Winter has been quite bearable thus far over here in the PNW. I caught myself evil laughing the other day when I checked Chicago’s temperature. It was all single digits. Cue maniacal guffaws.
Because flowers are blooming, the sun is shining and the bird are chatting it up, I feel antsy for spring and summer’s bounty of colorful fruits and vegetables. But it isn’t their time yet. Patience. There aren’t abundant pops of color at the farmer’s market in February, but there is such a thing as rainbow carrots. They are like tasty, dirt covered jewels and reward you with their sweet side when roasted. Also, sometimes I think, “Is there anything better than roasted cauliflower!?” I mean have it alone, with spreadable goat cheese, on top of pizza or blended into a soup. It will DELIGHT YOU. To no end.
Whether winter still has you in its evil grip or spring feels like it is just around the corner, I recommend this simple, cozy and warming quinoa bake. It uses up the ends of those vegetables lounging in your fridge, creates minimal mess and is pretty healthy so win win win.
Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Bake
I used my dear friend, the cast iron pan for this to keep basically the whole meal contained. Obviously use whatever friendly pans you’d like.
Heat up your oven to 450. I like the high quick roast. Pour a bit of olive oil in your skillet to coat the bottom and let it heat up in oven. Roughly chop any/all vegetables you have lying around. Use a rough, large chop. Here I used rainbow carrots, cauliflower, red onion, zucchini and a few garlic cloves. Take out the cast iron pan, add the vegetables and top with olive oil, salt, pepper and a few rosemary sprigs. Stir up and roast. Check and stir every so often. Wait until they get nicely browned and a bit crisp. It’ll take about 15-30 minutes depending on your preference and oven.
While your vegetables roast, make your quinoa. I usually make one cup of dried quinoa. If you have vegetable stock use that in place of water. If not, no big deal.
Once your vegetables are roasted, take out the pan and pour in your cooked quinoa. Stir to combine everything. Crumble feta cheese on top. Add more olive oil, salt and pepper if it needs it. Let the quinoa bake until the cheese melts, then put under the broiler for just a minute or 2 until it lightly browns. Top with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, spoon into bowls and gobble it all up.
After returning home from a long trip and finally being able to stock our fridge with fresh veggies, I clapped my hands in glee, like the unashamed food dork that I am. Nothing like a fridge overflowing in multicolored produce to delight this girl.
Now, what to make for dinner with such a plethora of ingredients? I have a weakness for tacos and pizza, because they both lend themselves to experiments with funky combinations to create some magical flavors.
With these tacos I decided to with a rich, fresh herb starting point to make sure I used my pretty herbs at their peak. I needed a protein so I used black beans, which I usually tend to cook with mexican-ey spices so this was a chance to try and transform them. For color and added luxe, I used radicchio and broccolini as my side.
To try these rich and savory tacos see my process below:
Herbed Black Bean and Goat Cheese Tacos
Dice up about half a red onion, a large shallot and a couple of garlic cloves and saute them up with a pour of olive oil. Stir once in a while and let them get dark and sweet. After a few minutes , once the nice juicy fond has developed on the bottom of the pan, pour in about a tablespoon of water to deglaze and reintegrate them.
Drain and rinse a can of black beans. Add the beans to the now mouthwateringly aromatic and sweet onion, garlic and shallot mixture. Stir to mix, add salt, black pepper and a dash of red chili pepper flakes if you desire some spice. Add a bit more oil if it needs it, so the beans don’t get too dry.
Rinse, then rip up the radicchio into smaller pieces. Mix with just a tiny pour of olive oil and salt and pepper. Spread on a pan and put into an oven to roast. Check on it after 3 minutes, stir up and leave in for about 2 minutes more. Be careful and take it from my experience, this stuff burns quickly. You want to get it to get a bit charred on the edges but not, you know, to resemble charcoal.
I originally made some broccolini to act as a side, but discovered it actually worked heavenly inside the taco. Add a light layer of olive oil to a cast iron or regular pan and add the broccolini , salt, pepper and cover. I didn’t stir it for a couple minutes so it could get a nice sear. Then I flipped them to get some more sear. After a few minutes I added a tablespoon of water and covered again to let it steam and soften just a bit.
After those beans have cooked for about 5-7 minutes, add your handful of fresh, roughly chopped herbs. I had parsley, basil, thyme and sage but use whatever you happen to have on hand. Stir and keep on low while you prep your tacos. Keep a bit aside.
Smear some soft goat cheese on a few corn tortillas and sprinkle some herbs de provence on top. Put in the oven till the tortilla softens and the cheese just begins to melt, about 3-4 minutes.
By now , the aroma in your kitchen is overwhelming which means it is finally time to prepare your tacos! Pour a heaping spoonful of the herbed black bean mixture into a soft, warm tortilla which should be oozing with goat cheese. Top with some of your lightly charred radicchio, a dusting of fresh herbs and add a broccolini if you wish.
Voila! Sweet and savory, herbed and cheesy tacos.
On Saturdays from May 5th until November 3rd in downtown Evanston, IL there is a rather sizable farmer’s market. Visit there between 7:30 am and 1 pm.
I arrived there in pursuit of greens for an upcoming veggie week and though it was about 11:30 I never felt like all the good stuff was taken by the crazies who wake up at the crack of dawn on a Saturday. I’m all about the relentless pursuit of the best food, but forsaking hours of delicious sleep is usually asking too much of me.
While snacking on a crepe I shopped for some bags of salad mix and greens, some fresh asparagus, and tried to find some funky herbs (chocolate mint anyone?) to try.
This market is large, and has a lot of selection. Great variety with stands dedicated to vegetables, herbs, flowers, baked goods and some coffee/smoothie stands to make sure you are well satiated as you peruse.
Some of the stands had paid special attention to their displays and I loved the kid’s handwritten signs at the Henry’s Farm stand. I read “Henry’s Farm” recently and had fun getting to see the people and veggies I’ve heard described so well that I almost felt as if I knew them already.
Part of the allure of a market is to chat with and get to know the various farmers. Some have to get up at 2 am to drive their wares to the market! If you are planning to return often, I’d suggest learning their names and their wares. They love to discuss the fruits of their labors with customers, whether it’s instructing you how to care for your new basil plant or how to prepare a new kind of green.
They’ve got a couple of local art stands as well. Visit, buy some delightful local fare and find something new to experiment with.