Happy Red Quinoa, Fennel, and Strawberry Salad

Early June is the apotheosis of the strawberry in this part of Europe – you can hardly turn around twice without spying them in the markets, peeking out behind garden fences, even growing wild in the forest. (Few things in this world taste better than wild strawberries plucked on a hike in the woods.) Inspired by this juicy bounty, (and feeling hungry for lunch,) I created this lovely lukewarm salad featuring the crunchiness of red quinoa, the crisp and soothing touch of fennel, and the aforementioned berry-infused glory. Besides providing a satisfying lunch before a long rehearsal in the opera pit  – next stop, Puccini’s Madame Butterfly – this would be a pretty addition to an early summer picnic spread.

Ingredients:

3/4 cup red quinoa

1 1/2 cups water

1 medium fennel bulb, chopped

7-10 ripe strawberries, tops removed, quartered

1 little pot goat’s or soy yogurt, unflavored 

juice and zest of 1/2 lemon

1/8 cup sunflower oil

salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

 

Directions: Cook the quinoa in the rice cooker, then let cool. In the meantime, prepare strawberries and fennel. 

 

When the quinoa has reached room temperature, toss together remaining ingredients and season to taste. 

 

Use a few extra strawberries as garnish… 

 

This recipe, besides being delicious, is also gluten-free, appropriate for the later stages of the Candida diet, and vegan if you use soy yoghurt. 

In the meantime, my husband prepared his own lunch, his Käsespätzle 🙂 

 

Vegan Almond Butter Hummus, or painting with a restricted palate

IMG_5227This afternoon, 10 (mostly) Americans gathered at our friend’s 300-year-old farmhouse in Lorraine to celebrate Easter the traditional way: consuming copious quantities of home-cooked food together. We had a couple vegetarians in our midst and based our feast on vegan delicacies, if you don’t count the marvellous braised lamb prepared by our host.

I’ve been on a restricted diet for the past nine weeks. The purpose is to restore the skewed balance in my intestinal flora, as well as to cure recurring, painful oral infections (a horn player’s nightmare!) My inspiration for taking this on was the well-researched, humorous, first-hand account penned by a favourite author of mine, Cash Peters. His book on tackling Candida albicans overgrowth was a revelation to me and explained many other health issues I’d dealt with over the years. His blog is at least as fun as mine and is worth perusing, while you’re at it! Several doctor’s and nutritionist’s appointments, tests, and treatments of various sorts later (note to self: don’t mention colonic irrigation in a blog with a recipe,) I’ve settled into a rhythm of different foods, supplements, and the inevitable emotional/spiritual changes and vulnerability that come from willingness to heal.

You’d think we all want to be healthy and whole all the time, and in theory, we do. The problem is, we get so used to our imbalances and pain that the work involved in transformation feels like an uncrossable chasm. Insane, no? I tend to treasure my convictions anyway (such as, I’m already a healthy eater – what could diet have to do with any of my problems?) so it takes some doing to change course. As it turned out, I’m missing an antibody that protects the mucous membranes along with having a yeast intolerance, combining to muck up the works. Stress definitely plays a role. Did I mention that I play horn for a living?

It has been a hard regimen, I won’t lie. Maddeningly frustrating, sometimes, since food is one of the main ways we commune with others in social situations. Nine weeks in, though, my symptoms have disappeared, I’ve lost 6 kilos without trying, and my energy is good and steady. I’m slowly re-introducing foods banned on the Candida diet (hello, Rioja and potatoes! Berries and bananas, you’re next, my old friends!) Cooking has proven a challenge. We often make parallel meals, or mine serves as a side dish for my husband. Despite the restrictions, I’ve come up with some gorgeous new additions to the repertoire. You’d be surprised how a narrowed list of allowed foods can spark your creativity. Here’s my vegan almond hummus that proved a massive hit at Easter lunch today.

Since recipes don’t usually read as “a glob of this and some bits of that,” I’ve done my best to provide proportions for you. Feel free to play around with them according to taste.

Ingredients:

-250 g (about 8 oz.) cooked chickpeas, drained

-1/2 cup almond butter, either blanched or natural. I used blanched today.

-1/4 cup yoghurt (soy for vegan hummus, also excellent with Greek-style or goat’s milk yoghurt)

-2-3 cloves raw garlic

-a few healthy glugs of extra virgin olive oil

-juice of 1-1 1/2 lemons, to taste

-1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin

-Himalaya salt to taste

-sweet or smoked paprika for garnish

Add all ingredients except paprika to your food processor (mine is a sturdy Magimix that would break your foot if you dropped it!) and blend until smooth, adding additional olive oil if needed for consistency. Add salt to taste.

Pour into decorative dish and garnish with drizzled olive oil and paprika. Plop in a sprig of parsley if you’re feeling frisky. Enjoy with raw veggies, rice cakes, or whatever takes your fancy.

The secret to a healing or detoxifying diet is to focus on and be grateful for what you CAN eat, rather than bemoaning what you give up. Come to think of it, that’s true in pretty much any area of life, isn’t it?

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