Archives for posts with tag: vegetarian

In a pleasant coincidence, we’ll be in France the same time as our friends Neil and Mary. We decided to compare notes about our French itineraries over lunch. Neil grilled all-American burgers; I offered to bring a salad.

I pondered the options. I had a few tomatoes, a few peppers and plenty of herbs. Sounds like a quinoa salad. Quelle bonne idée!

Quinoa: Low-calorie, gluten-free, high-protein, tastes great. It’s my latest food fixation. Assume you know the story line by now. It’s an ancient grain harvested in the upper reaches of the Andes Mountains in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. Latin Americans have been eating it for thousands of years. Vegetarians, of course, were hip to it before the rest of us. Quinoa has become such a raging success that there was even a shortage recently.320px-Red_quinoa

It’s also incredibly versatile. A couple weeks ago, I “borrowed” a quinoa salad recipe first tried at Virtue Feed & Grain, one of Cathal Armstrong’s many restaurants in Alexandria. In addition to the grain, it had diced red beets, paper-thin radish slices, flat-leaf parsley and feta cheese. It was beautiful, and pretty tasty too.

This time I subbed in what I had on hand from the garden. Send me your best ideas for quinoa – I’m in the mood!

Quinoa Salad

1 c. quinoa

2 c. water or veg broth

1 red bell pepper, small dice

1 heirloom tomato, seeded, small dice

Handful of minced chives, basil and mint

Vinaigrette of olive oil, red wine vinegar, a splash of balsamic

Bring the liquid to a boil. Stir in the quinoa, return to a simmer, cover, then cook until the liquid is absorbed – about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, fluff the quinoa with a fork, and let cool. Meanwhile, dice the pepper, tomato and herbs. When the quinoa is cool, add the veg, the vinaigrette, salt/pepper to taste. Serves 4 as a side dish. Bon appetit!

P.S. My friend Kyle suggests toasting the quinoa for a few minutes before adding the liquid. She says it adds a nutty flavor to the grain.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

We planted parsnips for the first time this year, on the theory that we had known success with every other root vegetable. The parsnips are a happy sight, their greens growing tall (greens are toxic, sadly) and flourishing beneath the soil as well.

They’re not an uber vegetable, like kale – one blogger called parsnips “an ingenue waiting to be discovered in this country” — but they’re a good source of potassium, vitamin C and fiber. Our crop is the varietal Harris Model, from Jung.

I love parsnips as a component of a roasted vegetable medley: beets, carrots, onions, sweet potatoes, and parsnips. Roasted slowly, the natural sugars come out and create a multi-colored dish that I can make an entire meal of.

But that’s a little johnny-one-note, and we’ve already had several rounds of roasted veg this summer. So I started looking around for other parsnip recipes. My mom used to cut them in half and sauté them in butter until they were crisp around the edges, sprinkled with a little salt and pepper. A yummy memory from my childhood. If you have a favorite parsnip recipe, send it along!

I found several parsnip soup recipes that looked appealing. Parsnips were the dominant item, but some called for a potato, a sweet potato, carrots or leeks. I decided to go the potato route to preserve the bright white color.



Parsnip Soup

Several large parsnips, peeled, cut into 1” chunks

One potato, peeled, cut into 1” chunks

Chicken/veg stock


1 onion, roughly chopped

1-3 cloves garlic

Saute the onion in a little knob of butter, 1-2 Tablespoons, in your soup pot. When it’s softened, add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two. Then add the parsnips and potatoes, and a mixture of chicken stock and water, just enough to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer til tender, 25-30 minutes. Puree the mixture in batches in a food processor, or use your immersion blender in the pot. Puree until very smooth (this will diminish any fibrous bits of parsnip). Add ½ c half-and-half or milk for creaminess. If it’s still too thick, add a little more stock.  Season with salt, pepper and a dash of cayenne. Reheat to desired temp. Serve in bowls, topped with a sprinkle of minced chives. Or a scattering of bacon bits, for a slightly heartier dish. Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as an appetizer.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.

Keeping two young carnivores happy can be a challenge. So I stocked up on protein before my sons came home for the holidays. Tonight I pulled out four gorgeous New York strip steaks from WholeFoods, a real treat.

Then I laughed out loud at the label.

“No antibiotics ever.

“No added hormones.

“Vegetarian diet.

The first two are granted, since the meat was purchased from WholeFoods, the nanny grocer.

But a “vegetarian diet’? Cows are vegetarians! Yes, yes, I hear about the horror stories that make the rounds of the Internet about cows in giant feedlots being fed all kinds of crap. But 99.5 percent of cows eat grass and hay and grains and legumes. I believe that makes them vegetarians.

So sure, watch what you eat. But food labels these days can be utterly ludicrous and misleading. For instance: I paid a WholeFoods premium for that steak, in hopes it would indeed be grass-fed, which translates to “delicious” to this farm girl. But the label doesn’t say anything about grass-fed.

This is a real Angus cow.

This is a real Angus cow.vegetarian.

And if you spring the extra $1 per pound for Angus beef, you’re being hookwinked by the USDA, which says beef can be labeled “Angus” if the cow is 51 percent black in color. Could be a cross-bred Hereford or even a Holstein, doesn’t have to be Angus (which my father raised for years). Not that city slickers would know the difference anyway.

My point is not to sneer at the food purists. It is simply to warn you that food labeling is an art form in the U.S. agricultural industrial complex. Read with care and be skeptical.

BTW, the aforementioned steak was delicious, served grilled with our own horseradish and a nice red wine.

Sandy Johnson is a journalist and a gardener, equally passionate about both. She lives in Alexandria, VA.  Visit her on her blog, Grassroots & Gardening.