quinoa tabbouleh

I debated calling this next series of posts “The Unemployment Project, Part I (etc).” Since I’m not sure how long this is going to last, however, I figured I’d spare you from an ever-lengthening string of Roman numerals. Until my employment prospects crystallize, I’ve decided to give this neglected website of mine some love: Get ready to eat.

As I wrote in my last post, I’ve had to adjust lately to this strange new thing called free time.  Sure, there have been weekend road trips to weddings and triathlons and concerts. There have gatherings with friends and leisurely walks. But the consuming projects and imperatives, not so much.

It’s like returning to an older verison of myself. There are going to be days where I’ll have to dig through those familiar storerooms of strength.

That said, things haven’t been so bad.

I shot photos for Edible Finger Lakes magazine on Monday (wait! I’m supposed to be a writer!), and got to meet the ringleader of Central New York’s Slow Food Chapter. Dipping into a different medium however, shooting his kitchen, meeting his bees, and marvelling at his asparagus plants was inspiring. And the invitation to pick fresh mint, marjoram and lavender whenever I need to? Priceless.

Tuesday was a frustrating day spent trying to secure certification to work in this country. But this is a food blog, not a rant, so I’ll spare you the story. Three things helped redeem that day: Wegman’s air-conditioning and rotisserie chickens, and this tabbouleh salad.

Tabbouleh (ta-boo-lee) is a Middle-Eastern dish that showcases fresh herbs. If you don’t like to be hit over the head with parsley, simply use the lesser amount.

It’s also traditionally made with coarsely-ground bulgur wheat, but since my life is basically one big steamy love affair with quinoa, I decided to try mixing it up a little. More protein and ancient grains never hurt anybody.

It’s funny how one little conversation with my mother about her parsley plant led to subsequent days of fresh, tangy leftover salad. Not a bad way to start off this new, as yet unnamed season in my life.

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fridge of plenty

Because I want to be useful and not just entertaining, I have a short one for you today. This might be my briefest post yet, but it’s a good one, I promise. Months ago I saw this on Simply Recipes, and I want to pass it on to all of you today: a tip for storing fresh herbs.

Late summer is a time of plenty. Overstock, as it’s called in the business world, has hit the world of food too, where lanky herbs and weighted tomato plants stand like tired giants.

What to do with all of this bounty? Dill, cilantro, parsley — it’s everywhere, and crumpled up in a plastic bag in the fridge it will soon be nowhere.

That’s it. No fancy description. Nothing life changing, except maybe for your mint, parsley and cilantro. Just get yourself a glass with two inches or so of water, pop those herbs in stem down, cover with a plastic bag (it can go around the outside of the glass too, secured easily with a rubber band or just by twisting), poke a few holes in the bag, and set it in your fridge door. Change the water if it gets brown. Seriously, this is like having a pet fish.

It’s a miracle. It really is. I’ll be halfway through a recipe only to discover that pesky little “chopped fresh mint” command right at the bottom. I will NOT waste gas to go to the store for some chopped fresh mint. Ice cream, maybe, but fresh herbs? I confess, I simply will not. Anyway, back to the recipe. I open my fridge only to discover the mint a friend brought over two weeks ago. Yeah right…

Wait a minute, it’s looking as perky as ever. Ah yes, the beauty of the trick-it-into-thinking-it’s-still-growing ploy.

My dinner plans go uninterrupted, and later, I drive to the store for some ice cream.

And because I’m feeling so congenial with my fresh mint and all, I’ve decided to share with you a recipe, and another storing technique, for pesto. This popular green spread (used ’round these parts as a pizza base and a quick pasta sauce) is so easy to make yourself, and keeps well in the freezer.

Mark Bittman came through again with his Basic Pesto recipe, which I doubled and then froze into what look like ice cubes from Outer Space…

…thus constituting what should heretofore be known as the ugliest picture on my blog, are a convenient way to keep fresh pesto around without it developing that darned moldy skin across the top. I’m thinking you could throw one into a pot of hot pasta and roasted veggies, and in less than a minute you’d have a decent dinner ready to go. Or defrost two or three for a quick pizza sauce, topped with raw shrimp, red onions and feta.

You can do the same with homemade broth so that when a recipe calls for 1/2 a cup of broth, you don’t have to turn to that abomination of homecooked stews and soups, the bouillon cube. Presto, pesto!

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