Remember "It's Hard out Here for a Pimp" the song from Hustle and Flow? When the news broke of the NH Sportswriter (Go Manchvegas!) who supplemented his dwindling journalism salary by starting a prostitution ring, my first thought was his 'hos were probably freelance writers unable to procure even dime-a-word job. Couple the gray days of the a**-end of winter with the challenge of wringing some pennies from prospects who'd rather offer you "exposure" and maybe you could give a girl a break? I mean, you can't even buy root veg on ten cents a word. Call me cynical.
This is the time of year in New England when even the most stalwart seasonal eaters begin confessing they've cheated on Winter. I'm all for seasonal and local eating but there does come a time when a body needs something fresh, crunchy and colorful. We crave it. Once you get a taste, you want more.
Recently, we've added a couple dishes to the rotation that are, on balance, sensible and delicious, if not totally local or completely seasonal. They involve choices I make with care, but that might raise a few eyebrows. They're not lock-step with the whole eat local, seasonal dogma. So sue me.
Food writers can sometimes find themselves in the enviable (or unenviable, take your pick) position of pushing product. Root vegetables are our winter "local" food. We try to seduce you with new ways to combine, mash, roast or even "braise" them. Don't get me wrong, I love me some root veg. I think rutabagas and celeriac are unsung heroes. While not root veg, winter items include roasted brussels sprouts, kale chips, too. Parsnips in my chicken soup always get a smile. I've been trying to incorporate more grains and expand our "starch" list.
Quinoa has become a steady friend. Packed with nutrition, quick-cooking and adaptable, it is a great place to start. Yay! Victory! Then, the NYTimes runs this story about how Bolivian quinoa farmers are no longer able to afford their staple grain due to increased demand by all those damn locavore Norte Americanos. See how hard it is to do the right thing?
Just now when winter refuses to release its grip, there are a few foods that punctuate the cold, gray days with a tempting taste of sunnier days ahead. One thing I'm very grateful for is the steady stream of Meyer Lemons from the in-laws. I LOVE these guys. (And the lemons are sweet, too). Another thing that helps are the occasional hothouse cherry tomatoes. This week, sugar snap peas appeared at the market and who could resist? Not I.
So, begging your indulgence, and remembering that it can be hard to serve up a fly and seductive meal with yet another root veg combo in the last days of March, I invite you to...
PIMP YOUR SALAD.
Start with some small organic Yukon Gold potatoes, scrub and peel if you like or not. Boil or steam, till tender.
Rinse some beautiful Red Quinoa like this one:
Alter Eco red quinoa can be found at Whole Foods. It supports the Anapqui Cooperative in Bolivia. Seals on the bag tell us its USDA Organic, Fair Trade, Objective Carbon Zero.
According to other info on the bag:
- 1,500 farmers benefit from this project and a tree is planted in the Amazon to offset every 465 packages sold.
- 1/4 C (roughly the amount in the photo above) has 160 calories, 2 gms fat and provides:
- 3 gms dietary fiber
- 6 gms protein
- 2% calcium
- 20% iron
It's nutty, crunchy, quick-cooking and a one pound package is less than $6.00. At eleven servings per bag, that's about 50 cents per serving of good protein.
Cook it in a ratio of 2:1 water:seed. Bring to boil, reduce, cover, steam.
Make a pistou with herbs and greens on hand - parsley, baby spinach, a bit of steamed kale, couple good sized cloves of garlic, rough chopped, small handful of pine nuts, (some parmigiano reggiano would be good and more authentic in place of pine nuts, but my dairy allergy prevents it.) Buzz up in the food processor with good light olive oil or canola.
Zest and juice one large or two small of those gorgeous Meyer Lemons.
Chop any other fresh herbs you may want to add to salad. I grabbed some fresh dill, chopped up a couple tablespoons worth.
Rinse a handful of Upland Cress, Baby Organic Spinach. Spin dry. Chop sugar snap peas in bite sized pieces. Chop half a shallot.
When potatoes are done, toss with lemon juice, olive oil and shallot.
Add greens, peas, quinoa.
Toss in pistou and gently fold all the green goodness, the crunchy quinoa, zest. Taste. Add more Meyer Lemon juice, kosher salt and pepper to taste.
There you go B*******! That is one satisfying, vitamin and protein packed salad. Almost guilt-free. Your body will thank you, your pocket book will thank you, and somewhere in Bolivia a farmer is eating better, too.