I don’t consider myself anything more than an enthusiastic amateur, but that’s how I feel about my cooking too. I don’t need to be perfect. I don’t even need to be great. I just think, with a rampant glee inside my increasingly wide mind: I have so much left to learn!
And in the end, that’s one of the main reasons I’m alive.
But the light is dwindling these days. It feels as though it grows darker at least ten minutes earlier every day. At this point, it’s hard to believe those days in June, when the light lingered in the sky until nearly 11 o’clock. Every year, this saddens me. But this year, I’m panicked. If I’m at school until 4, and walk to the bus in the dark, how am I going to take pictures for the blog? This is actually what I think about these days.
In fact, the other day, I was vacuuming the north main hall at school. (We have an Environment program, in which every kid and teacher comes together for fifteen minutes, three times a week, to clean the school in teams. I teach at a funky place, of course.) Meditatively running the vacuum back and forth, I was enjoying the patch of warm sunlight on the worn brown carpet. And then I thought, I know! In January, I’ll bring in containers of food with me to school, and then I can take pictures of it in my office during breaks! I broke into laughter at myself—I’ve clearly become obsessed. The assistant head of school walked by me at that moment, and he complimented me on my vacuuming. I think he wondered if I was enjoying myself too much.
But that’s what this blog has done to me. I think about food. Talk about food. Read recipes on the bus. Imagine dinner. Compare notes on great places to buy spices with friends. Peruse other food blogs. Spend hours every evening chopping happily in the kitchen. And mostly, I think about how to photograph that quinoa salmon salad, so it still looks good at 6 pm, even though the light is fading fast.
Quinoa Salad with Smoked Salmon and Capers, from Stephan Pyles’ Southwestern Vegetarian
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup of quinoa
2 teaspoons of salt
2 1/2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
6 ounces of sliced smoked salmon
1/2 cup capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons of prepared horseradish
2 tablespoons of sliced fresh chives
In a saucepan, over medium-high heat, heat the oil and butter until the butter melts and begins to foam. Add the garlic and quinoa to the pan and toast until the quinoa begins to pop, about two to three minutes. Add the salt and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook for fifteen minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat, pour the mixture evenly onto a cookie sheet, and refrigerate for up to one day.
Once the quinoa has cooled, add the salmon, capers, horseradish, and chives, and toss to combine well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.