Beat the Heat with a Cool Summer Salad

With beans and corn, lime and salsa, fresh cilantro and the exotic touch of jicama, this summer salad has a definite hint of Mexico. Thanks to the high fiber of the corn, beans, brown rice and jicama, this dish will stick to the ribs and keep you satisfied. Whole grains, like brown rice, are digested more slowly and steadily than refined grains and tend to keep you feeling fuller longer. You’ll also get considerably more dietary fiber, magnesium and vitamin E than is provided by white rice, along with phytochemicals that help control cholesterol and may prevent the proliferation of cancer cells.

If you’re not familiar with jicama (HICK-ka-ma), now is the time to try this quirky latecomer to the American market. Jicama is a root vegetable that is a staple in Mexican food. It’s sold as street food in South America, with a squeeze of lime and a bit of fiery chili powder. It is a white-fleshed tuber that looks like a turnip, has a thin brown skin and tastes something like an apple. By itself, it’s actually a bit bland, but that allows it to be used in a million different ways. It tends to take on the flavor of whatever you cook it with or dip it in. In this dish, it adds a fresh crunchy texture and is an excellent conduit for the spicy dressing.

Serving bite-sized pieces of meat in a salad such as this one is a good way to keep your meat portion down while eating larger quantities of vegetables and grains. The more you think of plant foods as your mainstay and meat as a side dish or a condiment that adds flavor, the better.

Bean, Corn and Pepper Salad with Chicken - Makes 6 servings.

1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice

3 cups cubed cooked skinless chicken breast

2 ears corn, boiled and kernels cut from the ears

1 can (15.5 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and diced

1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced

1/2 cup jicama, peeled and diced

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice, or to taste

3/4 cup chunky salsa

3 drops hot pepper sauce, or to taste (optional)

2 to 4 Tbsp. water

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Green leafy lettuce leaves

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro or flat leaf parsley, loosely packed, for garnish

In a large bowl, combine the brown rice, chicken, corn, beans, bell peppers and jicama. Gently toss until well mixed and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the olive oil and lime juice until well blended. Mix in the salsa and hot pepper sauce, if using. Add enough water to thin the consistency so the dressing can be thinly drizzled over the salad. Drizzle the dressing over the chicken mixture and toss to coat the salad ingredients evenly.

Cover the salad and refrigerate for 1 to 3 hours so the flavors can meld. Bring the salad to room temperature and check the seasonings before serving. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain off any excess dressing. Place the salad in a serving bowl lined with lettuce leaves, sprinkle the top of the salad with cilantro and serve.

Per serving: 365 calories, 16 g. total fat (2 g. saturated fat), 32 g. carbohydrate, 27 g. protein, less than 7 g. dietary fiber, 593 mg. sodium.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on diet and cancer and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $82 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its Web site, http://www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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