Spanish Salad with Hazelnut + Paprika Dressing

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In the last couple weeks, I’ve had a strong inclination to be more mindful when shopping for food and to put more emphasis on supporting local growers, producers, and processors. Part of this, I think, stems from the recent fires here in the west, and several conversations about a warming climate and how we will have to adapt some of our food and/or growing conditions now and on into the future. I count myself very fortunate to live in an area of the world that is rich in agricultural and ecological diversity, and one in where a strong local food scene is thriving, but I also know the many hands that go into supporting the kind of community I want to live in, and how much consistent work it takes to advocate for a local food system–as well as the flip side of how we rely so much on the status quo with generally no thought to what will happen if… natural disaster, climate change, soil degradation and nutrient depletion, loss of community due to choosing mass-market businesses, etc.

 

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On this topic I’m inspired lately by Andrea’s plan for a locally grown September, and her invitation for others to share in a similar challenge, which I’m structuring in my own way. If you’ve been reading long, or read back into the archives, you’ll know that for me, developing a connection to what is produced locally and in relationship with the producers in my community kick-started and supported me out of my disordered relationship to eating many years ago, and it’s this connection to place and community through food that always assists me when I begin to fall even a little back into old habits.

This salad came about because of my refocus on mindful consuming, using what I have grown and what’s produced nearby, while at the same time taking inspiration from Sara Forte’s Spanish chopped salad in her Bowl + Spoon cookbook.

Before I get there though, this article shares some of the conversations in California (and likely elsewhere) about long-term crop planning and climate change.

And this article, in which I’m interviewed, speaks a little to the impact of our dietary choices on our environment.

Enjoy, or just enjoy this salad. It’s a good one!

 

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Hazelnut + Paprika Spanish Salad
1 small bunch kale, chopped
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
3-4 cups arugula, torn into small pieces
2-3 green onions, finely diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1 small, diced apple
1-2 medium cucumbers, diced
1/2 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped
2-4 Tbs. parsley, minced

Hazelnut + Paprika Vinaigrette
1 clove garlic
3 Tbs. sherry or wine vinegar
3 Tbs. toasted hazelnuts
3/4 tsp. smoked paprika
2 tsp. honey
2 Tbs. parsley, minced
3 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 Tbs. water, to reach desired consistency

  • Blend the vinaigrette ingredients until smooth in a food processor or blender. Add a little water at the end to thin, as necessary.
  • Combine the salad ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle atop 2/3 to 3/4 of the vinaigrette and toss to coat. Add a little more until you’ve reached your desired dressing level.
  • Serve immediately, while nice and fresh!
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Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice

Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice

 

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I was at my Food Action Team meeting the other day and the intro question was posed, what is your favorite way to cook tofu? Admittedly, I am a somewhat newbie when it comes to making tofu. I’ve only (mostly) mastered it in the last year or so and I still turn to cookbooks for ideas on the best way to get the texture down. I know I’ve done a somewhat good job when William, who like me had decided he did not like it, has really taken to it. A few hours before sharing at my food group about how I made this tasty baked tofu using a dry rub (a new method for me), I received a text from William about how tasty his tofu lunch leftovers were. He’ll only eat leftovers if they were particularly good the first time.

The whole idea that I’d be sharing a great way to cook tofu around a kitchen table with a few long-time vegetarians listening in is slightly humorous. I’ve been getting a lot of messages lately about not being afraid to be myself and I’ve been hearing them loud and clear. Eleven years ago, I was the girl who was proudly sporting a homemade PETA (People for the Eating of Tasty Animals) shirt around my high school. I wasn’t into eating a whole lot more meat then than I do now, but as president of my FFA chapter, having just sold the champion market steer at the county fair, and having been nicknamed the Queen of Agriculture by some of my teachers, I guess I thought I had an image to uphold. Or I really wasn’t in touch with myself.

The biggest lesson I am slowing learning is how to let go of the long-standing public face I put on that either does things to uphold a standard/appease my community or alternatively (and more often) closes down and reveals nothing. Instead, I’d like to put more effort into getting curious, saying yes to new experiences and people, trying new foods I’ve deemed off limits or don’t like, and maybe not be so guarded when others want to be let in. I might stumble and fail for a while but like my experience with tofu, there’s the strong possibility that eventually I’ll get it right.

