I’ve spent most of my life in Texas, where approximately 300 days of the year it is too hot to want to cook. We definitely do our share of grilling around here, but sometimes a cool, refreshing salad seems more appealing than anything else. However, my problem with salad is that it’s a little like eating air – I can finish it and still feel like I’ve eaten nothing. So there’s no way I can make a meal out of it without adding a LOT of protein!
Tonight was definitely a salad night, because I was short on time and it’s getting quite warm and sunny. I also found a nice bunch of fresh cilantro and a pretty mango at the store, and had a half avocado I needed to use up – so I based my meal around those three items. My resulting creation got two thumbs up from both me and my carnivorous hubby, which makes it a huge success in my book!
This salad is perfect for a meal, because it’s a great balance of protein and veggies, blending hearty black beans and fresh baby spinach with bright fruit juices and cilantro. Topped with a cool, creamy avocado-based dressing, you’re getting a super dose of vitamins, fiber and healthy fats. I strongly recommend mixing up the black beans and letting them marinate while you prep the rest of the salad! The longer than can sit, the better the flavors with meld and intensify. The jalapeño is definitely optional in here. There’s plenty of flavor without it, but I like the extra kick! Just be sure you taste your jalapeño and adjust the amount depending on the heat level.
And even though this salad already has plenty of protein, if you have a house full of carnivores, feel free to top this salad with the meat of your choice – or grilled fish would be especially delicious!
Tropical Spinach and Black Bean Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
2 c. cooked black beans* (or 1 can – though it will be slightly less), rinsed and drained
1 T. olive oil
Juice of 1/2 an orange (approx. 1/4 cup)
1/2 t. orange zest
1/4 c. red onion thinly sliced
1/2 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
Optional – chopped jalapeño
4 c. baby spinach, roughly chopped
1 mango, diced
1 small or 1/2 large avocado (approx. 1 cup)
2 T. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 c. unsweetened cashew milk (or milk of your choice)
1 t. lime juice
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix black beans, olive oil, orange juice and zest, red onion, and cilantro (and jalapeño, if you’re using it!) and set aside to marinate. Combine dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth – add milk until you reach the desired consistency.
To serve, combine divide spinach among 4 bowls. Top with black bean mixture, then drizzle with dressing and sprinkle mango on top. Add a light sprinkle of salt and pepper, if desired.
*Black beans are one of my favorite meal prep items. I like to make mine in the slow cooker, then divide into one cup servings and freeze.
Do you have a favorite salad combination?