I’ve been sitting on this recipe for awhile, and I’m not sure why. Time, mostly, I think. A little of the usual chagrin at my compulsion to record and share something that seems maybe too easy and intuitive, or so versatile that there is barely a skeletal model to vary. Yet that is the beauty of it. All we need is the reminder of all the natural deliciousness that is fall vegetables. A simple medley is both earthy rich and subtly sweet. Roasted, whatever you create is nothing short of sublime.
There’s not much to this dish beyond the idea, though the recipe is an ever toothsome standby. Not into grains? Take them out. Roast vegetables tossed with any sort of greens and a light dressing are a beautiful side. With grains, like chewy farro or nutty quinoa, and maybe some chickpeas or cubed baked tofu–you’ve got an easy, filling meal that takes a little time…but it’s mostly hands-off time.
When we were in Iceland…wait. Is this becoming annoying, how I am infusing little travel notes into every blog post recently? If so, I am sorry. And also, I am bound to keep doing so, just a bit more. Because having scrimped and saved for ages for a month of family travel that is surely a trip of a lifetime, I need to find ways of tucking little notes everywhere I can before I forget them. And also, I am pretty pleased with how we managed to stick to a rather penny-pinching budget during said trip, not least when it came to food. Which brings me back to Iceland. That beautiful, harsh, raw, uplifting country of sharp contrasts, of fire and ice, of Northern Lights fame (that we didn’t get to see)…the one EVERYONE told us was over -the- moon expensive to eat in.
Everyone was right. Iceland is AMAZING. It operates on 100% renewable energy, for one thing. That alone is enough to earn unswerving loyalty in my book. Its vast stretches of varied landscapes, often with an otherworldly feel, has a unique way of stirring a heightened sense of being part of the planet Earth. It’s a feeling that goes beyond even a passionate appreciation for nature. Even in at the sites most heaving with tourists, there is something that speaks to the overwhelming and magnificent connection to the cosmos. And there are also $40 sandwiches.
Having been duly warned, we went to Iceland prepared to eat apples and PB & J all week. We even packed a jar of natural peanut butter, in case we had trouble finding any without addends like sugar and palm oil. We soon found, however, that grocery stores were reasonable. We had hoped, given Icelanders rely on them for groceries, but we’d heard so much about the staggering cost of food we couldn’t be sure. Adding to our relief at the grocery bill, we stayed in a lovely home which the owners kept stocked with a variety of staples for guests to use, including a range of spices, vinegar and olive oil. All we needed was to mix and match the vegetables available for something absolutely satisfying to conclude an adventurous day and fuel the next.
Here is your gentle reminder that dinner can be as simple as roasting and tossing. Fall vegetables are failsafe bliss. Mix and match, and away you go. 🙂
- 1 1/2 cups farro (or other grain, like quinoa)
- 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into approximately 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 large parsnip, peeled, halved, and cut into approximately 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
- 2 medium golden beets, scrubbed and wrapped in foil
- 4 cups baby kale or other greens
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- Prepare the farro: combine with 4 cups lightly salted water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Place the vegetables on a large nonstick rimmed baking sheet. Coat with cooking spray and a sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 20 minutes; turn and roast approximately 20 minutes longer, until vegetables are tender and browning on edges (leave beets wrapped in foil longer in oven, as needed, before removing from foil, peeling and cutting into cubes).
- Prepare the dressing: in a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, honey or maple syrup, oil, salt and pepper until blended.
- In a salad bowl, combine the farro, kale, and roasted vegetables. Add the dressing and toss until coated.
This recipe is kind of an oldie. I made it over four years ago for Ancient Harvest and can’t believe I never logged it. Like most of my favorite recipes (at least when it comes to both preparing and eating them), it’s super easy to assemble and adapt depending on time and inclination. Maybe you’ve got a rainbow bounty of crisp fresh produce you can’t wait to chop, tear, and julienne– in which case it could be delightfully time-consuming (remember, Mary?). On the other hand, maybe it’s a normal reality kind of day and you would love something zesty, crunchy, colorful, healthy and energizing with whatever happens to be left in the fridge. Provided you’ve got a decent blend of substitutions and the main dressing staples, you can throw your own superb variation together less than 30 minutes.
My favorite form of these wraps is forsaking the wrap part. Just toss in a bunch of greens with the filling for a most satisfying salad. Kale goes better than lettuce anyway. But then, sometimes lettuce wraps have the perfect refreshing crispness. So pretty with a touch of novelty about them.
I’ve been returning to some soul-soothing oldies lately. Renewed appreciation for the competitive aspect of trail running. This quinoa obviously, and a whole bunch of used-to-be standby recipes that have enjoyed a reestablishment of status lately. And a little bit poetry, which I once made time for with a fervent sort of passion that kind of evaporated for several years. (When F was born it was replaced largely by lilting rhymes and songs.) But this year, I’ve found the poetic longing resurfacing. I feel so fortunate to know eclectic and dynamic writers who have inspired me to take a stab at submitting again, and am so thrilled and honored to have had a poem accepted in a beautiful journal of poetry and photography.
