I love having people over for dinner. I notice that some people really don’t. It’s like speaking the language you learned in school when you actually go to the country. You learned how to speak it, but you are so afraid of making a mistake, you just run around whispering “Um..speak English?” in a slightly foreign accent for some reason hoping that they do and you can skip using the skills you acquired all those years of boring language class. Well, people must feel the same way about cooking for friends. It makes them nervous- what if it’s not the best meal you’ve ever had?? Who cares!?!? In my opinion, food automatically tastes better when you don’t make it yourself, and as a disclaimer, many of my “dinner parties” are actually experiments. Which brings me back to my opening statement: I love having people over for dinner, so trust me- I’m not doing YOU any favors- it really is fun!
Last Thursday, Ryan’s family arrived in Atlanta, which gave me a great excuse to plan a summer dinner menu. It included flank steak (and I don’t really marinate it because I usually don’t plan that far in advance- it’s true. I need meat counseling. I avoid it and wish that my husband would find a sudden passion for cooking meat and just do that for me….le sigh….). I digress. The menu: flank steak, spinach salad with feta cheese, strawberries, and toasted walnuts, and quinoa salad. It still amazes me how many people have not had quinoa. PEOPLE- it’s amazing!! If you haven’t had it, stop reading, go to the store right now, and buy some. It is good for you, it takes about 5 seconds to cook (not really, but still..) and you can do all sorts of things with it, sweet and savory.
This particular dish was inspired by a side salad I had in Banff, Canada a few years ago. I am fairly certain the grain was not actually quinoa, but something else. Nevertheless, it had sweet potatoes, chick peas, feta or goat cheese (can’t remember which) and something sweet. So I attempted to recreate this salad at home last week, and it was fabulous. Not to mention, it is a MEAL all by itself, so I had a healthy and quick lunch for the next few days on my own. (Enter working/studying individuals that don’t have time to cook healthy meals every day- problemo solved!)
And instead of writing out an ingredient list for you, I’m just going to show you this picture instead (let me know if you can’t read this and you need the list back!):
Directions: Bring one cup of water to a boil, add quinoa, cover and simmer on low heat until all water has evaporated and quinoa is cooked through (ie, it is soft and fluffy!). Meanwhile, cube the sweet potato, toss in olive oil and salt, and bake in the oven at 400F for about 20 minutes (make sure they are done by sticking a fork in a few them). I added the cranberries to the sweet potatoes around the 10 minute mark to soften them up as well. Combine all ingredients in a big bowl once cooked and stir together with spices and olive oil. You can use butter instead if you want. Add the feta cheese and eat warm or refrigerate and eat chilled later (which is what I did!). You can obviously interchange some ingredients here as well: for example, goat cheese instead of feta cheese, dried cherries instead of cranberries, or squash instead of sweet potato. The opportunities are endless.
K- gotta go! xoxo!