Everyone always talks about the urge they feel for “spring cleaning.” I wish I could say that was true in my case. But while I may lack in window-washing or cobweb-sweeping skills, I proudly admit that I excel in gardening. I’m one of those weirdos that loves yard work (raking leaves is full-on meditation to me), and I can hardly walk past a garden without getting the urge to plant, plant, plant. There’s something about spring that opens up a deep yearning to reconnect with the earth, in the most tangible of ways.
Sadly, with the severity of the California draught (more on this in an upcoming post), I’ve felt extremely limited in terms of what to do in the garden. Flowers for the sake of aesthetics alone feel selfish these days, and I didn’t plant a vegetable garden last spring for the first time in years. This year I’ve decided to put together what I hope is a water-saavy compromise: succulents-only in the actual garden (mixed in with our our native oak trees and ivy), and a small potted edible garden on our deck. I went back to using EarthBox — real water (and time!) savers — which I haven’t used since I was a penny-pinching college kid, trying to save money by growing my own food. I forgot how wonderful these boxes are, and my tomatoes, kale, peppers, and herbs are already thriving in them. I also allowed myself one small pot composed exclusively of edible flowers, like pansies, snapdragons and marigolds. I use flowers a ton in my dishes – they make a plate look so happy! – and so I figured I was still in the safe-zone of a functional planting.
What I’m re-realizing is, though I don’t have a full garden this year, it’s so invigorating to cook with things I’ve grown, even if it’s just a handful of herbs or some flower petals. It puts a little bit of love and care on the plate, and nods to the season in the very best of ways. Here’s one of the garden-ready dishes we’ve been enjoying right now.
Spring Quinoa Bowl
Celebrate springtime’s fresh flavors with this light and bright entrée. May be enjoyed hot or at room temperature.
1 cup uncooked quinoa
Scant 2 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil
2½ cups leeks, sliced thin
2 cups frozen peas, defrosted
2 cups (packed) curly kale, chopped fine
1/3 cup dried white mulberries
1 tsp freshly grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 radishes, sliced paper-thin
3 Tbsp fresh mint, minced
Edible flowers, for garnish (optional)
Sea salt and cracked black pepper
Combine the quinoa and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, or until all the water has evaporated. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over moderate-high heat. Add the leeks, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 4-5 minutes, until bright green and wilted. Add the peas, and cook for 1-2 minutes longer. Mix in the kale until just wilted, about 30 seconds. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the quinoa. Add the mulberries, lemon zest, lemon juice, radishes and mint, season with salt and pepper to taste, and toss well. Transfer to serving bowls and garnish with edible flowers if desired.
Originally created for Navitas Naturals. Recipe by Julie Morris.