A typical lunch routine for me usually involves tossing a bunch of mixed leaves with various chopped vegetables and roasted seeds. But as the temperatures drop in these last few months of the year, my body has been demanding more than cold leaves and raw veggies. I wasn't ready to give up salads, so I turned to the warm beet salad recipe on Willow's blog, Will Cook for Friends.
"I believe good food doesn't come from the kitchen, it comes from the Earth, first," Willow wrote on her blog. Any roasted root vegetable is the very manifestation of earthiness, but beetroot also brings vibrancy to the table. Combined with the piquancy of arugula and radicchio along with the creamy bite of toasted pine nuts, this is every bit a holiday salad. It wants to celebrate as much as it wants to be celebrated. This salad, unlike the ones I haphazardly throw together for lunch, is meant for sharing.
I see food as a language that transcends barriers, and the sharing of food as the most straightforward display of openness, kindness and generosity. This food blog can be viewed as my way of reaching out, and the universe has shown me that if you extend a hand, someone will always grab it. I met Willow through The Casual Veggie cookbook collaboration, and when I expressed my desire to explore new food cultures, she did not hesitate to join me on a little Recipe Swap adventure. Through Willow's warm beet salad recipe I learned to see food traditions from a different angle.
"I like to think that I'm creating my own kind of food traditions," she told me. "I grew up with relatively little food knowledge and culture, and a limited diversity in my diet. I grew up on boxed macaroni and cheese and microwaved plates of nachos. Since I've had to find my way around the kitchen mostly on my own, my food tends to be a mix of in-season ingredients, flavor combinations I like, and whatever inspiration or craving I have at that moment."
It got me thinking about my own food traditions. I grew up on a Malaysian diet, acquired a whole new approach to food after being diagnosed with IBS, and now live in California where cooking is seasonal and motivated by discoveries I make at the farmers market. The Tomato Quinoa recipe from my blog that Willow has chosen to recreate is a fitting illustration of my new food culture.
Firstly, I made it with tomatoes grown in my California backyard. Secondly, the recipe is based on nasi tomato, a popular rice dish from Malaysia. And thirdly, I substituted white rice, which is what the original recipe calls for, with quinoa in an effort to eat healthier. It's not one culture or another, it's a fusion of my stories, and I'm grateful to have people to share it with.
+ Hop over to Willow's blog to read about the Tomato Quinoa she made by clicking here.
++ Check out The Casual Veggie cookbook. With 166 vegetable-based recipes, it makes the perfect holiday gift for the vegetable lover in all of us. I am donating part of the proceeds from sales made through Vermilion Roots to a lion conversation project in Africa called 'Lights for Botswana'. Click here to find out more and here to purchase the cookbook.
Happy holidays, friends. Eat well!
Share your food traditions in the comment section below. I'd love to hear from you!
Roasted Beet Celebration Salad
Adapted from Will Cook for Friends. I eat with my eyes first, and the colors of this stunning salad is an inviting celebration. It's a salad for sharing, a salad to be served straight from the stove to a table with a gathering of folks hungry for the exchange of laughter and stories that warm the heart. This recipe serves 2, and can easily be doubled or tripled.
2 + 1 tablespoons olive oil
3 to 4 medium beets, red or golden
1 large handful baby arugula, washed and dried
1/2 head radicchio, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1/2 orange, juiced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup green or kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 400 ° F.
Wash and peel beets, and cut into 1/2-inch rounds or cubes. Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil and a large pinch of salt. Arrange beet pieces in a single layer on a lined baking sheet and roast until fork tender, about 30 to 40 minutes.
Mix arugula and radicchio in a large bowl. Set aside. Dry toast pine nuts in a skillet over medium heat until slightly browned. Set aside.
Saute shallots in 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until soft and translucent. Turn heat off and stir in orange juice and balsamic vinegar. Toss in beets, olives and half of the toasted pine nuts.
Pour mixture over the arugula and radicchio. Toss to combine and top with the rest of the pine nuts. Serve warm.