Holy corn chips with guacamole where did the time go?
One second I was sitting in the blissful silence of an otherwise unoccupied beach looking out at the water rippling out towards the breakers and the next… well, I was here and wondering how time has managed to fly right past me and this poor, neglected blog of mine.
I’m a horrible, horrible person for doing this, I know. But it would be completely remiss of me to keep my holidaying all to myself. Especially after taunting you in that last post of mine.
The four-hour-flight plus one-hour-layover plus three-and-a-half-hour-flight there (and back) were more than made up for by the promise of beautiful beaches, bountiful (cheap!) bananas and, best of all THE BEAN!! (Who I have hardly heard from since my trip. Seriously, where are you? I bring you peanut butter choc fudge cookies and you make up for it by ignoring me? Not fair Bean. Not. Fair.)
Let me tell you, it’s hard to re-adjust to day to day living after spending four (far too short) days being brought freshly macheted coconuts for eating. Or, for that matter, after dining in places like this with views like this. All. The. Time.
To say I want to kick off my shoes and spend the rest of my happy life living on that island with a dinky red convertible and a brown-skinned, tangle-haired Bean is probably the understatement of the century.
Not that I’ve been luxuriating this entire time, oh no sir-ee. In between luxuriating and getting my fun on, I’ve been polishing off my fry pans and hunting down that great big orange bowl and favourite pink silicone spatula of mine in search of new and delicious foods to bring you, one of which has been this tastier-than-it-looks and healthier-than-it-tastes salad that I recently taught a bunch of people to make in my first ever masterclass held way up north at Lake Macquarie a couple of weekends ago.
(BIG shoutout to everyone who attended – and sorry for taking so long to post the recipe up! Chocolate mousse will be hitting your internet browsers soon. Promise. Not literally.)
It’s a recipe borne out of necessity, this one. Because seriously, what is one to do when faced with a hungry vegetable craving laden person and a relatively brief time in which to make dinner?
The answer, it seems, if you are a calm-in-the-face-of-ridiculous-nerves kind of person, is to pull out your two favourite vegetables from the crisper and to just start chopping in hopes of something coming to you in the period of time between that and the moment when a pan has to be pulled out of the cupboard.
“Char-grill” thought I, as I cursed the self-propagatedÂ notion that all food bloggers knew how to cook. “Char-grilling, like lemonade, fixes everything”.
A swish of oil. Some seasoning.
“Smoky, spicy, salty” I murmured as I hunted through the spice cabinet.
A whiff, a shake and a hot cast iron pan. A sizzle and the requisite plumes of smoke. At least we were getting somewhere.
“Something to make it crunch. Or chew.” I muttered as I ran through my pantry for something that would fill a hungry person up.
Measuring cups. Boiling water. Left over stock.
“You’re feeding me birdseed?” came a voice from the other side of the kitchen bench.
“Shuttup.” A pause. Breathe lady. “It’s quinoa. And burghul. You’ll like them.”
Light conversation, and a slow sigh of relief as the meal started taking shape. Sweet, spicy vegetables. The crunch of barely cooked grains. A splash of balsamic to even out the flavours.
Dinner in 20 minutes and a reputation maintained.
It was so tasty that I stuck it on my “to-demonstrate” list for the masterclass that weekend. Along with the aforementioned chocolate mousse. That I’ve been eating spread on jatz crackers with a sprinkling of salt flakes. But that’s a story for another time.
warm capsicum & zucchini salad
(feeds two extremely hungry people as a main or four normally hungry people with a side of bread)
I’ve made a number of annotations in brackets, mainly because this is the kind of recipe that you can play with, without any major damage. Feel free to mess around with the quantities to suit your tastes. Eat it hot or cold. By itself or as the topping for a bruschetta-style dish with toasted bread. Stir through a dollop of seeded mustard and some fresh salad leaves for a side salad to a meal. Add an extra swish of olive oil and toss it through warm pasta for a heartier main course.
you will need:
three capsicum of assorted colours (I used just yellow the first time around)
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2tsp cumin powder
1tsp dried chilli flakes (adjusted according to your heat tolerance!)
1/4C quinoa (I used a mix of black and white)
1/4C coarse burghul
1C boiling water (or water mixed with stock)
3tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 a bunch of curly leaf parsley
how to do it:
1. Deseed and slice your capsicum into strips. Slice the zucchini into rounds. Toss the vegetables with the olive oil and spices.
2. Add the tossed vegetables to a hot cast iron pan, or the hot plate or a barbecue, or just the heaviest bottomed pan you have in your kitchen. Don’t toss them yet! The vegetables will start to burn as the sugars get heated up and you’ll have a lovely smokey flavour from the olive oil being heated past its smoke-point and the sugars in the vegetables beginning to caramelise.
3. In the meantime, toss the quinoa & burghul into a small saucepan and top with the water or stock. Bring it to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until all the water is dissolved and the grains are cooked. They’ll still have a bit of bite with this quantity of water.
4. Ok! Now toss the vegetables! Or, toss them earlier if they’ve started to burn too much. You want to keep cooking them until they’ve just lost that raw texture and the zucchini are half way between opaque and translucent. Have a taste. Don’t burn yourself. Delicious!
5. Throw the cooked veges and the cooked grains in a bowl. Dress with the balsamic. Finely chop your parsley and throw it in for some freshness. Toss toss toss! Eat! Receive rave ratings! Relax with a glass of red wine, hard earnt. Amazing.