It happens a lot that I will, on the fly, look through the piles of vegetables that I have pulled – in great armloads – from my garden and heaped onto my table and try and try to figure out what the hell I’m going to cook for dinner. Fortunately, I have kids who are adventurous eaters. Because I swear to god, otherwise they would surely starve.
As a vegetarian, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how the flavors of the plant world come together, how they compliment one another. One of the wonders of cooking is that we really do take a narrative approach to the pleasures of eating – we think about dynamic starts, of foreshadow. We play with conflicting tastes, allowing that conflict to linger and build, playing each against each, until in an acquiescence and a surrender, the flavors meld and marry and we swallow.
Anyway, because we don’t eat meat, then vegetables really are the main story around here. So color matters and texture matters. The complexities of the bitter greens. The comforts of root vegetables. The slick of oil. The bright sweetness honey and the life-giving nature of bread. And so I’ll pull something together on the fly – I made a spaghetti sauce the other day of ribbon-cut kale sauteed in olive oil and lemon zest and garlic, tossed with cannelli beans cheese and scattered with chopped herbs (and it was gorgeous) – and then I’ll totally brag about it on Twitter.
Because that is my favorite thing about Twitter. Totally bragging about what I’m eating so that people will come over and visit me. I’m not shy and I have no shame. So sue me.
But the thing is, I’m not really a recipe person. I’m bad at following directions, so I don’t use them, and I have a hard time remembering what I’ve done, so I don’t remember them. Each meal is an organic experience. Each meal responds to the moment in which it is conceived, and the moment that it is brought to fruition.
Yesterday I totally bragged about the fact that I had harvested a bunch of Swiss Chard leaves and stuffed them with quinoa and mushrooms and walnuts and lemon juice, and people said WILL YOU POST THE GODDAMN RECIPE ALREADY? So here it is. As best as I can remember it. And my kids dug it and ate it all up. So I win.
KELLY BARNHILL’S SWISS CHARD ROLLS
8 0z mushrooms, sliced
1/2 large red onion, chopped fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
lemon zest, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 can drained garbanzo beans, mashed
Juice of one lemon
1/2 cup walnuts chopped fine
14 medium sized swiss chard leaves, bottoms trimmed
1/3 cup dry quinoa
1 cup water
Mash the garbanzo beans and the juice of half a lemon in a bowl. Set aside.
Heat a deep sautee pan and add onions and cook dry for 90 seconds. Reduce heat and add olive oil. Cover and allow to cook for another five minutes. Uncover and add garlic, lemon zest and mushrooms. Cook until mushrooms are wilted and fragrant. Add the chopped walnuts and cook for another two minutes.
Transfer vegetables to the bowl with the garbanzo beans and lemon.
Put the sautee pan back on the flame and add the quinoa and the water, stir a couple times to allow the flavors to combine. Once the quinoa boils, cover it tightly and reduce heat. Cook until the water has been absorbed, adding more if needed.
Turn off heat.
Add the vegetable and garbanzo mixture with the quinoa. mix together and add a ton of salt and pepper until it tastes right. Allow to sit for fifteen minutes.
Set up your workspace with a clean towel, and a frying pan pre-oiled with a tablespoon or two of olive oil.
Put swiss chard leaves into a bowl and cover with hot water. Once they are soft enough to handle, take out a leaf and lay it on the towel. Spoon the quinoa veg mixture into the leaf and roll it up, tucking in the ends as you do so. Lay it in the frying pan and repeat. As you lay your rolls in the frying pan, make sure that they fit together tightly and that you are alternating the direction of your rolls. This is important for getting them *out* of the pan.
Once your rolls are made, add water to your frying pan- enough so that the bottom half of your rolls are submerged in water. Sprinkle salt and the juice from the other half a lemon over the whole thing. Put it on the stove at medium-low heat, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
Now, if you’re WAY MORE TALENTED than me, you’ll be able to flip this out onto a plate. I’ve seen it done with other roll-type recipes. I did not have the balls to do this, so I just transfered them with a spatula on everybody’s plate. The kids snarfed them and so did I.
I don’t have pictures of course, because we ate it all. But I assure you it was delicious.
And now that I’ve shared, does anyone have a recipe story to share with me? A triumph? A failure? C’mon! I know you got ’em!