Eating seasonally is sensible and delicious, selecting foods at their peak when they are freshest and most bountiful (= cheaper too).
It's easy with the number of grocery stores and farmers markets many of us have access to. BUT it can also be difficult because of all that year-round access to almost anything. Feel like a dark stew with winter vegetables in August? Or peaches in February? You can probably get them if you look in the right places.
The month of May was unseasonably cool here, which sparked some meals that might otherwise suit colder months. Soups, chicken stew, pasta with robust tomato sauces. All delicious and worthy of mentioning here when the season is more timely.
This week it has warmed again (although we're expecting some showers today- showers in June in the Bay Area? rare,
but I digress). Green salads and other light dishes are gracing the table once more.
I have a wonderful combination for you for a warm day when you can't manage much kitchen interaction: a chilled soup and quinoa vegetable salad.
You'll still need the stove and oven but their use is hands-off. It's a delicious light and balanced meal with protein (yogurt, nuts, quinoa), vegetables (bell peppers, cucumber), and grain group (quinoa). For more protein, serve with some seared scallops or grilled chicken. A cup of blueberries or cherries for dessert and if you're not satisfied, I'll give you your money back.
You know my affection for soups but they don't have to be just for chilly days. Soup will hydrate you, warm or cold. Cucumbers and plain yogurt mingle with red wine vinegar, garlic, and Tabasco to make a creamy and refreshing first course. My original recipe calls for mint; while mixing I realized my mint supply has just been bulldozed during backyard renovations! This batch was still delicious without it; add the mint for another layer of flavor.Cucumber Yogurt Soupserves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as a first course
1 cucumber, peeled
1 16 ounce container nonfat plain yogurt
1 cup cold water
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce
1 tsp salt
1 large garlic clove, smashed
(optional) 2 Tbs chopped fresh mint
Cut the peeled cucumber in half and scrape out the seeds. Cut the halves into strips and dice.
In a serving bowl, add the yogurt and water and whisk together. Add the oil, vinegar, Tabasco, salt, garlic clove, and whisk together thoroughly. Stir in the cucumber, and the optional mint. Chill in the fridge for at least 20 minutes or until ready to serve. Fish out the smashed garlic clove before ladling into bowls.
To pair with the soup, try this quinoa salad which can be served warm or at room temperature. The smoky and smooth roasted peppers contrast with the crunchiness of the almonds and bite of the quinoa.
I love quinoa, but I know a few people who don't. Substitute well-cooked brown rice or couscous if you haven't wrapped your brain around this grain that is not a grain (quinoa is more closely related to beets).
Roast the bell peppers and prepare the quinoa in advance, and I do recommend mixing the salad 15-20 minutes before serving to let the flavors soak in and mingle.
Roasted Bell Pepper Quinoa Salad
3 bell peppers (I used one each red, yellow, and orange; any combo works)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
2 Tbs olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place the washed bell peppers on top. Bake for 40 minutes, turning the peppers every 10 minutes until the skin is blackened and soft. Remove from the oven and wrap the foil around peppers, pinching to seal. Let sit for 15 minutes before removing the skin and and chopping the peppers into diced strips.
Meanwhile, place the quinoa and water in a small pot and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa fluffy. Transfer to a serving dish and let cool slightly. Add the chopped bell peppers, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine, and set aside for 20 minutes before serving. Just before dishing out, stir in the toasted almonds.