As you are all probably aware from my previous post, I had a blast at the Vegetarian Summerfest this year. And I learned SO MUCH about health and nutrition, even though I was already eating what I considered to be a very health vegan diet. One thing that really struck me on my trip was how many of the speakers we heard advised against using oil. Not only does oil have no nutritional value — making it completely empty in calories — but many presenters discussed its artery-clogging effects, links to cancer when cooked due to oxidation, and associations with vascular insufficiency and blood-clotting. But the thing that really made sense to me is that, when you think about it, oil is a pretty unnecessary food. It really provides no health benefits that can’t be obtained through whole, plant-based sources. This is why it’s best to get fats from nuts, seeds and avocados rather than from oil, which is a processed, stripped down version of real food.
When I came home, I wanted to start incorporating more oil-free meals into my life and in this blog (I am always a student and learning new and amazing things about nutrition — this blog is certainly a reflection of that). Unfortunately, I realized that many of my dishes in the past have contained oil — probably even in cases where it may not be entirely necessary. I will certainly try to limit its use in dishes where it is not needed from now on. I did create a tag for my oil free recipes, and I hope those will increase in volume as time goes on.
It’s pretty clear by now that I am quite the fan of kale. That certainly did not change on my trip. This dish was created to provide a nutritionally-dense, high-protein salad. Gratuitous oil use is perhaps most common in salad dishes — especially in those that soak up a lot of liquids like quinoa. I tried to find other ways to add intrigue to the salad and dressing — and flavor throughout. This salad makes a great, intriguing side dish, or can be eaten in larger portions for a one-bowl lunch or dinner. I find that the flavors work best when warm, but it can certainly be served as a cold salad as well.
The following are a few of my favorite books providing additional information as to why processed oils should be avoided or eliminated from one’s diet:
Oil-Free Protein-Packed Kale Salad:
4 cups finely chopped curly kale (about 1/2 bunch)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, well rinsed (I used 1/2 red and 1/2 white)
2 cups sweet potato, peeled, diced and steamed or boiled until soft (about 10 minutes)
1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes (not oil-packed), roughly chopped (more may be added to taste)
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 can organic chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
sea salt to taste
1. Add quinoa to a small pot with 1 cup of the vegetable broth and 1 cup water. Cook according to package directions, or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.
2. Meanwhile, cook or steam sweet potatoes if you haven’t already.
3. Whisk together dressing ingredients: remaining vegetable broth, cider vinegar, cumin and coriander.
4. Add kale, sun-dried tomato, sweet potato and chickpeas to a large salad bowl. Once quinoa is cooked, add warm quinoa and dressing to bowl and toss. Add salt to taste. Serve warm, room-temperature or chilled.