RECIPE: Swoon for Salad

All photos: Laura Hobbs, Fayetteville Flyer

Of the many perks of working for Gaiam, I’d have to say that the organic, locally-sourced employee café is at the top of the list. Every morning we get the day’s menu emailed to us, and every morning I repeatedly drool on my keyboard. The food is diverse, the quality is top-notch, and the kitchen staff knows everyone by name. It’s kinda like Cheers. But above ground. With no beer. And lots of yoga mats.

Fresh Tortellini

Asparagus & Broccoli

Sprouts & Cilantro

Avocado Love

That being said, I’m still a miser at heart and buying lunch every day sends my miser-meter into the red zone. So I’ve made a deal with myself: every Friday, I will treat myself to a meal at the café. Monday through Thursday, I have to bring my own lunch. Harumph.

With Hubs working at night, I have to admit that my meal-planning – and regular meal cooking – has taken a nosedive. Gone are the days of meticulously planning each dinner with the precision of someone who has serious control issues; those days have been replaced with heating up a pot of precisely two cups of water so I can watch my ramen noodles boil to just the right al dente. Insert ashamed face here.

Instead of focusing on dinners these days, I focus on my lunches instead. After I eat my ramen (you think I’m joking, don’t you?), I make myself salads, soups and other things that fare well as leftovers for the days ahead.

On a recent trip to the Boulder library, I picked up a book by the one and only Heidi Swanson of For those in the food blogging world, Heidi is a highly-respected, megawatt blogstar, who is considered one of the original food bloggers. You could call her the Godfather of food blogging. Er, Godmother. Er, Blogmother. You get my drift.

Last year, Heidi came out with a cookbook called “Super Natural Every Day“, which is a spinoff of her previous book, “Super Natural Cooking.” The recipes are divine – and almost all vegetarian – and the photography is 1) amazing and 2) all hers. Swoon! Heidi, let’s be friends and make rope bracelets and braid each other’s hair.

One of the many amazing recipes in Heidi’s book is for a no-nonsense-all-flavor tortellini salad, that combines cheese tortellini (hello, who doesn’t like that?) with green veggies, sprouts, pine nuts and avocado, all tossed together in a lemony vinaigrette that I just want to pour all over myself. Woah. That’s the wine talking. Ignore me.

This salad is the perfect thing to prepare early in the week and enjoy over the days to follow. The flavor combination can’t get much better – cheesy tortellini paired with crunchy green veggies and toasty pine nuts, creamy avocado and zesty sprouts, with a garlicky, lemony pop from the dressing. With a salad as good as this one, I barely notice the intoxicating smell of wood-fired caprese pizza wafting from the kitchen. Enjoy!

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Tortellini Salad

(adapted from Super Natural Every Day)

Download this recipe

1 lb. cheese tortellini
8-10 asparagus spears, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 head broccoli, cut into small trees
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
1/4 c. olive oil
Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Small handful sprouts
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
1 avocado, sliced into small pieces
salt and pepper

Cooking Together

Dressing Time

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt liberally. Add the tortellini and cook according to the package instructions. About 1 minute before the pasta is finished cooking, add the asparagus and broccoli to the boiling pot. Cook for the final minute, drain all together, and run under cold water just long enough to stop the cooking.

In the meantime, make the dressing. Combine the minced garlic, lemon juice and olive oil, whisking thoroughly to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

Toss the pasta, asparagus, broccoli and cilantro with about half of the prepared dressing. Add the sprouts, nuts and avocado, and a little more dressing, and toss gently to combine. Keep the extra dressing on hand to refresh any leftovers; the pasta tends to absorb it overnight.

Photo Slideshow

* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.

Laura Hobbs
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville, but has recently moved to Boulder, Colorado. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more from Laura, check out her food blog, Prana & Pie.