Pineapple belongs on pizza, and strawberries belong on salad. I don’t care what you think.
I haven’t always loved sweet and tart or sweet and savoury flavours together. I was accustomed to vigorously separating the two growing up, and I hated mixing or different foods touching. I remember my grandpa would always have his buttered toast with sweet strawberry jam and Danish cheese slices on top. The combination seemed quite peculiar to me as a child, not to mention slightly revolting, but I’ve since grown to understand that the two contrasting elements (salty and sweet) actually complement each other quite well. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be sweet and sour as a stir fry option or sweet balsamic glaze on savoury tomato basil salads. People wouldn’t have kettle corn, or wine and cheese, chocolate-covered pretzels, or salted caramel ice cream. The list goes on, and now I’m hungry.
Let’s get back to the point of this post. May was detox month for me (except the occasional pie or pizza slice..oops), and I created this fresh and vibrant beach salad as a way to inspire myself to eat more of a raw vegan diet, and increase my fresh fruit and vegetable intake (which is surprisingly low). I’ve probably said already that salads are not my favourite food. In fact, I rarely eat salad in my diet. However, strawberry spinach salads are my go-to if I have to eat a salad at a restaurant (when there are no other veg options or I’m not that hungry). These salads usually aren’t vegan, as they may contain dairy, so I wanted to veganize a classic salad recipe and see how it turns out.
My vision was a vegan version of Canadian restaurant Joey’s Beach Salad, which features spinach, strawberries, candied pecans, goat’s cheese, soy chik’n slices, red quinoa, and avocado slices on a bed of spinach, drizzled with a deliciously sweet and supple lemon poppy seed dressing. This is a salad that’s meant to be a main entree, so it’s full of protein, fibre, and healthy fats to keep you full.
I decided to sub smoked tofu for the cheese and soy chik’n slices, since I didn’t want too many savoury flavours to overpower the salad. The smoked tofu I use is already quite firm and makes a perfect meat substitute, as well as a cheese substitute due to its salty, smokey, cheesy flavour. For the dressing, I opted for a lemon chia seed dressing, since I didn’t have poppy seeds on hand but liked the seed idea. Chia seeds are also highly nutritious, and aren’t opiate derivatives (in case you’re worried about that). Keep in mind that chia seeds are gelatinous, so this dressing is best served immediately after making it and doesn’t store well (if you must store overnight, don’t add the chia seeds until the next day).
I was so pleased with the end result that I think this beach salad will be a new summertime main for me! I love how all of the sweet flavours from the strawberries and candied pecans come together with the slightly tart lemon-agave dressing, complementing savoury flavours from the smoked tofu. I urge you to try this recipe (even if you don’t like strawberries in your salad) and tell me what you think 🙂
For the Salad: Lemon Chia Seed Dressing:
Vegan Strawberry Spinach Salad w/ Lemon Chia Seed Dressing
2 cups organic spinach/greens
1/2 avocado, sliced
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
1/4 cup red quinoa, cooked and cooled
1/4 cup candied pecans
1/4 cup tofu, cubed
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 tsp. agave or sweetener of choice
1/8 tsp. sea salt + fresh pepper
1 tsp. chia seeds
For the Salad:
Lemon Chia Seed Dressing: