Some of the best meals are the ones that just... happen. Unplanned, no recipe, improvisational fun time style. I've discovered that's been a theme of late with our meals, thanks largely to the week-of surprise of our CSA box as well as the pace that summer so conveniently provides: a little slower, a little calmer. I love that it means less need to uber-plan in advance.
That's absolutely what happened here: what began as a smorgasbord-y dinner quickly turned into a themed Mexican salad, complete with a cumin scented avocado kale dressing. My favorite part? The treat of having raw, local sweet corn.
I so rarely cook with corn (save a recent adventure with this Summer Succotash), so as the ears keep rolling in from the upstate farm we have a share in, I've been at a bit of a loss for what to do with it.
In general, corn isn't tremendously nutritious. Not to mention, estimates suggest that 85% of the corn we see in the USA is generically modified (no thanks). Because it turns up so ubiquitously in so many products (maltodextrin, citric acid, mannitol, lactic acid, modified food starch and ethanol are all corn derivatives; there are dozens more), I tend to recommend avoiding other intentional sources wherever possible. Consider your system all corned out, particularly if you consume packaged products on a regular basis.
That being said, nothing beats fresh-off-the-cob organic corn. Unrefined and super flavorful, this is pretty much summer in a mouthful and for all of the vigilance I exercise towards food most of the time, I feel like a little flexibility for fleeting summertime yumminess is justified. ;) Plus, the farm we support is extra-awesome and eschews all GMO seeds, pesticides and insecticides (yay!). That's probably why this corn is so good.
So, back to the birth of this little dish: simple, colorful (the marker of a nutritious meal, in general: the amount of color!) -- unless of course the colors are numbered like Red No. 5 and Yellow No. 3. No bueno. You may be wondering where the green is, because in almost every dish on this blog, something green makes a weird-o appearance.
True to form, there's kale in the sauce. Initially, I was going to do just a simple avocado/lemon combination - kind of like a realllllly fluid guacamole - but my health coach brain kicked in and said, 'OR! You could put kale in the dressing and add some extra nutrients! DO IT.' So I listened. ;) Your blood and your digestive tract will thank you -- kale is a purifying fibrous green. #bonuspointsforyou
The most time intensive parts are waiting for the sweet potatoes to roast (~35 minutes), the onions to caramelize (20 minutes) and the quinoa to cook (15 minutes), but while they do, you can prep everything else. It's pretty darn efficient, I must say!
Get your potatoes in the oven, the chop up your pile of red and yellow onions to sautee. Remove corn from the cob and chop tomatoes, prepare your kale-avocado dressing and slice up some limes.
Once everything is cooked up, you get to play artiste and arrange however you like. These rows are for example only -- feel free to mix this puppy up however you like! The part of me that really likes whole foods tossed together in a bowl would be uber-happy just throwing this all in with the quinoa, mixing and serving... which is basically what happened once we divided this up onto serving plates.
Pictured here is about 3 servings worth, which is what you should expect of the recipe if you make it. Feel free to add some extra green goodness by serving on salad greens or spinach.
Happy assembling, you seasonal eater, you!
- 1 cup cooked quinoa
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp red chili pepper flakes
- 1 medium sweet potato
- olive oil + salt
- medium red onion
- 1/2 large tomato
- 1 ear corn, shucked and kernels cut off
- 2 limes for sauce, 1 for garnish
- 1/3 cup avocado oil, divided
- 1 large kale leaf, thick ribs removed, torn into small strips
- couple of pinches salt
- 1/4 tsp cumin
- salad greens or spinach for serving (optional)
- 1. Preheat oven to 375F. Spread potatoes on a foil-lined tray and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for ~35 minutes until tender and slightly crisped on the outside.
- 2. While potatoes cook, put quinoa on to boil (about 1/2 cup dry quinoa to 1 cup water should yield more than a cup of cooked grain) and heat oil in a pan for onions.
- 3. Once oil is glistening, add onions and sautee about 20 minutes until nicely caramelized.
- 4. While onions, quinoa and potatoes continue to cook, cut corn from cobs and slice up your tomatoes.
- 5. Once quinoa is cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork and let stand a few minutes before mixing in 1 tbsp avocado oil, chili, garlic and a pinch of salt. Cover and set aside.
- 6. Combine remaining oil, salt, cumin and kale in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- 7. By now, your sweet potatoes should be done. Transfer quinoa to a large serving platter, then layer on your other ingredients. Serve with sauce on top or on the side, whichever you prefer.
- Don't love raw corn or tomatoes? No worries. A light steam of the corn in a steamer basket (~5-6 minutes) and a quick grill or pan-fry for the tomatoes will soften them up a little.