Aaron Brunet's super vital summer salad

Eating more plants makes life work better in so many ways. For nutrients we simply can't do better than raw vegetables: plant fibre can help support our gut bacteria and the vitamins, minerals and enzymes in veggies play a crucial role in the biochemical reactions that keep us alive (thanks Dr Libby, loved what you said about this at your recent talk!).

They also taste fantastic, especially when my tastebuds are fresh and I'm actually hungry (hunger is the best seasoning by far ;) When I start my meal with rich, green leafy plants and bright colourful veggies I'm perfectly primed to truly enjoy them. As humans we're pleasure seekers (at least I am), and by making a salad like this a really enjoyable experience I'm naturally going to look forward to it and want it again. That's a positive feedback loop, and one with all sorts of benefits. Our gut bacteria have a big influence on our digestion. It's pretty simple: eat vital plants, help encourage good gut health, reduce stress, feel good, enjoy feeling good, genuinely want to be good to ourselves, choose to eat more plants, and repeat. :)

That's a long intro to a simple salad! Here's what I do in practice when I'm being good to myself: grab some leafy greens, add fresh herbs, then some garlic and citrus as a dressing. Typically I'll have lettuce in the fridge, then pop out to my tiny backyard garden pots to see what fresh greens are growing. Silverbeet and parsley are no-brainers to grow and when picked fresh they're literally bursting with goodness. A bit of garlic and lemon zest add to the nutrient punch and I like to just use a bit of orange or lemon juice to dress this.

I also love grated carrot and beetroot, but mixing all these colours gets messy so now I do them separately and pop a handful on top of the greens. This way the colours really pop and my eyes tell my stomach there's yumminess on the way. The way these are grated makes a huge difference to their taste, finer makes them more juicy and enjoyable (as long as they're not mush). I often do a mix of fine and coarse to get it just right. A bit of cider vinegar and flaxseed oil go really well and mean there's a flavour contrast as well as colour contrast in my bowl.

Cashew parmesan is a super-simple topping I love to sprinkle on almost everything - it's awesome on soups and pasta as well as salads. Make up a batch and store in a container in the pantry - it keeps really well.

Think of this recipe as a base that you can mess around with to make it suit your tastes - the key point is to find what you really like so you'll be inspired to seek it out next time and get that plant-love cranking goodness into your life!

Serves: 2

Prep time: 5-10 mins


6-8 leaves baby cos lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces

3 leaves of rich greens - kale, spinach, silverbeet (whatever you have)

A handful of baby spinach

6cm cucumber

2 sprigs parsley, finely chopped

1 tsp lemon zest, finely grated

1 clove garlic, minced

Pinch of salt

Juice of half an orange

1 carrot (organic are often tastier)

1 medium-sized beetroot

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon flaxseed oil (or rice bran oil)

2 teaspoons cider vinegar

Cashew parmesan

1 cup cashews (raw or lightly roasted)

2 Tbsp nutritional yeast

1 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp salt (to taste)

1/2 tsp pepper

Use a food processor to blend all ingredients into a fine crumble. This keeps well in the fridge or pantry.


Tear the cos lettuce and rich greens into bite-sized pieces and place in a mixing bowl with baby spinach. Cut the cucumber on diagonals turning it between cuts so you get interesting angles to enjoy with when you eat it. Add to bowl with parsley, lemon zest and garlic. Sprinkle with salt then squeeze orange juice into bowl and toss around to coat evenly. Place into serving bowls.

Grate carrot into a bowl and dress with salt, vinegar and flaxseed oil then mix to combine well.

Grate beetroot on top and use a fork to partly combine, allowing the colours of carrot and beetroot to mingle but retain areas unmixed. Place a handful on top of each bowl then sprinkle with cashew parmesan.