a real lunch

The days are getting even shorter, and my succulents are crying for the sun. In the morning, I pull open the curtain as soon as I come downstairs, hoping that no ray goes unphotosynthesized.

This lack of sun doesn’t help the bias of my posts, either. I’ve noticed that when I post recipes, they tend to be baked goods, mostly sweets. That doesn’t represent our eating habits very well, but by dinnertime, when I allow myself the time to cook a real meal, the sun is going down and there’s no light for pictures. So you only ever see what I make in the middle of the day, when there’s something resembling daylight, and that usually means dessert.

These days, school rules, and we don’t have the luxury of taking the time to cook at lunch. We make big pots of soup and freeze the rest to pull out when we’re pressed for time. But there are days when the thought of another bowl of lentils and rice makes me regret cooking it in the first place. Recently, those days have coincided with the days when we’re out of even the staples because we haven’t made it to the store. Sometimes scrounging around produces just enough ingredients to make grilled cheese.

That’s what happened this week. We were out of frozen soups. No bread. No pasta. No salad greens.

The cupboards felt bare, or at least their contents mismatched, but I found a cauliflower in the back of the fridge and then remembered the mammoth bag of quinoa we recently acquired. I roasted the cauliflower and cooked the quinoa, scattering in a handful of minced thyme from the garden. Out the window, I noticed the last few fingers of chard, sliced them all off with a single snap of the scissors, chopped them up, and tossed the whole thing—cauliflower, quinoa, and chard—with a vinaigrette and some spices.

A real lunch. We ate it in the sunlight, pretending like it was 65 instead of 45 outside, hanging onto October like it hadn’t already passed, and acting like our lunches don’t usually consist of carrot sticks and leftover chili.

Quinoa and Roasted Cauliflower Salad

1 head cauliflower
olive oil

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water or broth
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp. fresh parsley, minced

1 big handful Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped
red pepper flakes

2 tsp. white wine vinegar
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 Tbsp. olive oil
dash of garlic powder
dash of salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

Chop the cauliflower into bite-sized florets and spread on a 9 x 13 baking sheet. Drizzle generously with olive oil and toss to coat. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender and golden brown around the edges.  About halfway through, turn the florets so they can brown on both sides.

Meanwhile, boil quinoa, thyme, and parsley in a saucepan with water for 15 to 20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Stir occasionally.

In a jar, combine the vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Put the lid on and shake.

In a big bowl, mix quinoa, cauliflower, chard, and red pepper flakes. The chard will wilt against the heat of the cauliflower and quinoa. Pour dressing over the whole salad and toss. Serves 3 to 4.

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6 thoughts on “a real lunch

  1. oh, how grateful I am for this.

    I remember keenly these days, and perhaps even more so because of the shared space.

    There is a great deal of familiarity for me in this post: mammouth bags of grains, the thyme & chard, the sparse November sunlight, & simple, honest gratitude for small joys across the table from one you love.

    Thanks for the nourishing recipe and words.

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