I should call this the Monet salad. I’m teasing, of course, but whenever I see varying tones of green and purple with touches of blue, I think of French Impressionist Claude Monet’s most famous and recognizable series of paintings — Waterlilies.
I hope you’re well. I have been — at least until a few days ago when I felt a bit of a sore throat that was at first more a reason to laze around than anything else. I’m not much of a laze around type, so when I feel the urge to do that, I take notice and find every reason on Earth to avoid my laundry, the dishes, or taking a trip to the market. But days later, it’s gotten worse, and well, that’s never good.
I feel bobble-headed and on the water logged side of things — the feeling I used to have as a kid when we’d been at the pool or the beach too long and came home with wrinkled skin and sinuses full of water. Ah, the memories.
If there’s a good thing about feeling like this, it’s that I slow down a bit and mull things over. And this has been a good time to do that considering I spent November writing about something other than food. I believe I mentioned it might be time to focus my energy on something else (instead of ten things all at once which is more the case with me) and on the suggestion of a friend, decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month. The goal of this event is to take time to write for writing’s sake — to perhaps slam out that novel you always thought you might write if only you had time.
I took my Mac to the Apple store recently because I was notified that its serial number was one marked as having a hard drive that could potentially fail. I dropped it off, a new hard drive was installed free of charge by the next day, and I was able to restore all the data I had conveniently backed up on an external hard drive. It sounds like not much effort was made on my part to get things back up and running, but I spent the better part of several days organizing what was in my files, reviewing my ridiculous number of photographs, and making sure I had them backed up in several different places. As much as I could tell the young man behind the counter at the Genius Bar that, yes, I’ve got everything backed up, I still worried.
Sometimes when I’m at the market, I come across bags of brightly colored carrots — carrots in a deep burgundy and cheerful yellow nestled with the expected orange. Once in a while there are a few very pale yellow carrots in the mix as well, but the burgundies are what I think most striking. Once sliced the rich, dark tone of the exterior rings the brighter orange in the center. I can’t resist them when I see them simply because they’re beautiful.
I begin to think about what I might make with them as I add them to my basket, remembering that in past experiences I’ve been disappointed to find that when peeled — especially the dark ones — the beautiful color goes with the peelings. Or when put into something braised, the color dissipates in the cooking liquid. Such is the life of someone who not only enjoys food for its flavor and nutritional value (or lack thereof from time to time), but for its innate beauty. It’s all a bit like taking time to smell the flowers so to speak. Appreciate the small things in life which are easily unrecognized if — as in the example of these carrots — one always grabs the bag of tiny already peeled baby carrots.
Go ahead. Call me silly.
No, these beauties were destined for the perfect recipe — one I’d seen in Food & Wine and tagged immediately. I love quinoa and couldn’t resist the blend of spices in the recipe that would go fabulously with the roasted carrots and some dark, leafy greens.
First, peel the carrots lightly — or maybe you’re someone who just gives them a good scrub with a veggie brush. I don’t like the bitter taste of the peelings, but maybe it’s my imagination. I eat peelings on just about everything except carrots.
After you peel the carrots, split them down the center, then quarter them. Some may need another cut to even the pieces out.
This is the part where it pays off to have all the spices on hand a recipe like this calls for. The aroma is heavenly, and the mix of color so beautiful.
The carrots are tossed in a bit of olive oil and a portion of the blended spices. Sliced red onions are added to roast at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, tossing the mix once or twice during the baking time.
I thought both red and black quinoa would look attractive with the colorful carrots.
Another portion of the spice blend is mixed in with the quinoa before cooking.
Water is added to the quinoa and spices and cooked until all the liquid has been absorbed. You’ll have to check it occasionally and stir a bit to make sure it’s cooking steadily. It will take about 20 minutes at most.
The carrots and onions smell so good when they’re roasting. When they’re finished, just set them aside to cool down while you finish making the rest of the salad.
I like to buy big packages of a mixture of spinach and baby kale because it comes in so handy for salads or any other way I’d like to use it. The greens are very tender and packed with so many nutrients your body will thank you for. I used several large handfuls for this salad.
The greens are tossed first with a bit of lime juice and extra virgin olive oil. You can season lightly with salt and pepper if you like, but there will be seasoning in the other parts of the salad as well. I always toss my greens in a bowl separately before I decide whether I’m going to plate the entire salad, or portion them out separately. It depends…
Then a dressing for the quinoa and other ingredients is made with lime juice, mustard, and some of the remaining spice mix that was used for the carrots and quinoa.
