Picnic Time!

Yesterday was April 7th, and it was 70 degrees in Seattle!! Perhaps even 71. WOW. It felt heavenly; I rode my bike to work in shorts and a t-shirt, and broke out the chacos. My toes felt so free!

Unfortunately, today I was naïve enough to think that sunny, warm weather would continue in the Pacific Northwest – and isn’t that part of the charm of us northwesterners?—and wore my sandals again… Only to get caught in a downpour that still shows no signs of stopping. Oh well! I’m still on a Vitamin D high from yesterday.

Now I’m cozy on the couch, with a cup of té de Jamaica (hibiscus tea) brought back from Mexico, and I want to write and report about the picnic that the lovely weather yesterday brought to fruition. It was a pretty perfect picnic. And I know of no better alliteration than that.

ImageSam and the loaded picnic basket! 

Although I-5 is my neighbor, Lake Union is also my neighbor, and so is the setting sun over Lake Union. There’s a park with overgrown and soggy grass only a few blocks away from us, and just a few blocks away from the freeway rumble feels like a serene spot for dining al fresco. We even managed to claim the one picnic table. 

And aside from the setting, the picnic is really all about the food. Although usually picnics seem to involve minimal cooking and cold food, I suppose that’s not really my style! Attempting to avoid animal products and processed foods also makes that a little more difficult. Plus, Sam and I had bought all these vegetables at the farmer’s market with a big ol’ roast in mind, and we can’t be stopped!

Here’s the vegetable roast list:

     -Yukon gold taters
     -Parsnips (the last of the season, according to this farmstand!)
     -Sun chokes, or Jerusalem artichokes
     -Kale and cabbage rab

While potatoes and parsnips have been my frequent companions this winter, the last two in this roast were relative newcomers to my tummy (and tongue). Sunchokes are a root vegetable that cooks up a lot like a potato, but are much juicier and have a slight artichoke taste to them. It seems against everything I believe in to dislike a vegetable, but I would definitely classify sunchokes as interesting. That’s not to say I wouldn’t eat them again, but they were an exploration into new territory! 

The kale and cabbage rab, on the other hand, were downright amazing. I already love kale and cabbage, and the flowering version of these cruciferous veggies was a revelation. They have thin stems with small leaves coming off the sides, and a little flower on top that looks like a tiny and tender broccoli. We roasted them whole, for about ten minutes, and it was akin to eating asparagus, just somehow more delicious with crispy kale chip-like leaves along with it, and normal smelling pee for the next day. We’re not quite into that funky season yet.

ImageFrom top to bottom: kale and cabbage, parsnips, potatoes, sunchokes. 

 

OK, my method!

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Chop potatoes and sunchokes into cubes, and the parsnips into spears, by slicing lengthwise and chopping into a French fry like shape.
  3. Place parsnips into an appropriate roasting dish (I used a cast iron skillet), and sprinkle generously with olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  4. Spread out the potatoes and sunchokes into a big roasting pan (or simply use a cookie sheet!), as they should all be in one layer.    
  5. Stick both dishes in the oven, and give them a stir every 5-10 minutes. The parsnips should only take about 15 minutes. Once done, break out the kale rab and stick it in the same pan, toss with olive oil and salt, and stick into the oven.
  6. After ten minutes or so, when the outer leaves of the rab are crispy and the potatoes are nicely browned, remove everything from the oven!   
  7. I served with Dijon mustard, because I find that ridiculously good. Sam put some balsamic vinegar on it all. Your choice!

Yum, nothing easier and more delicious than roasted veg! 

ImageRoasted vegetables enjoy the view just as much as the next gal! 

 


 

But that wasn’t all we had for dinner. To me, a picnic ain’t a picnic without a salad, and particularly a hearty salad (as in, not lettuce).

Enter the curried lentil salad! I love when adding curry powder to anything makes it about 1000 x more delicious. This was certainly the case. Here’s what happened.

Step one: cook the lentils. I used brown lentils – put them in a pot with water and some salt, and cook for 30-40 minutes. Add more salt to taste. Refrigerate! Ah, easy as lentils. The best legume.

 Step two: chop fresh veggies. In this case, green onions, cilantro, green pepper, and cherry tomatoes. I used a generous amount of cilantro and green onion to make it nice and tangy, and because I think of a good lentil salad as having a lot of herbs in it.

Step three: make the dressing. Confession: I am a very poor food blogger so far because I so rarely measure anything—particularly sauces and dressings that I like to taste as I go. I add a little salt, or a little acid, or sweet, to make it to my liking. But to become a better food blogger I must begin to measure! So, forgive me this time. 

