summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes

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Even though I am no longer a teacher, there is something about the beginning of the school year that gets me excited for a fresh start, eager minds, clean hallways, and a newly decorated classroom. And so it was when I walked the hallways of the elementary school I work with this last week. Even though I’ve been there all summer with my high school students managing the school garden, the teachers are back now and the place is slowly coming to life after its summer slumber. There are fresh new beginnings in the air.

At the same time, the internship I created for my students ended this week, and so marks the last time I will work with this particular summer program, as I too am beginning to close the chapter of my work in school garden education. It has been a journey and a learning experience, and I can say on the other end of three+ years, I’m glad I trusted my intuition in taking the risky position that is my job, as it didn’t start out being financially sustainable and there was much jostling back and forth with funding cuts and uncertainty in the in-between. And so it’s kind of ironic that now on the other side, I am choosing to walk away from the work not having the future months figured out, but with an awareness that I won’t know what comes next until I take this step.

Beyond all learning and experience I have gained from the actual work, maybe the biggest lesson I have learned since stepping in to the “real world” of work, is how to trust that feeling of needing to close the book and walk away, even as it has been enjoyable, safe, comfortable, and I’ve been part of an amazing and cohesive team.

 

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With all this in mind, I think it is fitting to share a recipe here that was first schemed up in the school garden surrounded by all the vegetables we were harvesting that day and adapted in the moment according to my students’ preferences. Each week of the summer, they have been cooking in the garden one afternoon and providing samples to their CSA customers utilizing whatever produce is in abundance that week. In this late summer season, everything is going full throttle and so this salad has a little of everything. There are random little pops of sweet like ground cherries balancing the creamy leeks and crunchy beans. There were a few hazelnuts leftover from another week that provided more texture, directly opposite of the squishier quality of the eggplant and zucchini. And there was a lemon in the fridge that needed to be used and from it, we all enjoyed the lemon-Dijon dressing. All in all, this became a showcase of all the summer vegetables and everyone that tried it–whether high school student or adult–loved it.

 

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summer quinoa salad with zucchini, eggplant, green beans + tomatoes, serves 4

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

extra virgin olive oil

2 small leeks, thinly sliced

1 lb. green beans, sliced into 1-inch pieces

1 small zucchini, chopped into 1-inch pieces

1 cup ground cherries

1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped or halved

Dressing:
2 tsp. Dijon mustard, preferably coarse grained

2 tsp. honey

juice from ½ a large lemon

2 Tbs. apple cider vinegar

2 Tbs. olive oil

sea salt & black pepper

  1. In a medium saucepan, add quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and then cover and turn down to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Set aside to cool.
  2. In a large sauté pan on medium-high heat, add a splash of olive oil, a generous pinch of salt and the leeks. Cook, stirring regularly until leeks are golden and crispy, about 5-7 minutes.
  3. At this point, stir in the summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes and then add the green beans. Cook a bit longer – just until the beans brighten up and lose their raw bite and the squash softens.
  4. Turn out into a bowl and stir in the ground cherries, tomatoes, raisins, hazelnuts, and cooked quinoa.
  5. Make the dressing by whisking together the mustard and honey. Add lemon juice, vinegar, and oil and whisk for about 30 seconds. Add salt and pepper according to taste.
  6. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and stir until everything is well mixed.

aged cheddar, brown bread + tomato chutney

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I have a memory of eating a cheese sandwich on the patio at Ballymaloe, the famed Irish country house and restaurant, on an August day many years ago. William and I were staying at Ballymaloe over the bank holiday weekend while working in Ireland that summer and it was a trip we saved up the bulk of our travel budget to experience. We took the bus to get there and without a car and miles from any town, lunch was kind of an interesting affair. The day I ate my cheese sandwich, lunch was not being served. But they knew we were young and hungry twenty-somethings and the place is known for service beyond this world, so we were offered a choice of a couple sandwiches. Even then I wasn’t overly fond of meaty meals and though none of the options sounded particularly like what I was craving, I opted for cheese. I expected something of the sort of cheese sandwich we might be served in America, either with processed cheese or a sandwich of the grilled affair.

