Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Love at First Bite

It is now the 18th week of the year, and yet I have only blogged about 15 salads. That means that this week I will attempt to make 3 posts containing 3 new and delicious salads. I could make excuses, but I won't. That's not what this 52 week challenge is all about.

Last week I went away on an OBBN training course. The OBBN is the Ontario Benthos Biomonitoring Network, and they are a network of researchers who collaborate, collecting and sharing data on the invertebrates that inhabit the bottom of freshwater bodies (streams, lakes, wetlands), for the purposes of assessing the health of freshwater systems throughout Ontario.

Ok, ok.... back to food. Whilst away for this course, inspiration was not in short supply. On the last day as we made our way home from Bracebridge, we stopped in Whitby for dinner. I had a hankering for sushi, but after parking and waiting to cross the street, we noticed a delightful looking Thai restaurant called i-Thai. I have to say, if you are ever in or near Whitby, you need to check out this place. We left that restaurant with full bellies, and smiles on our faces. Sometimes food really can bring immeasurable amounts of joy, and this place delivered. We started our meal with their mango salad, and it was love at first bite. I knew I had to go home and recreate it.

The key to this dish is using fresh herbs. This salad has both cilantro and mint, giving it a fresh bright taste. If you're one of those people who has an aversion to cilantro, I apologize, as it will appear in all three of this week's salads. It's not my fault really... if the grocery store would sell them in more reasonably sized bunches I wouldn't have this problem.

Mint belongs to a very prestigious
family- Lamiaceae. The mint family contains many delicious herbs including rosemary, oregano, lavender, sage, savory, thyme, oregano, marjoram, and catnip. There are many mints that are native to Ontario as well such as wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare), wild bergamot aka bee-balm (Monarda fistulosa) and a hat full of mountain mints (Pycnanthemum spp.). Mints have so many good things going for them. Mints aid in digestion, soothing the stomach and settling indigestion (ever wonder why Pepto-bismol and the like are always minty?). Mints are beneficial for asthmatics in two ways: first, rosmarinic acid blocks production of inflammatory compounds, and encourages the production of prostacyclins that keep the airways open. It's anti-inflammatory action also makes it a good choice for cold & flu season. And to top it off, they have a healthy dose of antimicrobial properties, suppressing the growth of bacteria (hence its presence in toothpaste).

Factoid: In Greek mythology, a nymph named Minthe was turned into a sweet smelling plant by Persephone

Enough rambling, and onto the salad!

Thai Mango Salad
Makes 2 servings

1 unripe mango
1 smallish carrot
1/4 red bell pepper
1 tbsp red onion
1 tbsp crushed peanuts
1 tbsp crushed cashews
5 or 6 fresh mint leaves
~2 tbsp fresh cilantro
juice of 1 lime
1-2 tsp agave nectar (or other sweetener)

Peel your mango and cut it into thin strips. Slice carrot, pepper, and onion as thinly as possible into thin matchsticks. Chop up herbs (Tip: an easy way to cut flat-leaf herbs like mint & basil - stack them on top of each other, roll them up along the long side, and slice thinly for even thin strips of herbs). In a small dish/cup, combine lime juice with agave nectar (or other sweetener). The amount of sweetener you'll need will depend on the tartness of the mango (less ripe = more tart), and your personal preference. Adjust as necessary. Toss all ingredients together. Allow the salad to rest for several minutes, allowing the flavours to get to know each other. Garnish with fresh mint leaves if you're feeling fancypants.

Salad Challenge Countdown
Salads made: 16 Salads left: 36

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