Photograph by John WilwolOne of the best perks about working at a magazine is the sheer number of diet books that get sent our way (one of the not-so-great perks is having to get rid of all the five-pound political biographies). I'm absolutely fascinated with them; not because I'm any good at going on a diet, but because I find the disparity of advice absolutely hysterical, and there's usually at least one reliable recipe if you ignore calls for non-fat cooking spray, Splenda, and soy products. Here's what I've gleaned from the diet books I've read over the last year: If you cut out carbs, fat, meat, dairy, animal products, fruit, and sugar, and exist on a high-fat, non-fat, vegan, meat-based, exercise-heavy diet of vegetables, you'll manage to not only lose weight but also keep it off. Astonishing. Shake Shack feeling all virtuous like I did and order the shroom burger, because not only is it an epic waste, it turns out it's even higher in fat than a regular cheeseburger.
Last weekend I played a plant-based version of Let's Clean Out the Fridge, and faced with some mushrooms, a green pepper, and some wilted scallions, I came up with this salad. It's actually delicious and travels really well because the arugula isn't dressed, and it's pretty quick to put together for a not-too-heavy dinner in 90-degree heat. Just don't tell anyone it's vegan or they'll look at you all funny and stop asking you to dinner.
Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side
½ cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 10-ounce container button mushrooms, coarsely chopped
Pinch red-pepper flakes
1 tablespoon chopped curly parsley
4 cups arugula, not too firmly packed
1 green bell pepper, cored, sliced, and roughly chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Take the rinsed quinoa and place it in a saucepan with the cold water. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for 10 minutes until quinoa is fluffy (most of the water should have evaporated, but if it hasn't, drain any excess). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat the olive oil in a skillet over a medium-low flame and saute the garlic for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the mushrooms and red-pepper flakes and saute for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly, until they've reduced in size and released some liquid. Remove the mushrooms from the heat, season with salt and pepper, and stir in the parsley.
Place the arugula on plates, or on a serving dish. Combine the quinoa and mushrooms with the remaining ingredients, and serve the mixture on top of the arugula.