 

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What came from the kitchen was neither. It was homemade brown bread covered in big, thick slices of Irish farmhouse cheddar, the kind that’s been aged for quite some time. I stared at the sandwich, at first thinking to myself, there is no way I need to or am going to eat that much cheese. Hah. Once I began I realized how good it was and before I knew it I was polishing off the plate, satisfied and completely guilt free. I’ve thought about that cheese sandwich often over the years, not particularly desiring to reinvent it again but thinking instead how it encapsulated that perfect weekend in which we had no plans beyond how to get there and no cares other than exploring the farm, the cookery school gardens, and the surrounding countryside with the wheat and oats ready to harvest and a few combines out doing so. We don’t have a single picture of that weekend because we deliberately opted to truly live in the experience instead. It was my first time in the countryside of County Cork and even though I have a deep fondness for Ireland, I really felt at home, truly like there must be history here in the far southwest countryside and rolling hills. Either that, or my foodie nose sniffed out the real farm to fork food-centric part of the country and just wanted to stay in it forever.

 

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Since then, too, cheddar hasn’t been in my diet and neither has that sort of brown bread. Truly, travel in general has changed a lot for me since those days when I didn’t worry about food allergies and could eat exactly what I was craving without making someone else sacrifice their own food desires. I didn’t have any tomato chutney during that Ballymaloe weekend but their tomato chutney business began before the restaurant and guest house did and I came home with a jar of their famous recipe. I hadn’t given tomato chutney a thought since until a quick weekend in Seattle this past June. I always travel with at least my breakfast these days but William woke up a little later than I and wanted to go out for a quick brunch. We somehow got in to Morsel, a popular Ballard breakfast spot, before the line got too long. While I sat at a little table in front of their biscuit case, I noticed their tomato jam was a staple and seemed to be quite popular. Even though I only had a pot of tea at Morsel, I was reminded again of a time when traveling and eating nice bread and cheese and tomato jam because it sounded good was second nature.

I was also reminded that travel memories are what we make of them and though food is an intricate part of those memories and I love getting inspired to make new things because of travel, the memories really aren’t about the food. They are about the experience, the atmosphere, the kind way a stranger becomes a connection, the quiet and deep catch-up chat in a packed coffee house on a Saturday morning, the way we’re put at ease by a conversation in the library after dinner, the thrill of riding rickety bikes up quiet country lanes with no one else around save a few cows, and the deep satisfaction of sitting in the sun on the patio of a house that has more years of history than any building in this country, thinking of absolutely nothing other than how perfect the moment at hand actually is.

 

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Aged Cheddar, Brown Bread + Tomato Chutney

The Recipe Redux theme this month is meals inspired by our travels. This one has been a long time coming but is inspired by that weekend at Ballymaloe, by a lunch platter/plowman’s lunch recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks, and by that little tea and brunch at Morsel in Seattle. I’ve been scheming up ways to make really nice bread and vegan cheese into a meal for a while now. When I initially began eating gluten and dairy-free, I avoided all processed foods–like cheese and gluten-free bread–as much as possible. Since then, the offerings have much improved and there are reasonable substitutes without questionable ingredients–especially when it comes to cheese. I used Vtopian Aged Cheddar and much to my surprise, the flavor was very much in line with a nice farmhouse cheddar. As you can see from the pictures, it has a cashew base and so becomes quite spreadable when warm. If you’re not adverse to cow’s milk cheddar, William’s current favorite is Kerrygold Reserve.

For the meal to serve 2:

nice aged cheddar of choice, thickly sliced

2-4 thick slices bread

tomato chutney

a little side salad for balance, optional

 

Tomato Chutney, makes 4 cups, adapted from Ard Bia Cookbook

3 cloves

1/2 a cinnamon stick

1 star anise

1 bay leaf

a good pinch of ground cardamom

1 tsp. canola oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, grated

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 Tbs. brown mustard seeds

1 quart canned tomatoes (or 2 14-oz. cans)

1/4 cup currants

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup brown sugar

salt and pepper to taste

  • In a hot pan, toast the cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, and star anise in a hot pan until they start to release their aromas. Then remove and wrap them in either cheesecloth or put in a tea ball.
  • In a large pot, heat the oil and saute the onion and ginger until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and mustard seeds and cook for another minute or so.
  • Add the tomatoes, the spice parcel, the cardamom, and cook uncovered over a gentle simmer for about 45 minutes. Then add the currants, raisins, vinegar, and sugar.
  • Cook for an additional 45 minutes until it has thickened up and and most of the liquid has cooked off.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, remove the whole spices, and then cool before transferring to a jar.

