Sunday, February 15, 2009

My Favorite Recipe

I love quinoa. This ancient Latin American grain (pronounced keen-wah) is an utterly delicious complete protein. If you add a few other things, it's like the perfect meal eaten warm or cool, by itself or as a side dish. I usually make this on the weekend and eat it all week as a snack or for lunch.

2 cups quinoa
3 radishes, diced
1/3 can chickpeas (or if you use dried chickpeas, around 1/3 cup reconstituted chickpeas)
1/3-1/2 green pepper, diced
1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
1/4 cup feta, diced/crumbled
1/3 lb cubed tofu, sauted
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2-3 green onions, minced
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup currants
2-4 Tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Toast the quinoa at medium heat in a pan with about 1/4 cup water, making sure all the quinoa is moistened -- there should be no excess water. Stir frequently until quinoa browns (do not burn) and pops like popcorn. I think this has something to do with a natural pesticide coating the quinoa has, but all I really know is that toasting it before cooking it makes it nuttier tasting.

Then add 3 1/2 to 4 cups of water and after it boils, turn the pot down to simmer with a lid on for 10-20 minutes. (My stove is wonky, so I can't be precise about this.) Keep an eye on it to make sure all the water evaporates and the quinoa gets softish but not all mushy. It's a fine line sometimes. The quinoa should be fluffy.

Then add some olive oil and salt and pepper while it cools, stirring a bit to release some of the heat. When it's cooled off some, add all the veggies and other stuff. Between the quinoa, feta, walnuts, and chickpeas, it's a mega-proteiny dish. I usually eat it on a bed of chopped romaine lettuce, sometimes topped with a black bean-jalapeno dip. But any way you eat it, it will simultaneously fill you up and gives you tons of energy (no after-meal nap required).

You can vary the ingredients and their amounts however you want -- I just happen to like a lot of different flavors in my meals. For example, you can try subbing parsley for the cilantro or chopped figs for the currants. (I try to have one sweet thing in my quinoa to offset all the savory flavors.)

This dish will keep for up to a week, although the chickpeas and feta shorten its lifespan by a few days.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Spring Is on the Way (In Which I Discuss a Trio of Disappearances; One Appearance; and One Potential But Feared Appearance)

Signs that "winter" (really, it's Florida, so winter is like a pimple on the face of the tropics) is almost over:

1) Appearing robins. Every January, robins descend on North Florida on their way south, or north, or somewhere. When they show up, they flash their orange breasts all over town. These omnivores crawl over seemingly every bit of foliage and ground looking for grubs, berries, insects, and anything else they can get their beaks on.

I love robins and we never see them any other time of year, so it's always a bit thrilling when they suddenly show up en masse, all over my yard and even sometimes at work. They were here for a few days last week, but now they're gone to other climes.

2) Disappearing cranes. Last weekend I went to see the sandhill cranes on Payne's Prairie, but most of them were gone. There were still a few hundred around but it was nowhere near the number that were here just a week or two ago.

3) Appearing gators. On the prairie walk, we also saw a bunch of large gators sunning themselves in and near Alachua Sink. They've been hiding out in the mud for weeks because we got a pretty Canadian cold snap. We must have seen twenty or thirty gators basking in the sun that day. Some were fairly close to the trail.

4) Appearing blooms. Yesterday I went for a long solo bike ride on the Hawthorne Trail, and noticed that the native chickasaw plum trees are starting to bloom.

Just short while to wait for boiled peanuts and sleeping in the living room. And the next installment of the cockroach war. God forbid.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Split Rock Walk

A couple weekends ago my friend Lauren and I went on a hike in the woods. We checked out Split Rock Conservation Area, which is just west of town near I-75. It's a bit odd, because even though this is a city park that is open to the public, there are no signs indicating where it is, there's nowhere to really park, and there are no facilities or maps available. I guess they don't really want anyone going there. Too bad!

The park is 241 acres, and a trail loops around it for a couple of miles.

We went off-road to try to find the fabled split rock and the creek that runs through a marshy area.

We were unsuccessful, but we got to see some cool ecosystems.

I liked the bark on this tree.

The ground was very squishy. For some reason I wore my boots instead of old tennis shoes. Bad idea.

At another point we wandered into the woods.

Then we came back to the trail and lay in the sun to call a few people who might be able to tell us how to get to the rock and/or creek.

No one could help us, so we just walked on the trail some more. It was a very fine day, so I did not mind a bit.

Farmer's Markets

Farmer's markets are among my favorite things. Local produce, giving money to growers, vegetables that are still warm from the sun and smell like soil -- all good. Plus you can find many more varieties of veggies than are ever available in the store.

Last weekend I went to one of the five local farmer's markets we have in Gainesville. This one is the largest, I think, and is out on 441 by the highway patrol station. I've been meaning to go for a few years, since I moved back to town from California (which has the BEST farmer's markets), but just hadn't gotten around to waking up early on Saturday morning and heading out there.

I've heard the 441 farmer's market can be very large and lively, but apparently in the winter it is somewhat smaller and subdued. There were still many, many varieties of greens and a few other vegetables for sale.

I bought some gorgeous kale (below), humongous green onions, spicy arugula, and mushrooms. Almost every item cost about a dollar!

The next day, I went to Micanopy to wander the antique shops. At that farm store I love, Mosswood Farms, there was a small farmer's market happening. I think it's new. Here's something I learned: Brussels sprouts grow on trees! No, not really, but that's what it looked like. I really had never seen a Brussels sprout plant before. That was pretty cool.

I take the worst digital pictures.