I have been thinking quite a bit about what I write about and why. And since many would describe this as a recipe site, I guess that means I wonder about what types of recipes I post and why — or don’t post, which is more often the case.
As an example for analysis, I thought I’d choose something I made for dinner recently — something food bloggers used to do quite a bit. Or maybe it’s just what I used to do. When I think back to those days I know I thought no one would believe I made a dish if step photos weren’t included for proof. It seems comical now because often the photos were horrible — and for good reason. I was focused more on my cooking than photography which was pretty awful at the time to begin with. The habit of shooting steps of a recipe did, however, lead me to more practice, and ultimately a love of making still life photos of beautiful ingredients. As I began to value the quality of that work, I knew that grabbing my camera between steps of a recipe I wanted on the table at a particular time wasn’t going to work any longer. And that’s just fine, because I’ve graduated to a new camera recently and want to avoid finding smears of olive oil or hardened icing on the zoom ring or shutter button.
Another reason I neglect to post particular recipes is because there was no recipe to begin with, often the case more than not these days. But I’ve grown accustomed to thinking a recipe is expected — one that can be prepared if someone would like to, and hopefully shared with friends. Yet I think, what makes this combination of ingredients special if I’ve just put them together myself, and have been most likely influenced by years of reading recipes? Such a dilemma and a perfect excuse not to write anything.
Finally, a good meal is just that sometimes. A good meal. It doesn’t involve notes, or directions, or anything like that. A glass of wine is poured, ingredients are selected based on what we love to eat and what flavors I’ve learned work best together after years of trial and error. This was one of those occasions.
I look at what I’ve gathered on the counter in my quiet kitchen as the last bit of sunlight fades outside and watch the clock, timing the arrival of the text that will say my husband is on the way home. I know this night marks the end of dinners prepared after dark and eaten late in the evening, and the beginning of a welcomed time where maybe, just maybe, we can prepare dinner together again for a while.
He’s just finished another busy season — his 27th — and so I wanted to find a quiet way to say congrats. A satisfying meal — just the two of us in the dim light of our family room — he in his chair, and I in my corner of the sofa. We’d talk a bit about what we’d like to watch on television while enjoying our dinner and then settle in for the evening, enjoying our meal and talking about the day.
I know. We sound like old farts. You try having an interesting dinner ready as late as 9:00 pm for months on end, and then we’ll talk.
We’ll be celebrating in grand style in less than a month, so we can wait. Paris! Munich and the Bavarian Alps! In the meantime, try this lovely meal. It reminds me of a Beef Wellington I made years ago — minus the crust. He loved every single bite of it just like this and so did I.
One photo, no steps, but an approximation of a recipe just for you.
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.
This salad is full of aromatic spices and packed with nutrients. It's a perfect meal by itself.
Author: adapted from Food & Wine
Recipe type: Salad, Vegan, Gluten-free
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.
I don’t go to our farmer’s markets as much as I’d like, but when I do, I always seem to find something new to try. I enjoy dark, green leafy veggies quite a bit, so I’m not a hard sell. One vendor recently noticed me admiring the beautiful magenta color at the center of the larger deep, green leaves lightly filling a bag. “It’s red amaranth,” the young man told me, reaching for the bag I was focused on. “Here, taste it.” And so I did.
Although somewhat like spinach in flavor, amaranth, or what some refer to as Chinese spinach, is more sturdy between my teeth as I chew on it, its flavor somewhat like fresh grass smells like if that makes any sense at all. It’s not sweet, but not pungent, either, and leaves a pleasant, unbitter taste in my mouth.
But I thought amaranth was a grain — isn’t it? And don’t I remember seeing annuals at the nursery with colorful plumes which also somehow reminded me of the tasty greens I was chewing on?
Evidently yes to all above — sort of. It isn’t a true grain, but is referred to as a pseudo-grain. Some varieties are cultivated for the leafy green vegetable, some for seeds to be used much like rice or corn are used. And although I did know that buckwheat and quinoa were very high plant protein sources, amaranth seeds are as well. And, they lack gluten, so that makes them quite beneficial to those who are gluten intolerant.
Historically, amaranth was a staple of ancient Mesoamericans and has been enjoyed in Asia for centuries. Why and how did our culture adapt to eating iceberg lettuce instead? Evidently, amaranth became associated with religious rituals involving human sacrifice, so it was banned by the invading Spaniards who then came to North America.
So that explains how we ended up with ice berg lettuce.
This recipe spices things up a bit, perfect for lunch by itself or a dinner side. Use spinach if you can’t find red amaranth. Your body will thank you.
When I think of Earth Day, I think more about how I was raised instead of an event marked on a calendar that occurs once a year. I guess my mother was green before her time simply because she needed to be frugal with her earnings. But that’s not all. Her common sense was what was really at work. If you’re a single mother who works split shifts and have three children under the age of six, you put all of them in the tub at the same time and teach them that the water cannot rise above their belly buttons. Absolutely no showers, ever. You rinse your two girls’ very long hair with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with water they wished was warm instead of shockingly cold. You nag your children incessantly until they understand that lights are turned off when not in use and that electricity costs money — which sadly does not grow on trees. You make your children’s clothes, and as much as your younger daughter may not love the idea, pass the older daughter’s clothes down once outgrown. You make shorts from cut off pants, either outgrown, or made possible by knees that have worn through. You purchase less of everything and teach them how to take care of what they have, because if they don’t, they’re not getting anything new. You make popsicles from koolaid poured into ice cube trays and dole them out over a few days like they were gold nuggets. You remind them to bring home from school each day, not only the brown bag their lunch was in, but the baggies their chips and sandwiches were stuffed in to. You teach them to clean their plates at meals, and never, ever to waste food. Ever. Or else.
And you teach them how to eat their vegetables — especially the green ones.
In celebration of Earth Day and smart, frugal moms everywhere who were green long before it was the cool thing to do, this soup is for you. It’s healthy, and made with a bit of this, and a bit of that from my vegetable drawer.