This is officially my fifth attempt at writing this post. One of those included a few scribbles in a notepad on a shaky bus ride to work and another on a 7-hour train ride from Toronto. On my way to Toronto, I happened to be sitting next to stranger who took the opportunity to regale me with stories of her physical ailments and the personal details of her extended family, all while four babies (yes, I counted) under the age of one melted into a vortex of ear-splitting cries.
It was far from the ideal environment to write anything, save a desperate prayer or a haiku of swear words. But on the way back from Toronto, I had no excuse – there were no talkative strangers, or babies to contend with. Just me and a large train window from which to gaze at grassy fields, cows and a slow-burning sunset. You’d think this would’ve been the perfect setting to spill words onto a page. And yet. And yet.
I brought a pen and a notepad, with the specific intention of writing this post. But both sat undisturbed on my lap for the entire ride. Somehow the farm animals and dewy hillsides invited a stream of thoughts – BIG thoughts – about authenticity, purpose, love, change, the absurdity of things. The usual existential merry-go-round. At some point in time, I’m sure you’ve had (or will have!) the pleasure of whirling around on that ride too. As you can imagine, none of this led to me wanting to write about food. It did, somehow, make me want to eat an entire bag of Party Mix from the refreshment trolley somewhere between Brockville and Cornwall. Which I did. Because I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow.
Truthfully, there’s been a lot on my mind lately, and by 9pm on most nights, I feel like my skull is bathing in molasses. Before I turn off the computer and shuffle toward the bedroom door, there’s a little something I’d like to leave you with, involving some black rice and a technicolor dreamcoat of vegetables. There’s no particular story behind it. No rhyme or reason for why it was made or for whom. It was last-minute, unplanned and delicious. It may actually one of the best things I’ve made in the last little while, which is why I’m here sharing it with you. Times like these, it feels nice to put a little food-love out there. I hope you’ll catch it with both hands.
(Existentialist) Black Rice Salad with Avocado and Spring Vegetables – adapted from Heartbeet Kitchen
Serves 5-6 as a side
1 cup dry black rice (about 3 cups of cooked rice)
3 1/2 cups of water
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping cup of asparagus, cup on the diagonal
1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage
¾ cup radishes, thinly slices
1 large avocado, sliced
1 1/2 tablespoons white wine (or white balsamic) vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
a few chives, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
To make the dressing: whisk together all of the ingredients in a small bowl (alternately, put all the ingredients in a jar and shake until emulsified). Set aside.
To make the rice: bring water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Rinse rice thoroughly, then empty into boiling water with ½ teaspoon of salt. Turn heat down to a simmer, cover pot, and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until grains are al dente.
To prep the asparagus: prepare an ice bath – fill a medium-sized bowl with cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside. Fill a pan with a bit of water (about an inch). Bring to a boil and toss in the asparagus. Allow to blanch for about 1 minute, remove the asparagus from the water and place them to cool in the ice bath.
Place the rice, cabbage, radish and asparagus in a large bowl. Stir in the dressing to coat. Spoon out onto a serving platter and top with avocado slices and a sprinkle of salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper.