Despite being nicknamed the Sunshine State, Florida gets its fair share of rainy days. Luckily, with oranges in season 10 months out of the year, it is so very easy to bring sunshine onto our plates.
This dish was designed on a rainy evening, for rainy evenings... or any occasion where a nourishing, light-yet-sustaining bowl of goodness is appropriate. Though lovely as a side, the protein from the pistachios and rich lemon-cashew dressing combined with the heartiness of the avocado and beets render this salad fulfilling enough to make a meal on its own.
As with most recipes here, every component of this dish has wondrous nutritional properties. Spinach is rich in potassium and magnesium, and comprises one of the best-known sources of plant-based (non-heme) iron. Basil contains antioxidant properties as well as ample amounts of vitamins K and A. Beets, while sweet-tasting, actually have a low glycemic load, which is wonderful because they contain nitrates that benefit cardiovascular health, and possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Avocado, darling of the wellness community, is high in monounsaturated fat, a.k.a. the "good" fat that helps to lower cholesterol, as well as lutein (good for eye health), cell-repairing folate, and hunger-pacifying fiber. Pistachios, another "good fat" source, pack a strong plant-based protein punch and may benefit cardiovascular health with their l-argenine and vitamin E content. Finally, star of the show, oranges, are famously rich in vitamin C and have a low glycemic load (despite a relatively high glycemic index, like many fruits).
I typically enjoy this salad tossed together in one big, messy bowl (and with much more of the dressing). However, a salad (also containing avocado and beets) that I enjoyed at Prato, a lovely restaurant in my hometown, inspired this presentation to showcase all elements. Gratitude to certain sweet friends in Montana for this gorgeous wooden serving slat.
Now, to let the sunshine in...
RECIPE: Sunshine Salad
(serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side)
☼ For the salad itself:
- 4 cups of baby spinach leaves
- 1 large navel orange, cut into quarter-inch-thick slices with the peel trimmed off
- 1 thickly sliced avocado
- 1 cup cooked beets, cut into chunks (this method for roasting works nicely)
- 1/2 cup roasted, salted, and shelled pistachio nuts
- two handfuls whole, fresh basil leaves
- salt and black pepper to taste
☼ For the cashew-lemon dressing:
- 1/2 cup raw or roasted cashews (raw have a milder taste, but either works here; if you do not have a "powerful" blender, soak the cashews for at least an hour or boil for 15 minutes)
- 1/2 cup water
- juice of one large, juicy lemon
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- Blend all ingredients for the dressing until creamy-smooth, and set aside.
- Sprinkle the avocado slices with salt and black pepper immediately before use.
☼ If preparing conventionally (in a bowl): place the spinach, basil, and half of the pistachios in the bowl, and gently toss with half of your desired quantity of dressing. Then, add the orange slices, beets, and avocado, and very gently toss with the remainder of the dressing (be very careful not to turn everything pink with the beets or smush the avocado). Top with the remainder of the pistachios to serve.
☼ If preparing as pictured above: arrange the avocado slices around the periphery of your serving dish. Place the spinach and basil atop the avocado slices, and carefully arrange the orange slices and beets atop the greens. Sprinkle with the pistachios, and drizzle with dressing. Place the remainder of the dressing on the table.
Serve with love.