For my dressing, I used olive oil, lime, apple cider vinegar, agave, garlic, salt, pepper, and curry powder. Oh baby, it was good. A generous shaking of curry powder made this a step up from your average salad. I highly recommend!!!

Step four: toss it all together, and put it back in the fridge to let the flavors meld a bit.

ImageOh hey there, pretty thing. 

 

This salad could work with any veggies, but unless you really hate cilantro I say it is a must. Its bitterness works perfectly with the sweetness and complexity of the curry. Otherwise, any crunchy veggies will do!  


 

Yes, these two dishes might not be the easiest picnic to pack, but it came together surprisingly quickly (30 minutes I’d say) and they tasted even better with some springtime sunlight on them.

But wait! What’s a picnic without a cold beverage? That’s where Trader Joe’s comes in, where I bought some individual cans of beer for $1.50 each. Yeah! The Top Cutter IPA was hoppy and delicious and made me want to relax on the grass all day and buy about three more. 

ImageBeer and mustard? Classic combo?

And with that, Happy Spring! I’m welcoming the buds and green leaves and scent of daphne in the air with an open picnic basket! 

ImageCaught with my mouth on the picnic spoon… 

 

With love,

Hash Brown 

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Lunchtime Lettuce Wraps and a Hummus Obsession

These days, I get home from working my current (soon to be over) job around 10 AM, and then have approximately four hours until I head back to work a few more hours. Suffice it to say, I will not miss the pre-dawn wake ups or the double commute. With that, however, I usually get up to some lunchtime experimenting. Weeks ago (oops, blogging is hard…) I had just made hummus and I wanted to eat it! And not just by the spoonful, although no shame in that regard. We didn’t have any bread, or anything to make sandwiches, but a whole bag of romaine lettuce awaited me… YUM.

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The lettuce wraps came together with what was in the fridge. In this case: cucumber, avocado, capers, tofu, cilantro, and some soy sauce to finish. And that is the beauty of lettuce wraps (or any wrap!), whatever works. The cucumbers and avocado made me want capers, and the tofu made me want soy sauce. I just chopped up the veggies, pan fried the tofu with some coconut oil to add some extra flavor and texture. It was indeed a beautiful harmony. Each wrap was crunchy, soft with the hummus and tofu, and amazingly flavorful, a great balance of salty, bitter, and tangy.

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Speaking of tangy, let’s move on to homemade hummus… Infinitely better than the store bought stuff.

Here are some things I love about making my hummus:

  • I actually use my arm muscles to pull Sam’s food processor down from a top shelf (one of the many perks of moving in with someone else quite obsessed with food, so many appliances!), those weaklings I don’t use every day.
  • It’s exactly the kind of hummus I like, lots of lemon, spicy with garlic, and a healthy dose of tahini. Oh, and nice and thick and fluffy.
  • I feel very accomplished afterwards, having made something that always seemed a bit overpriced to me at the grocery store (also feeling silly for not having made it before)!

And here’s the easiest recipe!

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • the juice of one lemon (and more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, depending on taste and size
  • 1 ½ cups chickpeas, or one can rinsed and drained
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon salt, to taste

To key to making it extra fluffy (according to http://www.inspiredtaste.net/15938/easy-and-smooth-hummus-recipe/) is to whip the tahini and lemon juice first, so that it becomes less like a paste and more like a light, fluffy substance .You can make this in a blender or food processor. Whizz the tahini and hummus for a minute or so, and make sure to scrape the sides and bottom, to get everything nice and fluffy! The color of the tahini will lighten and the texture will change too.

Then, add in the garlic, olive oil, and salt, and half the chickpeas. Let the food processor go to work on that, and then add the rest of the ‘banzos. Let it run again until you have achieved desired consistency! Yeah! That’s some beautiful homemade hummus! Feel free to drizzle with olive oil and spring some paprika on top if you’re serving for looks. Or, just because extra olive oil is usually quite delicious.

As I said, I like mine on the lemony (and salty) side, but the beauty of homemade hummus is that it’s your very own! I actually first got into making hummus when I made it with my cooking class at work. And man, did those kids go to work on squeezing those lemons! So, we ended up with really lemony hummus, but it was still awesome! Hummus is a very forgiving substance it seems, willing to work with ME and YOU! So have at it.

More to come soon! As soon as I remember to take pictures of my food, that is.