Despite having been involved in the arts since age 5, when my (then) piano teacher mother made me one of her students, I can’t say that I’ve ever felt like an inherently creative person. And by that, I suppose I mean that I have never excelled at creative endeavors in the physical sense. If it requires me to physically interact with it, to make my hands and brain work as one to produce something tangible… I am likely to lose patience, resulting in a final outcome that is discarded, or passable at best. Please note the DIY projects left languishing in closets, the many lop-sided scarves I’ve tried to crochet and my position as the 11th chair trumpet (of 12) in 5th grade band as examples.
I think that’s the thing that has surprised me so much about falling in love with cooking. No matter what kind of mood I’m in when I get home, no matter how exhausting the idea of preparing a meal may be, I cannot think of a time in the past year where getting to work in the kitchen and taking the time to make something hasn’t made me feel so much better than before I started. While I love cooking with people, cooking is also the first time I’ve ever embraced a physical, creative activity and truly enjoyed it as a solo endeavor. Nights like tonight, where previously, I might have felt a bit anxious about going home when the sun was still up, with a pile of work to do when I’d much rather just be out and social with people, come alive when I get into the kitchen and begin crafting dinner. I believe everyone should treat themselves often, whatever that means to you individually. And I, personally, feel treated every day. At my own hand, no less. Which is pretty great.
Yesterday I knew exactly what I was going to make tonight for dinner. Until midway through today when that didn’t sound good at all any more. So I took those ingredients and came up with something completely different. And while it may not seem very creative, I’ve never candied pecans before, and this is only the second time I’ve cooked with rhubarb. Simplicity used to freak me out. I equated it with boring, lacking. But now, I think simplicity is where I really thrive.
We’re in the middle of a heat wave here in New York, so this is a perfect summer dinner, yet still packed with enough protein and rich superfood nutrients to keep you satisfied and happy. It also goes exceedingly well with a glass of prosecco.
Recipe: Quinoa and Mixed Greens Salad with Rhubarb, Candied Pecans and Pear
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
2 stalks rhubarb, chopped
3/4 cup pecans
1 cup dry quinoa
1/2 of a pear, sliced or diced
1 tbsp Sucranat (raw maple syrup or agave would also work well here)
1 tbsp + 1 tsp coconut oil, divided
8 big handfuls of mixed greens, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Fig-infused white balsamic vinegar for drizzing (or your favorite dressing. I still have yet to find a favorite recipe for a creamy, vegan dressing, but it did strike me while eating that a creamy dressing would be delicious with this salad.)
Cook the quinoa according to the package directions. Always 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. This will take about 20-25 minutes to cook.
Wash your lettuce thoroughly, towel off, and chop. Plate and set aside.
Toast your pecans in a heated frying pan to roast them up a bit. Add in 1 tbsp coconut oil and the Sucranat. Stir, stir, stir and keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. 3-5 minutes after adding the oil and Sucranat, turn off the heat, and places the pecans on parchment or a paper towel to cool off.
Toss the chopped rhubarb in another frying pan (or the same, if you feel like caramelizing it a bit) with the tsp of coconut oil and saute for about 3 minutes. Rhubarb cooks really, really quickly, so if you don’t want it to get mushy, keep an eye on it and take it off the heat as soon as it’s cooked through. I overcooked mine a bit. While it’s still good, I am looking forward to the day when I don’t murder it dead with too much heat.
Slice or dice the pear, however suits your fancy. Once the quinoa is cooked, layer as much as you’d like over the lettuce, top with the rhubarb and pecans and garnish with the pear. Drizzle fig-infused balsamic over the top, and enjoy!
Also, I stopped by the garden tonight to check in on our veggies, and caught this little ladybug next to our cherry tomatoes. How sweet!