Where have I been, you ask? No, I haven’t fallen off a cliff and, no, I haven’t given up on blogging. The last couple weeks have been a whirlwind of work, school, and play and I’m only just now catching my breath. I was hoping to make some lemon lime basil cookies to take on my trip to Philadelphia last weekend, but at 11:00 pm the night before we were leaving, I discovered that the huge tub of basil we had in the fridge had gone bad. Since it was so late and I was so tired, I just gave up and went to bed instead.
We made the trip down to Philly for my niece’s dedication, and it was a great excuse to get out of Boston and spend time with family. Sophie, my youngest niece, was adorable and her older sister, Amelia, was giddy with excitement with all the family there. Not only did we get to catch up with family and meet my sister-in-law’s newest nephew, but we got to do it over an amazing dinner at Yang Ming, considered by some to be the best Chinese restaurant in the country. The appetizers were outstanding and practically a meal unto themselves, and my jumbo shrimp with honey walnuts was even better than what I got in San Francisco. Who knew Bryn Mawr, PA had such good Chinese food?
Joseph and I also got to have an amazing dinner at Cochon in Philly with my sister and brother-in-law. My trio of pork was outstanding and the entire table was drooling over the braised pork shoulder with mustard sauce that Joseph ordered. We were so full after dinner that the four of us split the poor man’s pudding for dessert. If that’s what poor men eat for dessert, sign me up because it was rich and caramelly and one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time. This shortbread dough served in a cup of hot maple-bacon caramel and topped with ice cream is worth a trip to Cochon all on its own if you ask me, although the dinner is nothing to sneeze at.
The guilt of not posting anything new on the blog for so long has been eating away at me. I’m still determined to make those lemon lime basil cookies at some point, but for the time being, I hope I can make up for my long absence by introducing my new favorite dish of the season (yeah, that’s right, I put these even above the deviled eggs with prosciutto!). Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to this quinoa salad with baby spinach, feta, and dill.
If you’re not familiar with quinoa, it’s a grain-like crop (I always thought it was a grain, but just learned it’s technically a chenopod) that’s about the size of couscous, but way more nutritious. It’s high in protein, dietary fiber, and even has essential amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. And it’s gluten-free and easy to cook. What more could you ask for?
They’ve been eating quinoa for centuries in the Andes, but only recently has it become more readily available in mainstream US supermarkets. I first had quinoa when I was in Bolivia in 2001 volunteering with Amigos de las Americas (BTW, I can’t recommend this nonprofit highly enough), and really liked it, but I don’t think I saw it in a store in the States until a couple of years later. Even though it’s become easier to find, I really haven’t been taking advantage of it, which is a real shame. Not only is it a nutritional powerhouse and easy to make and serve, but it’s really tasty. It’s got a slight nuttiness and a light bite to it that I really enjoy. Not to mention it, is really, really good in this dish.
We don’t cook with dill a whole lot, but I have to say I really enjoyed the fresh herbiness that it adds here. The pine nuts add a light nutty crunch, while the spinach gives it color and substance, the lemon adds bright acidity, and the feta rounds it all into a wonderfully fresh, creamy, delicious meal. And it’s healthy. It would be a perfect side for a Mother’s Day brunch, a spring dinner, a summer picnic, or to make ahead to pack for lunch for the week. So please accept this as my apology for my long absence and enjoy! And keep your eyes out for the best margarita recipe ever which I promise to deliver just in time for Cinco de Mayo….