As a teenager I spent most of my free time doing nice and creative things – from drawing and writing stories (oh the things I wrote! Twilight would pale in comparison) to computer programming and inventing new languages. Now that I’m a grownup, the free time I have is spent accordingly: usually on the couch, with my laptop, grumbling over stuff that people wrote on the internet. It’s quite a responsibility, being an adult.
When I do feel the need to be creative, nowadays, I tend to invent something to cook or bake. It took me years of practice (including some experimenting on the homeless population of Utrecht) to become a decent chef, but I think I’m doing pretty well now – occasionally I even manage to come up with something that I feel should be shared with the world. This Monday it was a salad with (mostly) seasonal & local vegetables (I say ‘mostly’ because it’s a bit late in the year for lamb’s lettuce, but you could probably replace it with fresh spinach). I added garlic chives sprouts because I had some left over from a previous meal; in the Netherlands you can buy them in pretty much every organic shop (‘chinese preischeuten’), but if you can’t find them, just chop up one or two cloves of garlic and add them to the dressing – together with the garden cress it’ll give you the right sharp spiciness to balance the sweetness of the vegetables. For a 100% vegan version, replace the honey* in the dressing with agave syrup or something.
Ingredients (serves 3-4)
For the salad: 1 fennel bulb, 1 beetroot, 1 box of garden cress, 1/3 box of garlic chives sprouts, 75 g lamb’s lettuce, 200 g smoked tofu, a bit of old bread and olive oil to make croutons
For the dressing: balsamic and/or pomegranate vinegar, olive oil, honey, pumpkin seed paste (available at organic shops, or replace by a handful of roasted pumpkin seeds), a bit of mustard, salt, pepper. I tend to mix my ingredients together rather randomly based on taste, so I’m not sure about the quantities – just start out with a basic vinaigrette, add the other ingredients bit by bit and keep tasting, I guess 🙂
Wash and behead the beetroot, cut it into smallish pieces and cook for about half an hour (or less if you prefer beetroot with more of a bite). Chop up the fennel bulb. Mix the vegetables, sprouts and lettuce together in a salad bowl. Cut the tofu into thin slices and put them on top. Mix the dressing, pour it over the salad and leave it like that for a minute before you stir everything together, so the tofu has a chance to soak up a bit of taste from the dressing. Finally, cut some bread into squares (no need to waste food by removing the crust), toss them around with a bit of olive oil, and roast them in a frying pan to make croutons. Add the croutons at the very last moment or serve them separately so they don’t lose their crispiness.
* As a vegan-curious person who’s currently learning the basics of beekeeping, I’m interested in the ‘vegan opinion’ on honey (if there is such a thing). I’m kind of sympathetic to the idea that keeping any kind of animal primarily for human use is essentially inter-species slavery and as such questionable, but then we unquestionably need bees to be able to grow fruits and vegetables. (Also, is it the honey as such that’s problematic, or mainly the domestication of the honeybee?)