid winter days, a steaming cup of hot chocolate just hits differently. In the upcoming sunny, spring days, when the air smells fresh and flowers bloom, the world will begin to crave something fresh to eat. Or, at least I will. 

Salad in any form, with its combination of fresh ingredients, seems like the embodiment of spring in a dish. By definition, a salad should have fresh leafy greens, which reminds me of the return of greenery in springtime. Whenever I think of salad, I tend to gravitate towards a spinach base, but alone it is too plain. The addition of tomatoes, black beans, and pasta, however, can elevate a salad, freeing it from its relegation as a side dish and transforming it into a full-fledged meal. A delicious pasta salad can provide the perfect transition dish from those richer winter meals to the lighter spring and summer dishes.

In my opinion, pasta in salads just makes them more filling and delicious. For salads, the best pastas have unique shapes. The more fun their shape, the better. With their ridges and curves, pastas like fusilli, campanelle, farfalle, and radiatore, are able to collect the salad dressing and grated cheese, adding more flavor in each bite. Mixed with black beans and cherry tomatoes, this salad has hints of earthy and sweet flavors, which are enhanced further by the balsamic vinegar glaze. The sprinkle of parmesan cheese adds some saltiness to the dish, complimenting the pasta well. While these ingredients seem like they would clash, they are pantry staples, and, I swear, their flavors actually go surprisingly well together! Whether you’re looking for a quick and easy dish for lunch, or something light to eat on a fresh spring day, this salad is sure to satisfy. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 box pasta (16 oz.)
  • 1 container of spinach (12 oz.)
  • 2 cans black beans (15 oz.)
  • 5 cups cherry tomatoes
  • ¼ cup balsamic glaze 
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Heaping ¾ cup parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

First, bring a pot of water to a boil, add the pasta to the water, and cook according to the instructions on the pasta box, which vary depending on the pasta type. Next, rinse and halve the cherry tomatoes. Similarly, rinse the spinach and canned black beans. As with any salad, the ingredients are flexible. Arugula or baby kale are good substitutes for spinach, and garbanzo beans or lentils are alternatives to black beans. You can always add chicken or tofu to make it more filling. 

After the pasta has finished cooking, strain and place into a large bowl. Next, pour the black beans and cherry tomatoes onto the pasta, and top with the spinach. With salad tongs, mix the salad until all ingredients are equally distributed. To top it off, drizzle the balsamic glaze and olive oil over the salad and mix a second time to incorporate the dressing. Finally, add the parmesan cheese and some freshly ground pepper and salt to taste, and voila! You’ve got yourself a quick, easy, and delicious spring pasta salad. Enjoy!

This recipe serves 3-4 people.

Cover photo courtesy of Pinch of Yum

Categories
Mucho Gusto

Avocado Toast

Whether you love it or hate it, avocado toast is the quintessential brunch dish. Though some call avocado toast “basic,” its popularity is well deserved. Be it the crunch of the toast, the buttery texture of the avocado, or the satisfying golden run of an egg cooked to perfection, avocado toast has a little bit of everything you want in a dish. 

Humans began cultivating avocados in Mexico around 500 B.C. and the fruit eventually made its way to California in the 19th century. Over the years, avocados gained popularity for their unique nutty flavor and oily texture, which was perfect for guacamole, as a taco topping, and— especially in the  2010s—in the form of avocado toast. According to the USDA, the American per capita consumption of avocados has tripled since the early 2000s. 

Now, I can’t say whether the avocado toast trend contributed to this, but regardless, avocado toast is both simple and delicious. The everything bagel seasoning adds a salty crunch to the toast while the slight drizzle of sriracha combined with the egg yolk provides a creamy, sweet and spicy finish to the dish. To give the recipe more flavor, I like to add lemon juice to the avocado.

Because avocado is such a versatile ingredient, this dish is also very flexible. If you don’t have lemon juice on hand, use lime juice for a slightly different but nonetheless delicious citrusy edge. No everything but the bagel seasoning? Not to fear! Use a little bit of garlic salt and a sprinkle of black pepper instead. With so much adaptability, this recipe provides room for experimentation. I prefer a poached egg, but any style of egg will do. If you don’t like eggs, use a few sliced cherry tomatoes as a sweet and tangy topper instead. For an added kick, I like sriracha, but for those who can’t handle spice, a sprinkle of crushed black pepper will do the trick. With this recipe, the only non-negotiable ingredient is the avocado. 

Next time you’re craving a quick and filling breakfast (or if we’re being real, lunch or dinner), or simply want to impress your friends with a speedy, yet, scrumptious meal, this not-so-basic recipe has got you covered. 

Ingredients:

Procedure:

To begin, place a medium-sized pot filled halfway with water on medium to high heat. Bring the water to a boil. While waiting for the water to boil, toast the two slices of bread in a toaster for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Add the diced avocado and lemon juice to a bowl. Using a fork, mash the avocado until the mixture appears well-combined and textured. Once the toast is ready, divide the avocado mixture evenly between both slices of toast and spread evenly with a fork. Sprinkle the everything bagel seasoning onto the toast. 

Once the water is boiling, poach the eggs, two at a time. To do this, crack two eggs into the gently boiling water. Let the eggs sit in the boiling water for 1 minute and 15 seconds, or until cooked before carefully removing them from the water with a slotted spoon. Place both eggs on one slice of toast and repeat the process for the second slice of toast. Once finished, to add a kick, drizzle some sriracha over the eggs, sprinkle on a little black pepper, and voila! You have yourself two slices of avocado toast that rival any restaurant brunch. 

This recipe makes 2 avocado toasts (Feeds 1 or 2 people).