I've been intending to post some of the recipes from the local-food dishes I made for my father's 80th birthday picnic last week. But with two sets of house guests (including two members of the former Women's Breakfast Group of Las Cruces, New Mexico: fabric artist Donna Cooney and writer Katherine Durack) and a feature article deadline for a piece on natural burial for Audubon magazine, I've been seriously absorbed. But tonight the house is quiet, my article is finished, and I'm sitting by the window with cool evening air blowing in and the last blue ebbing from the sky. It's a good time to be reflective and think about food!
I love to cook. It's a license to play with food, by which I mean experiment with color, texture, and flavor, not toss the stuff around the room. I especially love to cook with food I know intimately, things I've grown in my garden or picked or caught myself. I prefer to know what I eat: where it comes from, how it lived, and what nurtured its cells. That's part of why I garden: I know my food and it knows me. I've raised it with my own hands; it has grown up in the same soil I walk on, nurtured by the sunlight that blesses my skin too.
So here are two recipes that use food I know intimately, food from my very own gout de terroir, a French phrase that translates roughly as the flavor of the soil or taste of the landscape.
Quinoa salad with beets and sugar-snap peas
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 cup steamed beets, sliced into thin wedges
1 cup steamed sugar-snap peas, whole
½ cup feta cheese, crumbled
½ cup walnuts, chopped coarsely
juice from one lemon
2 T olive oil
fresh-ground pepper to taste
a sprinkle of salt
Rinse a cup of quinoa in a sieve until the water is clear. Put the soaked quinoa in a pot with one-and-a-half cups of water, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes. Let sit for five minutes, and then put it in a salad bowl. Sprinkle with salt (about a quarter of a teaspoon is enough) and grind pepper over it to taste. Add olive oil and lemon juice and stir. Arrange the beet wedges on top of the quinoa, top with the steamed sugar-snap peas (let some beets show through the green peas--it's prettier that way). Then top with feta and walnuts, and serve. (Makes four medium-sized helpings.)
1 cup mint leaves, packed loosely
2 cups cilantro, packed loosely
1 medium-sized green chile seeded and chopped (about a quarter-cup)
2 T lime juice
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Combine the ingredients in a food processor or blender (if you use a blender, do a half-batch at a time) and process until almost smooth. Makes a great dip--I love it for shrimp! If it's too spicy, mix with an equal amount of plain yoghurt. Can be refrigerated for a few days or frozen for longer storage. (Makes one cup, or two cups with the yoghurt.)