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Bean, Grain and Green Salads

3 ingredients that add up to healthy and delicious one-dish meals

En español | There are bean salads, grain salads and green salads, and then there are the exceptional salads that incorporate all three — beans, grains and greens — into one fresh, satisfying complete meal. These salads not only are pretty to look at and fun to eat but also are easy to make.

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Pasta Lentil Salad, Recipe by Pam Anderson

In this bean, grain and green salad, bowtie pasta, lentil and arugula combine with tomatoes and red onion, resulting in a fun, healthy meal. — threemanycooks.com

Follow the recipes below, or use them to get ideas for building your own bean, grain and green salads. Include what you've got in your own kitchen, what's in season or what your palate craves. There's no need to add protein. The bean-and-grain combo in each salad means the protein is complete.

Use a simple formula: Pick a bean and cook a grain — you'll need a generous four cups total. After that, choose a vegetable or two, or fresh fruit. Add optional flavors — intense ingredients such as olives, capers, potent cheeses or dried fruit.

Herbs are optional, too. I've included one in each recipe, but the salads are tasty enough without them. Every good salad needs a little onion, though. You can use scallions — both white and green parts — or red onions, which are nice for color.

Dress these salads simply with just olive oil, salt, pepper and an acid such as vinegar, lemon or lime juice. You can also toss them with your favorite vinaigrette.

Give these recipes a try and I hope you soon will be creating your own.

Bowtie, Lentil and Arugula Salad With Tomatoes and
Red Onion

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish

  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • Salt
  • 6 ounces (about 2 1/2 cups) uncooked bowtie pasta
  • 1 medium-large tomato, cut into small dice
  • 1 medium-large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 medium red onion (about 1/2 cup) sliced thin
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cups packed arugula (or other baby lettuces)
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Bring 1 1/2 quarts (6 cups) of water to boil in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over high heat. Add lentils and a sprinkling of salt; return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add pasta and return to a boil; continue to cook until lentils and pasta are just tender, about 10 minutes longer. Drain and turn onto a rimmed baking sheet; cool.

Meanwhile, dice tomato, grate carrot, slice onion and chop basil, then add these ingredients, along with the lentils and pasta, to a large bowl. Add oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; toss to coat. Drizzle with vinegar; toss to coat again. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Brown Rice, Black Bean and Cabbage Salad With Mango and Avocado

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish

(Note: I'm grateful to Saveur magazine and the blog "Pinch My Salt" for developing a foolproof method for cooking brown rice.)

  • 1 cup brown rice, rinsed thoroughly
  • Salt
  • 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups finely shredded cabbage
  • 1 small mango, peeled, flesh away from the pit, and cut into small dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into small dice
  • 1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cut into small dice
  • 1/4 medium red onion (about 1/2 cup), sliced thin
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice

Bring 4 cups of water to boil in a large saucepan or small Dutch oven over high heat. Add rice and a sprinkling of salt, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, uncovered, until rice is nearly tender, about 30 minutes. Drain rice and immediately return it to hot pot. Cover and let stand off heat until rice is dry and just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer rice to a large bowl.

Meanwhile drain and rinse beans, shred cabbage, and prepare mango, pepper, avocado, onion and cilantro, and add to bowl of rice. Drizzle with oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper; toss to coat. Drizzle with lime juice; toss to coat again. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Quinoa, Black-Eyed Pea and Kale Salad With Scallions and Peppers

Serves 4 as a main course or 6 to 8 as a side dish

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • Salt
  • 1 can (15 to 16 ounces) black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 packed cups of kale that's been washed, stemmed and torn into bite-size bits
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into small dice
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • Ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons sherry or red wine vinegar

Bring 2 cups of water, the quinoa and a sprinkling of salt to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until quinoa is just tender and water is absorbed, about 12 minutes. Turn into a large bowl and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, drain beans, drizzle kale with 1 teaspoon of the oil and massage the leaves until they turn a shade darker. Dice the pepper, chop the celery, slice the scallions and add all of these prepared ingredients, along with the black-eyed peas, to the quinoa. Drizzle salad with remaining 1/4 cup of oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; toss to coat. Add vinegar; toss to coat again. Adjust seasonings and serve.

Pam Anderson, AARP food expert, is a New York Times bestselling cookbook author who blogs at threemanycooks.com.


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