A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Native Foods, a local Southern California chain of vegan restaurants featuring incredibly fresh, natural, healthy dishes. Shortly after, my friend Amanda came to visit for a long weekend and though we had intended to take a trip to Native Foods, we became so busy with cooking, gymming, and watching DVDs of Nip/Tuck that we didn’t make it there. But, ever the gracious house guest, a few days after her departure, the The Native Foods Restaurant Cookbook arrived at my doorstep as a little thank you gift. (Thank you, Amanda!)
Seeing as how Amanda had been particularly drawn to the Ensalada Azteca from the menu (reincarnated as the Mecca Azteca in the cookbook), I thought it was an apt place to start for my first foray into the cookbook. Turns out it was a great choice. The salad was terrific, and very different from the ones I usually make. Usually, I feel deprived if my salad doesn’t have cheese or nuts, but there were so many flavors and textures in the Mecca Azteca that I didn’t miss the fattier add-ins. This is a great way to get your veggies and mango lovers wil particularly appreciate having both a fresh mango garnish and the mango-based dressing.
As for the cookbook in general, it definitely has a low-budget feel, being little more than recipes with a few brief comments and no pictures whatsoever. In other words, it might not jump off of the shelf at you, but experience thus far says it’s worth looking beyond its aesthetics. And I may even try some of the many tempeh and seitan recipes in it; normally I shy away from meat substitutes, but given how outstanding my experiences with Native Foods (both the restaurant and the cookbook) have been to date, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Mecca Azteca Salad (4 large servings)
1 cup chopped tomato
1 cup peeled, chopped cucumber
1 cup chopped jicama
1 cup chopped avocado
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 cups mixed salad greens
4 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
Mango lime dressing:
1 cup chopped fresh of frozen mango (I used Trader Joe’s mango sauce, which is already mostly pureed)
1/2 cup safflower, sunflower, or canola oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger
1. To prepare quinoa, bring 2 cups of water per 1 cup of couscous to boil. Add couscous, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. If there’s any water left in the pot at that point, just let it sit, removed from heat, to absorb remaining liquid.
2. To prepare salad dressing, place all ingredients in a blender and puree (or use stick blender). If you use frozen mango, you can either defrost first or blend frozen (the blender will defrost it).
3. In a bowl, combine tomato, cucumber, jicama, avocado, and red onion. Toss with lemon juice and sea salt. Divide salad greens onto 4 plates, top each with about a cup of couscous. On each serving, drizzle quinoa with about 2 tbsp mango lime vinaigrette. On each serving, place 1/4 of the tomato mixture on top of the quinoa. Drizzle a bit more lime vinagrette on top of the tomato mixture on each serving. Garnish with fresh cilantro, pumpkin seeds, currants, fresh mango slices, and chipotle powder.