 

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This whole tofu experience was inspired by Runnin SriLankan, a fellow Recipe Redux blogger. Since this happens to be The Recipe Redux’s birthday month, we’re celebrating by making or getting inspired by each other’s recipes.

Shashi shared her Curried Mango Pork Chops a while ago, and my creative juices were immediately flowing to remake the whole thing into a rice and tofu bowl with a curried fruit chutney when our local summer stone fruits come into season. I’ve been super anticipating the local apricots which are available here at the beginning of summer so the apricots are a key component. Made into a savory-sweet chutney, spiced up with notes of curry powder and smoked paprika, and served alongside rice, carrot curls, and dark leafy greens, this is a really lovely meal for either a weeknight or a slower weekend evening.

Enjoy!

 

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Curried Tofu and Apricot Chutney with Basmati Rice, serves 4

Cooked Brown Basmati Rice

2-3 large carrots

1 large bunch kale or other greens

1 lb. firm or extra-firm tofu

Dry Rub:

1 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Apricot Chutney:

3/4 tsp. curry powder

1/4 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1-2 Tbs. honey

2 cups diced apricots (about 6)

Directions:

  1. In a small dish, combine the dry rub spices and set aside.
  2. Drain and press the tofu for at least 30 minutes. Then, slice it into cubes. Lay out in a single layer in a baking dish and then toss the dry rub to coat all sides.
  3. Bake the tofu in an oven preheated to 400 degrees F for 20 minutes, stirring/flipping the cubes halfway through.
  4. While the tofu is baking, make the chutney in a small saucepan by adding the diced apricots, curry powder, paprika, ginger, raisins, vinegar, salt, and honey together. Bring to a simmer and allow the ingredients to meld together and become thick. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  5. While the chutney is simmering and tofu is baking, use a vegetable peeler to make long curls with 2-3 carrots. Set aside and chop the kale or other greens.
  6. Remove the tofu from the oven when crisp-baked and then serve with rice, carrots, greens, and a spoonful (or several) of apricot chutney.

 

for the joy

for the joy

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I went for a run the other day, an easy four miles, and I found myself having to hold back at the end. Again.

 

Several years ago when William and I were first dating, we’d run together frequently, getting to truly know each other over our running-with-another-styles. Will was content to always keep it casual, slow and easy. My competitive streak had me unconsciouslessly always staying one step ahead with random surges thrown in whenever I felt good. I’d often laugh recklessly and pick it up a little more when he wanted to slow down. I tend to get faster as the miles add up while he likes to rush out at the beginning and then slow down. I’m stronger-willed. I usually set the pace. Despite our differences, we got into a habit of finishing each run with a little sprint to the end. It was never a set time or distance, just somewhere close to our finishing point, we’d glance at each other, mutter something like “race you to…” and take off. William usually won. It was so so fun.

 

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Running hasn’t been so easy or joyful this year. I have been battling my body and mind this entire year. I finally figured out my mind has identified its body as perpetually injured. Despite the belief that I will eventually be injury-free, my daily thought pattern does nothing to support this mindset. Any time something new feels off, my mind goes into a two to six day anxiety party, in which I can focus on almost nothing else except the thing that is off, worrying about “what-if it…”, and then after those first few days have past, I accept the off-feeling as the new norm, and it becomes the problem. All of this happens before any doctor can actually identify anything is truly wrong. It is a bad pattern that I’ve finally acknowledged and am attempting to stop vicariously jumping into. I’ve also come to terms with the idea that my mind thrives on (and is perpetually sickened by) a stressful environment. And it doesn’t matter what is actually happening in life, whether my current circumstances are actually worthy of stress, my mind always finds something to be stressed about. For me, the link between mental stress and physical symptoms, in any myriad of ways, is real. I have accurately identified a whole host of physical ills I’ve suffered over the years that are linked to stress. I have a great doctor that supports my theories. It is crazy this mind-body connection. The good thing here is that I’ve finally acknowledged this internal battle and I know it is not the way I want to live.

