Citrus & Cashew Cheese Salad

I'm always ahead of the seasons, at the foot of the previous one awaiting the dawn of the next. And it's always a slow transition - the snow leaves, it returns, but never staying as long as it had before. It's March and I'm waiting for April's return of the outdoor farmer's market. I'm waiting for dry trails I can run on, and I'm waiting for berry season! This salad though: tastes like the arrival of Spring.

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Everything from the light berry-like flavour of the blood oranges, the lighter consistency of the cashew cheese, and the simple avocado oil & apple cider vinegar dressing, make this salad reminiscent of Spring. It's a very airy meal - perfect for a creative mind hoping not to be tied down.

Salads are so wonderfully versatile - they can be as light or as filling as you like, and you don't have to feel bad about having an enormous portion. 

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Incorporating Bitters Onto Your Plate

There are six main tastes recognized by our taste buds: sweet & salty (our favourites in the western diet), sour, pungent, astringent and bitter. A review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition interestingly laid out many beneficial phytonutrients that we seek in high doses from supplements, and identified that most (like 90% most) offer a bitter or astringent taste to the plant. These chemicals include quercetin (powerful antioxidant) beta carotene (important for skin and eye health) & glucosinolates (compounds from cruciferous vegetables which are converted into some very powerful anti-cancer, hormone balancing chemicals). Even cocoa, which naturally contains bitter phenols called catechins, is typically processed to be sweeter, taking away the anti inflammatory bitter components, essentially turning cocoa into a guilty pleasure rather than a “super food”. Many bitter compounds are also incredibly cleansing and detoxifying especially for the liver, our very own detoxifier. Slight bitterness in the mouth activates enzyme and bile production, enhancing digestion & nutrient absorption.

For this salad I used fresh arugula - but you could use a mixed green with hints of bitters, kale, dandelion, etc. 

 

The dressing is simple: 2 parts oil (I used avocado oil), 1 part vinegar (I used apple cider), and some fresh herbs and blood orange juice if you feel like it. Add a crack of salt and pepper, and it's finished.

The only preparation this salad requires is the washing of the greens, cutting the oranges, quickly mixing together the dressing, and of course the cashew cheese:

 
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For the cashew cheese: 

Ingredients:

1 cup raw cashews (plus water to soak)
1 tbsp fresh lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp unsweetened nut milk
1 garlic clove, minced
3 tbsp diced parsley
2 tbsp diced basil
Sea salt & pepper

Directions:

Soak cashews in filtered water, enough to cover the cashews. I soaked mine for 3 hours in warm water (warm water will speed up the soaking time, whereas if you use cold, you'll want to soak overnight). In a food processor, add cashews, almond milk, lemon juice and zest, and garlic. Pulse until mixed thoroughly, but not super smooth. I was looking for the consistency of ricotta or goat's cheese. Remove from food processor, and add fresh herbs, salt and pepper to taste. The cheese will be good to eat right away - no leaving overnight or anything! It is, however good refrigerated a few hours before serving. 

 

I had some other garnishes/ toppings on hand to add crunch and nutrition to the salad: chopped pistachios, hemp hearts and avocado.

But that's the jist! Let me know if you try the cashew ricotta or the whole salad combination, I'd love to hear your thoughts!