Sprouts. I know its a strange thing to start with. Unless you’re into gardening, or growing herbs in your windowsill, the word ‘sprouts’ isn’t exactly enticing. I can’t hear the word without reliving dozens of boring veggie sandwiches short on flavor and full of alfalfa sprouts. But little sprouts, full of promise are coming into their own. I read this article a few months ago, and no sooner did I make a mental note to investigate sprouting that it was buried in the bustle of everyday life. You might say it was overwhelmed.
You might say that about a lot of things lately. The past few weeks have been a tailspin of stress and tears and celebration and dozens of hours in the car. Settling back into life here I felt an overwhelming need to take care of myself, make some motions to recover from weeks of road food and little indulgences. Sprouts then seemed like a good start.
Of course sprouts are not new, not really even new to me. Sometimes, though it just takes the right moment to see things in a different light. On a recent afternoon visit to the grocery store, while Oliver was napping in his stroller, I took extra time in the produce aisles. In the back corner, behind the oddly placed nutrition books, I lingered at the case that houses wheatgrass, mushrooms, and other raw diet stuff. For whatever reason I was struck by the variety of sprouts. In addition to alfalfa sprouts, there are broccoli sprouts, brussels sprouts sprouts, mung bean sprouts, lentil sprouts and field pea sprouts. I had a salad in mind, so I thought, why not? and opted for a mix of the last three.
So I brought my sprouts home and got to the research. And what a rabbit hole sprouting is! Turns out you can (and so people do) sprout nearly anything – rice and buckwheat, almonds, peanuts, sesame. But why? You might ask. Or if your a half full sort of person, why not? I asked myself both of those questions, and after twenty minutes or so of sifting through links to studies on health benefits, testimonies about their magical life forces and ability to solve world hunger, I was once again feeling, you guessed it, overwhelmed. Its just too much to take in one afternoon, and certainly not on an empty stomach.
The gist is that once soaked, beans (seeds) become living plants and the complex starches stored in the seed are transformed into simple enzymes the plant can use to grow. This change makes them easier to digest, and full of vitamins to give your immune system a boost. A regular diet of sprouts has shown to help prevent everything from acne to strokes and combat ulcers, cholesterol, and even cancer, pretty much anything that could possibly ail you. Believe what you will about the health benefits and life forces of sprouted beans, I wouldn’t be moved to share this with you if they didn’t taste good. They are, in fact, pretty tasty. If you like regular peas and lentils, chances are you’d enjoy the sprouted ones just the same. I suppose you could substitute fresh peas or some other legume, if the little sprouts were just too intimidating. But, if by chance your just a little curious, this should be the salad to introduce you to sprouts, there’s just too much to like about it.
Lately I’ve been sold on any shaved vegetable doused in lemon or lime juice. Its such an easy treatment! Crunchy and refreshing, I quickly forget I’m eating raw vegetables. The zucchini here is no different; add to that the satisfying crunch of toasted almonds and salted sunflower seeds, a little chive oil to ground the lemony flavors and tie it all together, and you have a lovely little lunch. Amazingly, all these all-star components come together naturally and no one outshines the others. Instead they play off each other, creating a nice balance of texture, flavor, and acidity. It made my afternoon, and that is something to feel good about.
Crunchy Sprouted Salad
Adapted from Bon Appetit
- 1 cup chopped chives
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
- 1 1/2 cups mixed dried sprouted legumes (such as mung beans and lentils)
- 1 1/2 cups grated zucchini, lightly squeezed to remove liquid
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- 3 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, toasted salted
- 1/3 cup pepitas, toasted salted
- 1/3 cup almonds, roasted
Purée chives, oil, 2 Tbsp. lemon juice, and 1 tsp. salt in a food processor until smooth. Strain chive vinaigrette through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl
Cook dried sprouted legumes in a large pot of lightly salted boiling water until just tender, about 5 minutes. Cover pot; remove from heat. Let stand for 3 minutes; drain. Rinse legumes under cold water to cool; drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add to that the rice, zucchini, and onion. Toss with the chive vinaigrette.
Just before serving add the pepitas, almonds and sunflower seeds. If they sit too long in the liquid they lose some of their crunch, so beware! This yields a lot of food, so if your anticipating left-overs it’s good to store the seeds separately and add them just before serving. Enjoy!