Thursday, April 11, 2013

An object at rest

There's a 3-minute window of time that occurs when I get home from work that dictates the way I will spend the rest of the night. It happens immediately when I walk through the door to our apartment. I hang up my coat, put my shoes in the closet and either

(1) keep moving. Maybe I pull out the groceries for dinner, or empty the dishwasher, or sort through a stack of mail while standing at the table - anything as long as it involves movement in a weight-bearing position.


(2) sit. or recline. or lay. On the couch, on the armchair, on the bed. I might allow myself to rest my head on a pillow as long as I'm "thinking about what to cook for dinner." I will eventually close my eyes.

I do believe the laws of physics are at play here. When I am in motion (scenario (1)), I can stay in motion for the rest of the night. And take care of things like laundry, errands, picking up the socks from the floor on my side of the bed. But if I come home and go straight to the couch (2), I am bound to hours of uselessness, becoming increasingly tired and lethargic with each hour that passes. The most I will accomplish in scenario (2) is to peel myself off the couch to make a quick dinner, pout while doing it, and then slink back onto the couch to watch basketball or Family Feud until it's time to go to bed.

I've had more (2)s in April than I care to admit. I've been in a real funk this month; unmotivated, stir crazy, morose. Bored in my own head, even. I sit down to write, and my brain feels empty. I get to work, and my brain is mush. Ask me what's new, and I get a puzzled look, like I'm trying to work through quadratic formula in my head. The number of things that come my way on an average day that I don't care about is alarming.

At night, I come home careless, bored, tired, slumping along until 11:30 p.m. when I can't sleep, a bundle of anxiety because my home is a mess and I still haven't done my taxes.

I need to get a grip!
This is not good!

I need a change, and soon; to pull me out of same routines, the day-in and day-out. I'm hoping that warmer weather will lift me up a little, whenever it finally comes. Push through some of the dampness and darkness of April. Pull me out of my dark apartment to, I don't know, go for a walk or something, for crying out loud. I'm going to will it along.

And if I have to, I'll will it along with food, like this Spring Quinoa Salad. It doesn't look like much in the picture, but oh, oh is it good. You're going to have to trust me on this one. Adam, who normally laughs "so where's the meat?" when I try to pull something like this, said this was one of the best things he's eaten in a long time. We fought over leftovers for lunch.

This recipe was inspired by my friend Abby's Hostess Quinoa, which you can find on her fantastic blog, fig & fork. I worked with some of the few spring vegetables that are straggling into the grocery store right now - asparagus, mushrooms, onions, with the addition of avocado (not necessarily a spring vegetable, but delicious). I also stir fried the veggies instead of blanching, because I wanted to include the sweet, roasty taste of browned onions that I think goes perfectly with quinoa. The dressing is a light olive oil and lemon juice blend that ties it all together. Finally, used feta cheese, which was great, but I think this would be spectacular with some crumbled goat cheese, too.

This is my plea. Spring, where are you?

Spring Quinoa Salad
1 cup quinoa
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
6 oz cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped (a little more than 2 cups)
1 small bunch asparagus, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 avocado, diced

1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tsp salt

To prepare the quinoa: rinse quinoa well; drain. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and return to boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until tender, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Add a splash of oil and saute the onions, stirring occasionally, until just starting to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove the onions to a bowl and set aside. Next, add a splash more oil and cook the mushrooms (season with a pinch of salt) until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove to the bowl with the onions. Finally, add a splash more oil and sauté the asparagus until tender but still crisp, about 3-4 minutes. Add to the bowl with the onions and mushrooms.

In a small bowl, make the dressing: whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt.

Toss the cooked quinoa with the mushroom, onion and asparagus. Drizzle with the dressing and toss to coat. Finally, add in the feta cheese, walnuts and avocado, and stir gently to combine.

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