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Simple and Quiet (+ Quinoa + Roasted Sweet Potatoes)

[Today, February 2014.]

February. Even more than January this is my month to hunker down and make soup and read and watch the rain. And let me tell you: it has been raining here in Casablanca, much more than I expected, much more than in Northern California this year. But after all this city is not in the desert — it is slung along the Atlantic Ocean and is hardly as dry and dusty as you might imagine North Africa to be. In fact it has many similarities to San Francisco and the Bay Area as a whole in terms of climate. There is fog here, often present in the mornings and late afternoons, the summers are very warm but not humid (thank g-d; I put my time in in Washington, DC, and would rather not experience that again) and more often than not, even in July, there’s a cool breeze. This is good news not only for our outdoor experiences but also for the container garden I hope to plant in a few months (next month?); I can pretty much go off the California growing season in terms of what I plant when. For a complete novice/possible brown thumbed gardener such as myself this is very helpful. Chard, tomatoes, bok choy, and other delights are hopefully in our future.

This morning was sunny despite the drizzle in the forecast, and so the girl and I went on a wind-blown walk along the beach. On weekdays it’s nearly deserted and you can meander along quite happily. The waves seemed even more forceful today than usual, the winter ocean of course being much different than the summer swells. I tried to imagine myself surfing there when the weather gets warmer because yes, I’m the person who grew up in California and never surfed until a few years ago in Maine and had to go all the way to Morocco to finally take a lesson. But I will learn; I’ve promised it to myself.

When the sun does splash through, we have been taking advantage by sitting on our little porch and watching the shadows cast by the palm tree on our small lawn, drinking coffee of course and plotting trips around and out of the country. Sometimes we’ll gin up our energy and take an afternoon run – trading off, so the wee one always has a companion – or go get a fancy latte at the very chic pastry/coffee shop up the road, or do the grocery shopping, or go to the outdoor market. But more often than not we just crank up KFOG and read the NYT online (a rather poor substitute for the paper I used to get delivered every Sunday but fairly satisfying nonetheless). These are days for keeping things very simple and quiet, life distilled down to the very basic endeavors of sustenance, fresh air, time spent marveling at how fast and furiously babies grow.

[Sierra, January 2014.]

Well — she’s still quite small, just a bit over 4 months old. And yet already she is stretched out, flinging her limbs here and there when bedtime arrives. She looks and looks at everything, eats like a champion and is outgrowing enough clothes to prove it, occasionally gifts us with a full night of sleep, and generally makes me inclined toward dinners and lunches that take a minimum of effort to prepare.

What I have been doing a lot of lately is roasting a variety of vegetables, whatever I have on hand — carrots, potatoes, turnips, yams, cauliflower, broccoli — with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then piling them atop bowls of brown rice or quinoa. I was able to find yams which, thanks to Instagram, I learned are Japanese yams, lighter in color and sweeter than our American sweet potatoes. Unfortunately in the supermarkets here red potatoes and yams are both called ‘red potatoes’ and sort of do resemble each other (plus they’re coated in dirt so it makes it hard to tell) and so you have to really pay attention. For example, at the Carrefour on Saturday I got red potatoes that I hoped were actually yams but nope, red potatoes. C’est la vie. I will roast them with lots of dried thyme tonight and make baked eggs with mushrooms and that will be just fine.

But — yams. I am working two days a week which means I am home the rest of it and if I do not have leftovers in the fridge I basically only want and need to eat quinoa and yams, sometimes drizzled with soy sauce, sometimes drizzled with tahini. I have taken to making a big batch of quinoa and a pan of cubed, roasted yams and when suddenly I’m ravenous I have my lunch all set. You could add a fried egg here, or some sauteed white beans or chickpeas, or even a bit of cheese but for me the basic elements of quinoa, yams, and tahini are wholly satisfying. Quinoa contains a good deal of protein, plus there’s even more in the tahini, so I am satiated but not overfull when I finish.

Right now, my belly full of my lovely lunch, the house smelling of the lemon cake I just took out of the oven, Sierra sprawled out in sleep beside me on the couch while I listen to the birds and the Bay Area classical station and watch the fog roll in, it feels just like a mid-winter day should: still and peaceful.

Simple and quiet indeed.

Quinoa with Roasted Yams (Sweet Potatoes) and Tahini Sauce

This is not a true recipe really, but more of a guideline. Use yams or sweet potatoes, whatever you like.

Makes enough for 4 lunches

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
4 large yams or sweet potatoes, peeled, cubed, and roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper
1-2 teaspoons tahini per bowl
Handful salad greens or arugula (optional)
Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

For each lunch, place a good amount of quinoa in a bowl. Top with a generous spoonful of yams. In a microwave (or on the stove), heat until just warm. Drizzle with tahini and add the lemon if using. Gently stir in the greens if using. Devour.


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