Avocado and Watercress Salad

I've been on a bit of a health kick recently. Been going to the gym every day, taking spinning classes twice a week and I've been trying to eat healthier, too. This salad just oozes healthfulness, and makes for a pretty amazing light lunch when eaten with a couple slices of toasted six grain bread.

It's all in the dressing; the onion and apple give it the hint of sweetness, and also add a little texture. The soy sauce and rice vinegar base really contrast well with the spiciness of the watercress and the creaminess of the avocado -- it almost tastes like the wasabi/soy combo you get with sushi. The crisp/creamy contrast of the watercress and avocado isn't bad either.

Instead of going to the bother of grating the apple and onion, I just tossed everything into a tall glass and used my immersion blender.

Avocado and Watercress Salad
Gourmet, May 2008

1/4 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned, although seasoned won't kill this recipe)
1 tbsp grated sweet onion (use large holes of a grater)
1/4 cup finely grated peeled Gala apple (use small holes of a grater)
4 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp vegetable oil
6 cups watercress (thin stems and leaves only)
1 firm-ripe avocado

Stir together vinegar, onion, apple, soy sauce and sugar until the sugar has dissolved, then stir in oil.

Just before serving, toss watercress with enough dressing to coat. Quarter, pit, and peel avocado, then cut crosswise into 1/4" slices. Gently toss with watercress.

Makes 6 servings.

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Simple Sugar Snap Peas

Last week at the market, lots of farmers were selling quarts of sugar snap peas and I couldn't resist their shiny pods and cute little crowns. Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of losing things in the fridge, so these little guys sat a week in the crisper. I did remember them today, though.

Snap peas are very similar to the snow pea, but they have rounder pods and are much sweeter. They're better for you than regular peas, as they have a lower sugar and fat content. They also benefit from simple preparation, so it's a win-win!

Sugar Snap Peas with Toasted Sesame Seeds

1 pound sugar snap peas, stringed
1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Sesame seeds need to be toasted for their flavor to be released. Even if you bought pre-toasted sesame seeds, it's a good idea to toast them again before you throw them in with the snap peas. It's also important to buy toasted sesame oil, which is more fragrant than untoasted sesame oil. Toasting your own sesame seeds is very easy; heat up a small, dry saucepan on the stove and add your sesame seeds. When the seeds have begun to brown, you can remove them from the heat. This should take about 5 to 7 minutes at a medium-low heat.

To string the snap peas, pinch the crowned end of the bean (the part that attaches to the plant) and gently pull down the length of the bean. You want the tip to snap off, and to remove the fibrous section along the inner curve of the bean (the string).

Steam the snap peas for three minutes, until they are tender-crisp. Transfer to a bowl, and toss with sesame seeds and oil. Salt and pepper to taste (we like to add lots of freshly ground black pepper -- it gives the dish a nice kick).

Bon App├ętit, April 2000

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