 

Gluten-Free Struan Bread, (here’s a quick history of struan bread)

2 Tbs. chia seeds

1/2 cup water

1 cup teff or millet flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1/2 cup leftover cooked grain such as brown rice, oats, or millet

1/4 cup amaranth or quinoa flour

1/4 cup almond meal

1/4 cup ground flax seed

1 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. xanthan gum

1 1/2 tsp. yeast

3/4-1 cup water

2 Tbs. canola oil

2 Tbs. maple syrup

  • Soak the chia seeds in 1/2 cup water for about 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare an 8 1/2 x 4-inch loaf pan by either lining parchment or rubbing the bottom and sides with oil and then flour.
  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, almond meal, flax, salt, and xanthan gum. Set aside.
  • In a liquid measuring cup, dissolve the yeast in 3/4 cup of warm water. Allow the yeast to begin to foam and then add the oil and syrup. Mix the yeast mixture into the chia mixture and make sure the chia seeds have no lumps in them, and then add the liquids to the dry mixture. With a wooden spoon, mix well, just until the dough is soft and holding together. It will be fairly wet. If it seems more like a drier dough that can be picked up in the hands, add additional water so it is looser.
  • Pour the mixture into the loaf pan, and smooth the top. Take a serrated knife and score a line running the length of the loaf, just off the center. Then place it in the oven and turn down the temperature to 350 degrees F.
  • Bake for one hour at that temperature and then turn down the oven to 300 degrees F. Bake for an additional 40 to 60 minutes.


zucchini noodles, crookneck squash, garlic + pesto

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I finished my second trimester of classes this past weekend and I am sooo happy for a three week break. Every weekend since January save a couple has been taken up with assignments, projects and reading research papers. While I’ve loved the topics I’ve been learning these past few months, they have been more in line with the integrative health and herbal medicine component of the program rather than the nutrition side of things. My knowledge of the multi-facets of health and wellness has vastly improved even as this understanding has helped me personally as well. I’m already relishing this break, finally doing a little much-needed garden maintenance like gleefully wiping out pesky bugs with my bare hands, catching up on some lighthearted reading, and looking forward to delving into the rehab on my grandma’s old china cabinet (so I can finally finish unpacking, maybe?) I am also already thinking about next trimester and very much looking forward to a turn towards what I’ve been told is an extremely difficult class and a little more nutritional science. I think mostly I’m excited for the idea of a challenge–because grad school, working, commuting, and maintaining my running lifestyle hasn’t been challenge enough (insert Rebecca kind of enjoys pushing her limits comment).

 

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Since the last six weeks caught up to me with multiple big projects and a couple long weekends out of town all happening together, I’ve basically been eating this meal on repeat this month and last. William really gobbled it down the first couple times until he realized it was one of only a few meals I’d be craving/making all summer. Now he’s a little less than thrilled when I tell him we’re having zucchini noodles and summer squash again.

I have four heavy producing summer squash plants and between the two types, the making of this dish has kept the harvests in check. If you aren’t sure what to do with an abundance of zucchini, I recommend investing in a spiralizer (I have a cheapo $10 one and it works great!) and making noodles.

The day after I completed my classes, I cleared my schedule, took a nap, watched the Olympics women’s marathon, caught up on all the blogs I’ve let queue in my inbox, pottered around the kitchen and generally felt my cooking creativity come back to life. It is safe to say it’s back in force.

 

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Zucchini Noodles, Crookneck Squash, Garlic + Pesto, serves 2

This is a nice, quick, simple weeknight meal and if you’ve already got canned or cooked beans and pesto on hand, it comes together quick. I’ve been using my pesto recipe with basil and pumpkin seeds as my greens and seeds of choice. Each serving makes a really big plate but basically you’re eating really tasty summer squash for dinner, so there’s that. 

3-4 medium zucchini

1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

3-6 small crookneck squash, medium dice

4 cloves garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

crushed red pepper flakes, optional

1 cup cooked black eyed peas, chickpeas, or white beans

1/4 cup pesto

extra basil to garnish

  1. Use a spiralizer or a vegetable peeler to turn the zucchini into noodles. Set in a colander over the sink and sprinkle with a good few dashes of salt. The salt will allow some water to escape while the crookneck are cooking.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the crookneck and garlic and allow to cook for several minutes, until it becomes a bit golden and soft. Season with a few dashes salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Turn in the beans, the zucchini noodles and the pesto. Give it all a good stir and heat just until it all comes together, 4-5 minutes.
  4. Plate up and add a little basil on top to serve.

 

 

 


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