If any salad that I do epitomises summer I would say this is it. Sure, you can make this salad at any time of the year, especially if you want to feel summery while curled up in a warm duvet and hail ricochets down your chimney. But, it just won’t be the same, not without local grown-for-flavour corn and tomatoes. Out of season tomatoes can be pretty. But pretty insipid. And corn, well if you get out of season corn that tastes of anything other than the little cardboard tray it often comes in, that’s a result.
No, this salad, and any salads that major on sun-ripened vegetables, should really only be eaten in the summer and early autumn. I wouldn’t pass a law or anything but common sense tells us that food grown locally and in the right season tastes better, is better for us, is cheaper and of course is better for the environment.
There have to be some exceptions though. If you live in warm temperate climes, no excuses. But if you are cool temperate like we are here in the UK, this would mean turnips and other gut-challenging crops for a good portion of the year. No offence to turnips. We can’t grow citrus, juicy melons, mangoes, ginger; these always need importing.
Yes, I know we don’t have to have things we don’t grow, but in some parts of the world strict adherence to local would make varied diets and optimal nutrition much more difficult – and do, especially for those without much money, culinary skills or nutrition expertise. And our nutrition has increased as globalisation has increased (along with obesity rates I should add), so some food miles aren’t always a bad thing. Contentious statement, I know. We should, however, make the most of what we have, in the time nature allots our crops. If that means we aren’t eating strawberries at Christmas or asparagus for Valentine’s Day, is that really so bad?
More and more I am trying to buy local. And judging by the numbers of farmer’s markets and ad-hoc stalls that are springing up, and the queue for a garden allotment plot in Edinburgh, I am certainly not in the minority. Most of what’s available seems to be aimed at the well-to-do, but there are some schemes that are trying to make locally grown produce affordable and available to anyone. In truth I box and cox between such stores as Lidl, Waitrose and Morrisons for the majority of my shopping, but I am increasingly spending my pounds and pence (mainly pounds) at such places as the Stockbridge Market, Earthy and even the tiny food counter in my also tiny post office (they supply local bread and other goodies).
stockbridge market in early spring – brrr
I hadn’t meant this to turn into a mini rant/polemic, especially as I need to go to work in an hour and I am still sitting in sweatpants, but there it is.
What is your take on eating seasonally and locally? How easy or difficult is it for you and your family to eat this way? What do you do in more fallow months? I’m sure lots of you have opinions on this so I would love to hear from you. Btw, Jean-Francois, over at 222 Million Tons, has lots of articles and opinion pieces on eating sustainably for ourselves and our precious planet, with a cool new menu app. And he’s a lovely guy too.
I am sending this over to the talented and generous Karen at Lavender and Lovage for her Herbs on Saturday challenge. Lots of delectable looking recipes already over there.
Tomato and Skillet Corn Quinoa Salad
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Jake Bugg’s ‘Taste It’ – love, love, love this song from the young, oddly-named English singer-songwriter. Reminds me so much of early The Who.
There are too many nutritional goodies in this recipe to hone in on just one. Suffice it to say that, as well as being colourful, filling and delish, it will leave you feeling glowing with vitality. Great for picnics and lunchboxes too.
PS You will see that I’m not Metric this week. I don’t want you or me to be constrained by exact measures when it comes to salads. Baking? Heck yeah, precision is key to a good result. But for salads, cups and handfuls are fine.
1 cup mixed or plain quinoa, uncooked
2 ears of shucked sweetcorn OR 1 heaped cup of frozen corn (defrosted)
½ cup chopped cucumber (US readers: peeled and deseeded if not hothouse or English)
2 cupped handsful of cherry/grape tomatoes – heirloom if you’ve got them
2 young, sweet carrots, roughly chopped
¼ c chopped chives
1 ripe avocado– roughly chopped
1 small garlic clove – roughly chopped
3 spring onions/scallions – roughly chopped
small handful each chopped parsley and coriander (or just parsley)
Juice of ½ to 1 lime (start with ½ first)
Zest of one lime
Good pinch each of salt and pepper
1 tsp agave nectar or honey
Enough water, or even light vegetable stock, to make a thick but pourable dressing – start with ¼ cup
Optional dressing add-ins as is your preference: pinch each of cinnamon and coriander; ¼ tsp ground cumin; 1 tbsp chopped fresh oregano/ ½ tsp dried oregano; good pinch chilli powder or flakes; toasted and powdered seaweed (eg nori)
Firstly, cook the quinoa. Rinse the quinoa for 30 seconds in a sieve, stirring it with your hands, and pop into a small lidded saucepan. Pour over 1 ¼ cups of cool water or light vegetable stock and, on a medium-high heat, bring to the boil. Cover and let the quinoa simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the quinoa steam with the lid on for a further five minutes. If you were going to have the quinoa hot as a side dish you would add a few more tablespoons of water and simmer it for a further 10 minutes. Let the quinoa cool in a sieve but no need to rinse.
Now the rest is just as easy. Take a non-stick frying pan or cast iron skillet and heat until very hot. Using a sharp, heavy knife upend each ear of corn and carefully slice down where the corn meets the cob. Scrape the milky kernels into the hot pan and toast until it smells a bit like popcorn, and is a bit ‘caught’ in places (not burned!). This would also be fabulous – better even – with leftover outdoor-grilled corn.
Put the corn and the cooked quinoa into a large bowl with the remaining vegetables and the chives. For the dressing, pop the ingredients in a food processor, blender or use a hand/immersion blender. Pulse until smooth, adjusting the seasoning, sharpness and liquidity as desired. You don’t want it too wet. Pour the dressing on the salad and fork it through. Serve at room temperature with extra chives.
This salad makes enough for six as a side dish or two to three for a light lunch. It keeps well for lunchboxes too, with maybe some extra green salad and a couple of tablespoons of cooked beans or lentils to make it even more filling.
More calories: add an extra tablespoon of toasted seeds per serving and a drizzle of avocado or pumpkin seed oil
Less calories: use ½ the avocado and make up the dressing with enough water and lime juice to be pourable OR make a buttermilk based dressing with ½ c buttermilk, 2 tbsp cider vinegar, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper, tsp of Dijon mustard and chopped herbs. Add in a few slivers of fresh avocado to each salad serving so as not to feel deprived.