Avocado Super Food!

Avocado – delicious, versatile, satisfying – is considered a super food Salad-BlBeansfor good reason. Did you know that avocado provides a complete protein? That’s right, avocado contains all nine essential amino acids. Avocado is rich in mono-unsaturated fat that is easily burned for energy. Other essential nutrients include fiber, potassium (more than twice the amount of bananas!), Vitamins C and E, B-vitamins, and folic acid.
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, avocado contains compounds that may inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells. There are more than 80 varieties of avocados, but most of us are familiar with the year-round Hass avocado with the thick, nubby skin. California produces about 90% of avocado crops in the US, Florida produces the other 10%.
Avocado is actually a fruit, and it is one of the safest ones to buy “conventionally” grown (our euphemism for chemically grown), because its thick skin protects the fruit from sprayed pesticides. As with many other fruits, the greatest concentration of beneficial nutrients is found closest to the peel. For this reason, the best way to peel an avocado is to cut it in half and slide your thumb under the skin in order to release the fruit. If you’re saving half an avocado for another meal, make sure to store it with the seed, as this will keep it fresher and less likely to turn brown. Add it to any meal for flavor and appeal!

High protein, vegan, no soy

Rice and beans, in one form or another, are the staple for much of the world, with the combination of a grain and a pulse (legume) delivering all the “essential” amino acids of a “whole” protein. Sound boring? It doesn’t have to be – your options are endless. Familiar grains include rice, bulgur (cracked wheat), barley, quinoa, maize – or you may want to venture into new turf and try faro or millet. The abundance of beans is staggering – best prices are always in bulk (instead of pre-packaged). Dried beans need to be soaked overnight, rinsed, and then cooked up in fresh water without salt (salt will make the beans tough).

Some of my favorite combinations include vegan paella with a meaty Rancho Gordo red or black ayocote bean. This dish includes seared onions, chilies, bell pepper, lots of garlic, saffron and pimenton (smoked paprika); instead of meat or seafood, just add cooked beans of your choosing. Another favorite rice dish is Mujadara, a Lebanese specialty with yellow lentils and seasoned with toasted cumin, garlic and caramelized onion.

Silk Road Bulgur Pilaf

1 c French lentils, picked over and washedSilkRdPilaf
4 c water
2 Tb. cumin seeds
2 large onions, sliced in fine half-rings
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled & grated
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 serrano chili, seeded & finely chopped
½ dried sour cherries
Pinch of saffron threads
2 c coarse bulgur
½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp. ground turmeric
2 large ripe tomatoes, peeled & diced
Extra virgin olive oil
Garnish: 1 c chopped fresh dill, parsley, cilantro, green onion, or basil

Combine the lentils with the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, until lentils are tender but not soggy. Drain and sprinkle with a little olive oil.
Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil, add the bulgur, stir, then turn off heat and cover. Allow to sit for a half hour until liquid is absorbed.
Heat oil in a wok or skillet until hot, add cumin seeds and cook until aromatic (about 10 sec.), add onion and cook for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Add the ginger, saffron threads, garlic, chili, salt, pepper, and turmeric. Add the chopped dried cherries and a little extra liquid to the pan and cover for a few minutes to allow cherries to plump.
Combine the cooked lentils and bulgur, then fold in onion and spice mixture; fluff with a fork. Adjust seasonings, add additional olive oil, and fold in diced tomatoes and half the finely chopped fresh herbs. Garnish with the remainder of herbs. Serves 6-8 as a side dish.