Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What We've Been Eating, Part 1: My New Favorite Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Wild Rice, and Smoked Salmon

Sorry for the dearth of posts this month.  I still intend to meet my self-dictated quota (4 per month), but intentions are what they are, so we'll see.

I've been busy!  During the months of March and April, I'm teaching every Thursday evening at Local D'Lish.  My March 1st Quick Weeknight Meal-ers were apparently quite special in receiving morning-after attention.  Since then I've enjoyed the company, questions, and helpfulness of forty-one class participants (students?) - 12 for my brunch class, 12 for simple vegan dinners, and 17 at last week's spring soups class - but have not had the time to follow up with them.  I LOVE teaching.  It is super fun, I meet great people, and I get to practice doing what I enjoy most:  cooking, eating, and talking.  It's become an especially important outlet for me in the past few weeks as my in-home cooking has become more challenging (and, frankly, stressful).  I've been trying out several new (expensive) ingredients in my efforts to accommodate my son's recently diagnosed food allergies.  My experimentation has resulted in as many disappointments as successes.  I'm so far out of my comfort zone.  I'm trying to reconcile my desire to be methodical and thorough in my experimentation with the fact that I need to get food on the table for four people several times a day.  There have been lots of sweet potatoes.  I have put banana guilt on hold.  We are making do and my children are thriving and I am lucky that this food stuff is my greatest challenge right now.  Moreover, I am extra lucky to be able to go to my cooking classes once a week, set all my food stress aside, work with the reliable ingredients I know and love best, and share my knowledge, experience, and wheat-and-egg-laden goodies with people who can enjoy them.

On the homefront, we are eating a lot of a few things: chicken, beef, sweet potatoes, soups, alterna-grain pancakes, cheese, yogurt, smoothies galore.  Our vegetable consumption has exceeded even our CSA-season standards.  We're eating more quinoa and rice than we have in a while. Quesadillas have been popular and I've eaten an obscene amount of popcorn in the last couple weeks.  We've experimented with gluten-free flour mixes and Ener-G egg replacer - the former saw some moderate success, the latter has a chalky aftertaste.  There is a reason wheat and eggs are the basis of most Western baking.  They work and they taste good.

With the gluten-free, egg-free banana-chocolate chip scone I ate from the Wedge on Sunday came an important epiphany.  The scone was structurally perfect, flavorful, a nice amount of sweet, and tasted fairly fresh even though I'm sure it was several hours old.  It didn't taste like the scones I'm used to though, and why would it?  I realized that if the Wedge's professional baking staff couldn't make something as delicious and familiar-tasting as a wheat-based scone than I certainly couldn't.  Trying to make traditional baked goods out of non-traditional (not to mention overly-processed, chalky, sandy, weird) ingredients isn't going to be the way we go.  Our current priority:  eating hypoallergenic foods without trying to make them into something they're not.  (Unless it's Beckett's birthday.  Which is coming up, on Saturday.  Then I am giving it my all.  Bring on the xanthan gum and potato starch.  We WILL have edible chocolate cupcakes!)

So I've been eating a variation of this salad a lot.  It's delicious.  And it's totally proud it's not a muffin.

my new favorite salad 

My New Favorite Salad with Sweet Potatoes, Wild Rice, and Smoked Salmon 
Makes enough for 1 breastfeeder or 2 non-breastfeeders 

1/2 a head of lettuce, cleaned and torn into bite-sized pieces 
1 cup cooked wild rice or rice "blend", room temp or cold* 
1 cup cooked sweet potato, cut into 1/2" dice", room temp or cold** 
4 ounces smoked salmon, flaked into bite-sized pieces 
1 tablespoon flaxseed oil 
1 tablespoon fruit-infused balsamic vinegar (like fig or orange) OR 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or balsamic vinegar + 1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
A rib of celery, thinly sliced
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped (optional) 
Handful of sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (optional)
Freshly ground pepper 

Place lettuce on plate.  Top with wild rice, sweet potato, and salmon.  Drizzle oil, vinegar and honey (if using) on top.  Finish with celery, scallion, cilantro, seeds, and a few good grinds of pepper.  Bon appetit!

* To cook wild rice:  Put 1/2 cup wild rice and 1 cup water in a pot with a tight-fitting lid.  Bring to boil over medium-high heat, reduce heat so that it simmers.  Cover and cook 40-50 minutes.  Remove from heat, allow to sit for 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

** To cook sweet potato:  The easy way is to dice a sweet potato, put in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to boil and simmer for 5-8 minutes more.  The hard, but slightly tastier way is to dice, toss with 1 tablespoon oil and a little salt and pepper, place on a baking sheet and roast in an oven at 400 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  (Peel if you want - I wish I hadn't because I used a jewel yam and it was so pretty and vibrant - purple on outside, yellow on inside - but I feel like peels are a choking hazard for my baby still and we shared this particular sweet potato, as we do most.)

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