Most nights, I have a staring contest with the refrigerator, the pantry, and the obstinate "Japanese section" of the cupboard (which includes wakame, hijiki, dulse, kombu, and nori).
I haven't made a dent in the sea vegetable collection—and this salad didn't help with that.
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But what it lacked in seaweed it made up for in other ingredients—a lot of other ingredients (nineteen, to be exact).
It seems that my minimalist attitude toward the kitchen has resulted in a laissez-faire, ob la di ob la da, anything goes attitude toward the food that comes out of it: Why not add ricotta and anchovies and a jalapeño and brussels sprouts to the spaghetti? Why not scramble the eggs in garlic confit? Why not eat the leftover apple cake with the leftover pumpkin butter?
Each cooking attempt is a jigsaw puzzle of vegetables and grains I can't stand to look at any longer. See the state of my kitchen shelves the night this salad was born:
Bought on a whim at the supermarket for double the reasonable price: tempeh, avocado
Bought at the farmers market in an effort to force myself to eat more vegetables: butternut squash
Bought off a colleague with an extra jar: smoked paprika
Made during an ambitious period last winter: vegetable stock
Wrapped in plastic wrap, brought to work, and forgot about: one slice of sandwich bread
Leftover from making granola in August, then stored in my refrigerator so that they would stay good for all of eternity: pistachios, dried cherries
Stolen from my parents' house (they would never use such a large quantity): sesame seeds
No idea/miracle: scallions, lemon
Not originally in the recipe because I am terrified of mold: ricotta salata
At first—after I had roasted the vegetables and fried the tempeh and toasted the nuts and plumped the cherries and cooked the quinoa and, yes, the lentils, too—I was skeptical that all of these powers would live in harmony.
That's when I put the avocado on top, and circled back—as I always do—to my passion for fashion. When you have limited space and funds, the key is to mix-and-match: Don't buy the statement piece (yes, that fur vest with the hood) if it won't work with 95% of with your wardrobe. You need to get the most lift out of every investment.
For me, the same holds true for food. (And yes, I should've told myself this as I was carrying home all of the seaweed.) When I focus on ingredients that make sense together and stock my kitchen accordingly, it becomes easy to combine them into a dish that's far from strange and fushion-y. I can avoid adding bok choy to the shakshuka.
Don't rush out and buy every single ingredient here: As long as you combine something healthy (lentils and quinoa and roasted vegetables); something hearty (tempeh); something fatty (fried bread); something salty (cheese); something creamy (avocado); something seedy (sunflower and sesame seeds); something nutty (pistachios); something tangy (cherries); and something green (scallions?), you're set.
Customize the salad as you see fit; I highly suggest you use this recipe as an excuse to either clean out—or build up—your pantry collection.
1/4 cup tart dried cherries 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 3/4 cup dried brown lentils, rinsed 3 garlic cloves, divided 3/4 cup quinoa, rinsed 1 small/reasonably-sized sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes 1 small/reasonably-sized butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch cubes 1 teaspoon ground coriander 1 teaspoon smoked paprika 1/2 teaspoon cayenne Olive oil, for roasting and seasoning Salt and pepper, for roasting and seasoning One 8-ounce package tempeh, cut in half widthwise, then cut into very thin (1/8-inch) strips 1 slice stale wheat bread, crumbled into small bits 1 handful sesame seeds 1/2 cup toasted sunflower seeds 1/3 cup chopped toasted pistachios 2 scallions, green parts only, finely chopped 1/2 cup crumbled ricotta salata Freshly squeezed lemon juice, for seasoning (you'll want at least 1 tablespoon) 1 avocado, cubed
A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.