 

Running is where I seek a lot of mental solace. And since my physical body has been somewhat out of commission all these months, my mind has freely been running havoc instead. After a substantial amount of crying and worrying and praying this year, asking Him repeatedly why he gave me this particular challenge to overcome, I was practically smacked in the face one day in adoration at church with the realization that this has been such a good year. I have had to stop running, at first physically and then mentally, and actually work through the baggage that I had been holding on to. I’ve had to stop, just sit, literally, and simply feel every thing I’ve spent my entire life avoiding feeling.

 

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Deacon Anderson had a Carl Jung quote/paraphrase one Sunday in church that has been my truth this year. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, to avoid facing their own souls. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, we’ll play with our cell phones, we’ll have sex, we’ll throw ourselves into our work, we’ll exercise until we drop, we’ll buy stuff, we’ll do anything, anything, to avoid this journey and this struggle, to keep from embracing our shadow, he shared.

 

This year, I’ve sat with, cried with, yelled at, wanted to rip out and throw away, run with, forgiven, soothed, gotten to know, and finally, faced my soul. It has been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.

 

It has been the best thing I have ever done.

 

And it is an ongoing, never-ending, daily practice. It is a complete lifestyle change to know and face my soul, to continue acknowledging it rather than running away. So far, it does not get easier with time.

 

And so, running. Running and work and blogging and food and family and making a home and being a sister, aunt, daughter, wife, cousin, friend, teacher, and mentor. And living. Above all, I want to live and experience peace in each moment, let all my worries and what-ifs and over-whelming, self-imposed schedule go, acknowledge but not engage with those thoughts that will always try to take over, and let them go. And again. Every goddamn day starting over.

 

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When I let all my worries go, I realize I am happy. Despite whatever chaos I’ve brought on myself or the world has imposed, I am happy. There is joy when I write and joy when I pray. There is joy in my interactions, joy in throwing my schedule out and going with someone else’s plans. There is joy in running that has nothing to do with managing my body, that is no longer based on being able to withstand the pain for a little while, but actual joy in realizing that despite whatever might feel slightly off, my body does not have to be a battleground, and the last mile of a four or five or easy six miler feels good and I feel like sprinting it in to the end again–simply for the joy of it.

 

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Big Tasty Winter Salad with Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Squash + Candied Hazelnuts

When it comes to holiday gatherings, I’m the salad person in my family. Every year I have somehow shown up to Thanksgiving or Christmas with Brussels sprouts–and then the relatives tell me they’ve spent their entire lives not liking them but they look forward to mine. I guess that is the highest compliment a vegetable-loving, on-a-mission-to-get-people-to-eat-their-veggies lady can receive. Spinning off the sweet dressing and candied nuts in my Pittsburgh Salad, I decided to throw all my favorite wintry salad things in a big ol’ Thanksgiving-sized bowl and feed people greens again this year. And it worked. I’ve made this salad a couple times since and it is tasty enough that I might take it to every social gathering between now and the end of winter squash season (that’s around mid-March for me). It is just that good.

1 bunch kale, stems removed and leaves chopped

1 small or 1/2 a medium winter squash, roasted and then cut into medium-large chunks

a small to medium handful of dried cranberries, raisins, or cherries, or a handful of each

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, bottoms and outer leaves removed and halved, if they are large

1 Tbs. olive oil

 

For the candied hazelnuts:

3/4 cup raw hazelnuts

3/4 tsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. honey

1/8 tsp. salt

Cayenne pepper

 

For the vinaigrette:

2 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil

2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. whole-grain mustard

1 Tbs. honey

salt and pepper to taste

 

  • On a large baking pan, toss Brussels sprouts with a good drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes in an oven preheated to 350 degrees F.
  • While the Brussels are roasting, prep kale and put it in a large mixing bowl, along with the roasted squash and dried fruits. Once the Brussels begin to soften but still have a little crunch, remove them from the oven, and pour them atop the kale and give it a quick stir. This will begin to soften up the kale.
  • Spread the hazelnuts in a small baking pan or on the same dish the Brussels came off of, and toast until just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Remove and let cool slightly. Then, toss them with 1/8 tsp. salt and a good pinch of cayenne pepper. Drizzle with the 3/4 tsp. oil and 1/2 tsp. honey. Toss them all into the bowl with the Brussels and kale.
  • Make the vinaigrette by whisking the remaining oil, honey, mustard, and vinegar in a small dish. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour it in small batches over the salad ingredients until you’ve dressed it with your desired amount.