The funny thing about good things…how quickly do they put you on edge anticipating bad things? After the initial joy and gratitude, contentment and rush of optimism, I mean. Are we all somewhat conditioned to wait for the proverbial ball to drop? One glaring response would be, of course that’s just life. Ebb and flow, highs and lows, light and shadow. Then again, how much does the sharp reality check offer safeguarding protection that can come close to outweighing the limitations on our willingness to fearlessly enjoy the now?
In any case, for two weeks in a row I felt gifted with experiences that made me feel validated in areas that are important to me. And I felt so supremely grateful. As well as momentarily but mightily apprehensive about what the next impending down might bring. It’s due soon, a persistently whiny voice insists. I even go so far as to determine internally that it’s probably going to take the form of something like [X] happening, which will make me feel really foolish for spending all that time fearing [Y], which would have been bad but not as bad. It is frustrating being stuck hanging out with myself when I think like that.
But as you know, somehow I force cooking to become a daily exercise in cultivating the type of mindfulness and lessons I want to maintain more naturally. And when I made this quinoa, I thought ‘why haven’t I recorded this in the files yet’, which I already explained. Then at dinner, little F munched and crunched appreciatively, declaring how much he loves the eddy-mommy beanies, and I thought, ‘good…same but different…and it’s still good’. Which somehow transitioned easily into quietly contemplating the many ‘still good’ things.
We are living in tumultuous, tense, and deeply unsettling times. I am well aware what a place of privilege it is to have the luxury of worrying about what tomorrow might look like. It is enough know there will be things that will still be good, and I can keep striving to be good, too.
- 1 cup quinoa
- ¼ head red cabbage, slivered
- 2 medium carrots, grated
- 1 red pepper, sliced
- 3 scallions, trimmed and sliced
- 1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
- ¾ cup edamame, shelled and thawed
- ⅓ cup roasted peanuts, chopped
- ¼ cup low-sodium, gluten-free soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 2 teaspoons fresh grated ginger root
- 1 tablespoon lime juice, plus extra lime to serve
- 1 – 2 heads romaine, or other large-leafed lettuce
- Separate the head of lettuce into individual leaves. Rinse and dry, either with a salad spinner or by hand, using clean kitchen towels or paper towels to pat the leaves dry. Refrigerate between layers of clean, dry paper towels until ready to assemble and serve.
- Bring quinoa and liquid to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.Transfer to a large bowl.
- Add cabbage, all other vegetables, and peanuts to quinoa and toss to combine.
- In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, rice vinegar, ginger and lime juice with a fork or whisk. Add to quinoa mixture and stir to coat.
- Spoon filling (approximately ⅓ to ½ cup per leaf) into the center of lettuce leaves, taco-style. Serve with lime wedges.
- Transform into a salad instead for a quicker, filling meal! In place of lettuce leaves, mix in chopped kale or mixed greens into quinoa mixture.
I’ve been sitting on this simple, comforting dish for weeks. Problem is, the only time I’ve had lately to log it has been when experiencing end-of-day brain burnout. So now I’m trying early morning power posting–quick, efficient, and just the basics. Which is actually really appropriate for this hearty, easy meal.
There’s lots to love about this ‘pilaf’. For one thing, it’s delightfully versatile, in that it can be tailored to taste; it can just as easily make for a filling meal or an accompaniment. I added baked cubed tofu to bulk into a main meal, but other proteins would complement just as well if you’re not into soy. Switching things up as a side is easy, too–almonds for cashews, cranberries for raisins, addition of apples…there’s an awful lot of leeway for play considering how little active time it actually takes to make.
I’m veering off the promise of bare bones only–just quickly–but when
I first made this I almost made myself laugh out loud. Because on first bite, a warm swell inside was accompanied by my brain randomly reacting with this thought: mmmmm…yummy like Rice-a-Roni. And you know I can’t have had Rice-a-Roni more than a handful of times in my life. Not that I have a particular problem with the product. But–you know, right? What I mean?
The more I read, observe, listen, learn, reflect, the more reasons I discover to deplore corporatization of our food system. The ugliness is endless, from the strategic profit at the expense of human health to the intent marketing directed at children. I’m rather obsessed. And yet I’ve still somehow attached sentimentality to boxed foods I hardly have any actual experience with. Whether testament to marketing genius or fickle-minded weakness I have no idea and don’t expect to solve in a hurried post about curried quinoa. But on the upside, the simple, soothing spice blend of this quick and easy makes for really good grounding when those convenience box cravings set in. Satisfying them is about saving time on little effort, and yielding something flavourful. Bonus, we can ditch the boxes and make said yields healthy too. Maybe you need to budget up to 30 minutes to make it, but the actual effort you put in hardly exceeds opening a box of spices within a box of grains to simmer in a pot. 🙂
- 1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
- 3 cups water or vegetable broth (or 1.5 cups each)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder, divided
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 14-ounce pack organic firm tofu, cut into cubes
- 2 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups cauliflower florets
- 1/2 c. raisins
- 1/3 c. roasted cashews
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400 F. Place tofu (if using), broccoli and cauliflower florets on a baking sheet in one layer. Lightly coat with cooking spray and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and browning at edges.
