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.
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.
OK, my method!
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Chop potatoes and sunchokes into cubes, and the parsnips into spears, by slicing lengthwise and chopping into a French fry like shape.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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.
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.
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!