Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Roasted Turnip, Leek and Potato Quinoa with Heirloom Beans

I have recently been paying more close attention to social media sites and the global, far-reaching voice of the inter-web community. I especially love the internet for its capacity to deliver comedy, sarcastic narratives and superficial mocking banter. Following the serious events that occurred this past week I also have a renewed appreciation for the capacity of this global community to share updated news, address and debate important political issues and to wrap the pained in its inexplicably warm arms. I am convinced now, more than ever that I should be using my as-of-yet invisible voice to discuss things that are honestly important to me and potentially valuable to others. 

I do enjoy coming here and writing about my life and venting about my problems and bragging about the wonderful things that I experience. But why should anyone else come here to listen to me talk about these things? I know that my family and my friends might be moderately interested, at least more so than the general population, but I want to do more. I want to learn more and I want to teach the people that come here something new.

I know that most people who stop by here are looking for a meal idea - and of course that was my original intention in starting this blog. But there are so many other wonderful virtual places that you can visit if a recipe is all that you need. One look at Tastespotting and you will see that there are thousands of people out there offering wonderful recipes and food-related stories to the world. One thing that makes me a little bit different than some of the other foodie bloggers out there is my microbiology background and my access to current and emerging public health research findings at my workplace. 

The list of ailments that are linked to poor diet (what defines a poor diet is obviously complex) is endless and the potential for healthy diets (this also varies depending on who you talk to) to positively impact those conditions is worth knowing. Although access to clean water, vaccination and antibiotics are some of the major reasons people live longer, healthier and happier lives today than they did a century ago - nutrition also, obviously, plays a huge part.

But healthy eating, nutrition and health conditions linked to poor diet (obesity, diabetes, heart disease etc.)  go way beyond a simple 'low calorie = weight loss' and 'good diet = long life' relationship. Everyday, scientists discover new facts about the relationship between our habits and our health. Some of these things are very obvious, like 'if you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables you have a lower risk for heart disease'. But some are absolutely unexpected, like 'if you transfer the bacteria from the gut of a skinny animal to an obese animal the obese animal will lose weight' and vice versa.

The world is an incredibly complex, surprising and fascinating place. As someone who is constantly bombarded with new and interesting facts about life that often link back to health and to our diet (sometimes directly, sometimes not), I feel that it is my duty to pass on these amazing discoveries.

I know that you most likely came here for a recipe idea, but I hope that next time you come here, you also learn something about the world that you might never have known otherwise. And I hope that you also trust that the food I make is influenced by the knowledge that 'you are what you eat'. I am convinced that what we eat today should contribute positively to the health of our minds and bodies tomorrow. Even if we occasionally give into our cravings for ketchup chips and wild-berry liquorice.

The recipe below is a one that you cannot not feel good about eating. It is filled with quinoa, kale, heirloom beans, turnips and purple potatoes. I admit that cooking up dried beans takes a somewhat painfully long time but your house will smell delicious afterwards and dried beans are supposed to be much better for you than those that come from a can. If you must, of course go for the canned kind. This will speed up the preparation time immensely. I prefer to feed on the deeply satisfying feeling of cooking my own pot of beans.

Roasted Turnip, Leek and Potato Quinoa with Heirloom Beans

You can substitute in your favourite vegetable to be roasted in this recipe, like squash, yams or parsnips.
Also, I find that during longer roasting times, single leek leaves will burn slightly on the ends. To remedy this either you can add the leeks halfway through the roasting time or you can pick out the worst ones at the end (there is usually only a few). The leek pieces that stay together in little packets turn soft, caramelize nicely and they taste amazing.

  • 3/4 cup dried heirloom or cannelli beans (soaked overnight)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Dried or fresh herbs (rosemary or oregano)
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • Six medium-small purple potatoes, chopped into 2 cm peices
  • 3 full kale leaves, torn into small pieces, stems removed
  • 1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • Bushel of small turnips, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 large leek, roughly chopped (leaves not separated)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh parmesan (optional)
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar 
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon miso paste
  • 1/2 maple syrup 
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

  1. Fill a large pot with ~6 cups of water. Add beans, garlic cloves, bay leaf and a tsp of dried herbs or a few sprigs of fresh rosemary.
  2. Bring the water to a low boil, cover the pot and allow to simmer about 2 hours.
  3. After about 1 hour, add a tsp of sea salt and continue to cook until the beans are creamy soft.
  4. Drain beans, tossing out the bay leaves, herb sprigs and garlic cloves.
  5. Meanwhile, while the beans are cooking, preheat oven to 400F.
  6. Add chopped potatoes to a pot of salted water, bring to a boil and cook potatoes for 5 minutes.
  7. Drain the potatoes and toss them in a bowl with chopped leeks, turnips, garlic, olive oil and sea salt.
  8. Spread the vegetables into a single layer on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
  9. Roast the vegetables for about 25 minutes - toss at least once half way through cooking time.
  10. A few of the single, thin pieces of leek may burn slightly during this time, they can be picked out and discarded.
  11. Cook quinoa by boiling in a separate pot of water for ~12 minutes, until the kernels become just tender. 
  12. Drain and rinse then set aside.
  13. Lay the kale leaves out on a baking sheet and place in the oven for a few minutes until the leaves soften and wilt slightly.
  14. Make dressing by shaking the last 5 ingredients in a jar until well combined.
  15. In a large bowl, combine the beans, quinoa, sun-dried tomatoes, kale and roasted veggies. 
  16. Stir in the dressing and let the salad flavours meld for a few minutes.
  17. Serve the salad topped with fresh parmesan.

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