- Meanwhile, bring water or broth to a boil. Add quinoa, ginger, turmeric, 2 teaspoons curry powder, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, until quinoa is soft and fluffy (approx. 12-15 minutes). Stir in raisins and set aside, covered, until vegetables are cooked.
- In a large salad bowl, combine all ingredients. Enjoy!
This sort-of theme of “it’s all about the dressing” is getting a little tired. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so reluctant to put up this short post. Or maybe I’ve just been waiting for a lightning bolt of whimsy to supply me with something inspired to say.
The truth is, I just wanted to share this “dressing” that’s not really dressing exactly and which was in itself rather inspiring. I discovered it recently when I had the happy chance to test some recipes for a local magazine, including a heaping bowl of fresh, crunchy deliciousness. Just 3 ingredients (carrot, not too much sesame oil and pickled ginger) plus water. I was awed by the power of its simplicity, delivering a punch of flavor that is at once sharp and cleansing. One bite and the taste bud nerve connection impishly sent my mind into overdrive trying to come up with a variety of ways to incorporate this exciting new “dressing” into meals just so I could post it on this blog to come back to in case I ever suffer mild amnesia and forget how easy it is.
OK, so “overdrive” was a little exaggerated. The brainstorming lasted about 5 minutes. But, five minutes fairly well spent, because Easy Carrot Ginger “Dressing” works very well with a light, fresh variation on traditional potato salad; it also fares well in veggie wraps, and is a nice tangy palate cleanser scraped from the bottom of the food processor, too. As long as you like pickled ginger–I do, so added more.
For no particular reason I’m hopeful that this dressing motif will be phasing itself out soon, though probably not for at least another week. There’s a saucy experiment I have in mind that I’m hoping will work out delectably this week. If you don’t see it within another two weeks, you’ll know it crashed in our kitchen (pssst…it’s sweet and sour). More soon. 🙂
- 1 ½ pounds small new potatoes
- 1 large carrot cut into chunks
- 1/4 cup pickled ginger
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
- 1 cucumber, seeded and cut into chunks
- 1 cup snap peas, sliced thinly on the diagonal
- 3 spring onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- In a steamer set over boiling water steam the potatoes, covered, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are just tender, transfer them to a bowl, and let them cool to room temperature, then halve lengthwise (or quarter depending on size).
- In a food processor, pulse carrot, pickled ginger, oil, and ¼ cup water to create a chunky dressing.
- Combine potatoes, dressing, and vegetables in a large salad bowl. Serve room temperature or cold.
May be a trend…another recipe that is all about the dressing. Sort of. That is to say, the dressing is what I most want to remember and share for its uniqueness, at least to me. Until now I didn’t make the tahini-balsamic combo a regular in meal planning. I am definitely going to be making up for lost time moving forward.
There is another beauty of a bonus, too: built-in is a major shortcut if needed. If it’s one of those days when the mere step of whizzing up a dressing has you feeling limp and listless, you can relax and refuel faster knowing this salad is so very forgiving. Just about any dressing will do. Whatever ready-made vinaigrette you wish (just stay away from the sweet ones), Italian,a splash of plain lemon juice and oil, or my personal favorite, the marinade from artichokes. But if you do feel fresh and awake enough to whisk a few ingredients separately in a bowl, or process them till smooth, tahini-balsamic has a simple way of elevating every quinoa seed and spinach leaf with rich, tangy, nuttiness.
Occasionally I have stretches where tahini has a way of breaking me from peanut butter love in a refreshing way. I would almost say the smooth paste could swap in and satisfy every PB craving with the added benefit that I’d never, ever eat it from the jar or have too much. I would lick away each semblance of a pool of tahini dressing on my plate though, and do. And if I’m feeling twinges of guilt over that, I justify by telling myself “zero waste” and also the reminder that sesame seeds contain more calcium, iron, plus other minerals and phytosterols than peanuts do. But I don’t need this self-talk very often. This dish epitomizes how synonymous healthy and delicious truly are. No justification needed, just readiness to enjoy. 🙂
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 (5 oz) package washed baby spinach, kale, or mixed greens
- 1 1/2 cups grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium cucumber, chopped
- 1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
- 1 (14 oz) can quartered artichoke hearts in water, drained
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/3 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon low sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- Cook quinoa: add 2 cups water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and summer until tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer to a large salad bowl.
- Add greens, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, artichokes and chickpeas to quinoa in bowl.
- Prepare the dressing: place tahini, water, vinegar, soy sauce and garlic powder in a food processor and blend until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Toss quinoa mixture with dressing prior to serving.