Having fun in the kitchen
Some of my best meals have come from improvising. You know the scene: it’s the end of the week and your fridge is running low on ingredients yet you’re craving something delicious and satisfying. You could choose one of two approaches to this. Stress-out and make something quick, mindlessly and that ultimately won’t taste very good OR decide to relax, take the meditative approach and put a little love into it.
That was the scene when this salad came to be. I had my main protein figured out (salmon) but was desperate for a side that would satisfy my tastebuds and my appetite for health. I opted for approach number two.
So I started pulling ingredients and laying them out on the counter to build a balanced meal. Time for some fun.
“I’ve got my protein” I thought “Now on to the rest.”
Veggies? Baby arugula and scallions were all I had left.
High-fibre starches? I had quinoa and a small squash in the pantry and got those cooking, still not knowing what would come of them.
Healthy fats? Pecans, always in my freezer and good on basically anything.
Flavour-boosters? There was leftover goat cheese in the fridge.
Perfect. Now to pull it all together? A nice hearty salad. No, a nice hearty salad board.
Bored of salad? Try a salad board!
I took one of my many decorative cutting boards (I collect them!) and decided to put it to use. I scattered the greens and scallions over the board, dolloped the squash-loaded quinoa on top, sprinkled the crunchy toasted pecans, dolloped the tangy and creamy goat cheese and drizzled a sweet yet acidic dressing over it all. I took a bite and was completely satisfied.
Now of course, the board isn’t necessary. But laying the ingredients on a board rather than in a bowl allows you to drizzle the vinaigrette over your entire salad without overdressing and mushing the whole thing up. Plus, it looks beautiful too. Try it!
- 1 small butternut squash, sliced in half, seeds removed
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
- 6 cups baby arugula
- 2 scallions, sliced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, smashed
- 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
- Rub a bit of olive oil on cut-side of the squash and lay it face down on the tray. Bake 35-40 minutes. Once baked, let it cook slightly, and peel off the skin. Chop the flesh roughly into cubes and set aside.
- Bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and reduce to a simmer. 2. Let cook uncovered for 12 minutes. Cover the quinoa, remove from the heat and let it sit untouched for 5 minutes.
- Combine all the ingredients "for the dressing" and reserve.
- Add the chopped squash to the quinoa and mix to combine.
- To make the salad, begin by laying the arugula and scallions on a large cutting board. Top with the quinoa-squash mixture, goat cheese and toasted pecans. Drizzle with the maple dressing and enjoy.
- Meal prep tip! The squash and quinoa mix can be made ahead of time and even enjoyed on its own as a simple side.
I want to hear from you!
What is your approach in the kitchen? Frantic and stressed-out or calm and meditative? Have you ever made a salad board?