Wednesday, August 4, 2010

fresh never tasted so good

My appetite is constantly looking at the "grass" on the other side of the "fence" and seeing how much more lush and verdant it is.  In the dead of winter, sometime in February, my need for fresh, raw vegetables is insatiable and overwhelming.  After months of frozen vegetables and canned tomatoes, my tastebuds yearn for something crunchy and green.  And yes, I believe you can taste "green."

On the other hand, in the midst of the hottest (and most consistently hot) summer in a long, long time, I am already looking forward to starting my day with steamy, creamy oatmeal, dressed with dried/frozen fruit, maple syrup, or the occasional diced apple.  I am dreaming of syrupy, squishy fruit crisps and thick, hearty soups and yearning for the warmth that spreads from your innards to your outtards (yes, I know that's not a word, but it's funny, isn't it?) when you eat a slow-stewed dinner.

Nevertheless, I am not taking a single moment of summer's freshness for granted.  I love that I bought my dinner veggies immediately before washing them and cooking them.  I know they were picked days ago and traveled a small distance to end up in the produce bins, but it's still a happy special moment - that moment when the bag I carried them home in was hardly necessary, except that my juggling skills aren't quite up to par and my hands may be larger than the average woman's, but they're not monstrous.

A couple of days ago, I made Warm Chickpea Ragout with Chard, Carrots, and Harissa from Vegetarian Times: Fast and Easy.  I had a bundle of huge Swiss Chard.  Not a huge bundle of chard, mind you - the chard leaves themselves were absurdly large.  They were so big that I had to slice them crosswise in half or into thirds, just so they would fit on my tiny-counter-sized cutting board so I could slice the stem out and shred the rest into uniform ribbons of dark greens.

Last night, I made Pasta with Fresh 5-Minute Basil Tomato Sauce from La Dolce Vegan.  I have such a ton of quick-cooking recipes in my repertoire at this point that I cannot understand, for the life of me, why it still surprises me to find recipes that cook up this quickly.  It can easily be prepared in as much time as it takes you to boil the water and cook the pasta.  The sauce will actually be ready well before the pasta.  I didn't take pictures because Mister and I were starving (thus the speed) and it really didn't look like anything special, but it sure tasted special - impeccably fresh.  The sauce isn't even cooked; it's merely warmed through by being tossed with just-drained pasta.

Tonight was One-Serving Wednesday.  I got some ideas spinning around in my brain as I was driving home from work, some hearkening back to my dinner date with my long-lost friend a month or so ago.  We are certainly due for some more QT, but in the meantime, I set my mind to recreating the Vegetable Sayadia I had at Cedars, sans mushrooms.

When I had parked the car, petted the cat, and unloaded my empty travel mug and tupperware from my bag, I strolled up to Superfresh to get a few things: garlic, a bell pepper, and...something.  Something turned out to be a zucchini and a nectarine.  I chopped up the nectarine to snack on while I chopped up my veggies to do a little "sunbathing."  Someone else might call it "saute-ing."  Details, details.  Anyway, the finished product was actually a great deal better than I thought it would be, and aside from my grain of choice (quinoa), it was pretty darn close to my dinner at Cedars.

Quinoa Sayadia
serves 4 with side dishes/salads

1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth/stock
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 narrow carrots, sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut in a 1" dice
1 small zucchini, quartered lengthwise and sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp cumin

Boil broth, stir in quinoa and lower heat as low as it will go.  Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until quinoa has absorbed all the liquid and the germ has spiraled out.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil on medium heat and saute carrot slices for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add diced pepper and garlic, lower heat to medium-low and saute 3-5 minutes, until vegetables are tender.  Stir in zucchini, salt & pepper, cumin, and coriander.  Cook about 2 more minutes, then stir in quinoa and cook, stirring almost constantly, about 2 minutes, until heated through.

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