The dressing is added to the cooked quinoa and dried cranberries are mixed in. Aren’t the colors beautiful? I love this salad! Spoon the quinoa mixture over the greens…
…then layer the spicy roasted carrots over the quinoa. Toasted walnuts finish the salad. I’m hungry for it all over again just looking at it! It’s sweet and spicy, crunchy and refreshing. I enjoyed mine by myself because the hubster was working late, so I had time to mull over the color and flavor of everything wondering what he’d think when he got home.
It kept quite nicely at room temperature covered with plastic. In fact, there was too much for the two of us for dinner, so I was able to enjoy the rest the next day for lunch. Delicious.
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. ground ginger
- 1 tsp. ground coriander
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. cayenne
- ¼ tsp. ground allspice
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 4 lg. carrots, peeled and quartered lengthwise
- ¼ red onion, sliced thin
- 7 T. extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ c. walnuts, toasted
- ½ c. red quinoa
- ½ c. black quinoa
- 2 c. water
- juice of 1 lime, divided in half
- 4 c. mixed dark leafy greens
- 1 tsp. Dijon
- ½ c. dried cranberries
- 2 T. chopped cilantro
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- Mix the paprika, turmeric, cumin, ginger, coriander, cinnamon, cayenne, and allspice with 1 tsp. of salt, and 1 tsp. of black pepper in a small bowl and whisk to combine them.
- Place the carrots and onions on a parchment lined baking sheet and drizzle with 2 T of olive oil, then sprinkle with 1 T of the spice mix. Toss around a bit to coat the vegetables well.
- Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time, until tender.
- Prepare the quinoa by mixing it with 2 T of the spice mix and the water in a medium sauce pan.
- Cover the pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer to continue cooking until all the moisture is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 20 minutes.
- After the quinoa is started, coarsely chop the walnuts and put them in a skillet in the oven along with the carrots to roast for 5 minutes -- just until golden.
- Prepare the greens by adding 2 T of the olive oil and the juice of ½ lime seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper to a large bowl. Whisk until blended, then add the greens and lightly toss with the lemon and oil mixture.
- Divide greens evenly among separate plates, or arrange on a single large platter according to your desire.
- In the same large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 T olive oil, the juice of the remaining ½ lime, Dijon, and 1 T of the spice mix. Add the quinoa and cranberries and toss lightly to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Spoon the quinoa mixture over the plated greens, then arrange the roasted carrots and onions.
- Sprinkle with the toasted walnuts and finish with the chopped cilantro.
- The original recipe by Anna Zepaltas can be found here at Food & Wine. My changes were primarily to use lime juice instead of lemon, cilantro instead of parsley, allspice instead of cardamom, and to add the black quinoa to the mix. I like cilantro and lime and thought the combination would be great in this salad.
- This was a great dinner salad and as much as my husband pretty much eats whatever I prepare — whether it contains meat or not — some nights, he still wants something more. This was one of those nights. But it was perfect for me.
- I think a perfect addition to this salad — or substitution — would be sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Both would work well with the spices and greens and perhaps be a bit more filling to my husband who will help himself to a bowl of cereal after dinner if he isn’t completely satisfied.
- You should have some of the spice mixture left over — I think I may try it in some butternut squash soup — but it would taste wonderful on so many different things.
If you’ve been reading here for any length of time, I’m sure you’ve come across at least one comment I’ve made about squash in general. It’s something I didn’t learn to like until I was in my early twenties with two babies at home and a small garden that produced zucchini the size of battleships. I became quite adept at figuring out what to do with those behemoths, and more importantly, our resources were meager, so being creative with squash became a fascination in general.
It seems like that was a few lifetimes ago, and since then, although I continue to learn about and experiment with different kinds of squash, I am always amazed to find how good it really is even with very little preparation.
When the friend I was visiting recently on my trip east graciously allowed me to prepare dinner my last night with her, she volunteered to make a veggie side dish which happened to be squash. She used a julienne peeler tool I’ve had in my kitchen for several years and have been less than successful with to slice some zucchini she’d purchased from a roadside stand that day.
I’ve only recently tried spaghetti squash and love it, but this was so much more easy — no baking required! And yes, it really did remind me of pasta if I need to say that.
Have you tried squash prepared this way before?