Roasted Roots with Quinoa, Lentils & Pistachio Cream (Vegan!)

 
 
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I read many food blogs and I'm always amazed at the beautiful recipes, photos, and flavour combinations dreamt up by my fellow fbs. Something that I've felt rather upset about lately is the fact that Canada doesn't have a Trader Joe's and every US food blogger talks about Trader Joe's or "TJ's," as it's affectionately referred to, on a regular basis. I wish they'd just come up here already! After reading Alexis' fabulous Trader Joe's post, I was craving a good-old fashioned field trip. Off to Whole Foods I went!    
  
I live about 1 hour and 15 minutes away from a Whole Foods, but I was heading up that way to take my laptop into Apple (yes, more "technical difficulties"), so I decided to treat myself to an evening of Whole Foods browsing. The perfectly stacked produce. The excellent selection of specialty food products. The superfoods. The natural beauty area. The flowers. The international cookie cart (it's new, I know). The gelato bar. The salad bar. The olive bar (pitted niçoise olives, people!). I could go on. That store, my goodness. It's a good thing I live as far away as I do, because I could spend a week's income there quite easily. Distance makes the heart grow fonder anyways. 
 
When I do head to Whole Foods, I pick up my favourite healthy staples that I can't get in my town, namely, miso, Bubbies sauerkraut, Bubbies pickles, Bubbies horseradish (I'm a Bubbies-brand devotée), Henry's Tempeh (made in Waterloo, Ontario), lacinato (dinosaur) kale, and a few random things that I probably don't need. An out-of-town friend and I had dinner together from the salad/hot bar, which was a delight, and I picked up an oatmeal raisin cookie (oddly, my all-time favourite) and almond milk rooibos tea latte for the road. I left well-fed, happy, healthy, and my Whole Foods/Trader Joe's itch was scratched. Now, won't you please join me on Kickstarter for "Operation TJ-eh?" A movement dedicated to bringing Trader Joe's to the hungry Canadian people. I'm kidding, of course, but it would tickle me pink to see them come up here.     

 
A product that I've seen other bloggers use from "TJ's" is pre-cooked roasted beets to make a beet salad. Very cool! Must be nice. While I don't have access to this product, all of those roasted beet salads I've seen around the web did inspire me to create this dish. I do love a good roasted beet -sweet, earthy, versatile, and full of a wide range of health-promoting nutrients. Today, instead of the usual bulleted list of key health benefits that I provide on the blog, I have a short quote about this garnet-hued root vegetable from my not-so-favourite-but-appropriate novel, Jitterbug Perfume, by Tom Robbins, to share with you:

The beet is the most intense of vegetables. The radish, admittedly, is more feverish, but the fire of the radish is a cold fire, the fire of discontent, not of passion. Tomatoes are lusty enough, yet there runs through tomatoes an undercurrent of frivolity. Beets are deadly serious... The beet is the melancholy vegetable, the one most willing to suffer. You can't squeeze blood out of a turnip... 

Heavy stuff. I won't go on because it gets much weirder if that's even possible. Who knew vegetables could sound so... human? I think Tom Robbins has a few issues to work out in his personal life, but I do appreciate his ability to anthropomorphize produce. I wanted to share this quote because eating truly is an emotional experience, something that I'll just assume Robbins was trying to convey. What we eat, whom we eat with, and the time and care placed in preparing a meal. Vegetables do make me feel well, both emotionally and physically, which are a couple of the reasons why I enjoy eating them so much (and so often). I also want to eat food that looks beautiful; food that's full of colour and life. This meal satisfies every one of my food-centric emotional requirements. I promise it'll put some pep in your step, regardless of whether or not it stirs up some deep-rooted emotional response (a little veggie humour for ya). It's perfect for summer, as it can be eaten warm or chilled, but will taste equally as delicious if you're experiencing chillier temperatures, like I am today. 

At the risk of sounding like a tote bag, I will say this: Eat what makes you feel good. Eat with nice people. And most importantly, eat well!  

I'll leave you with a happier Tom Robbins quote from Jitterbug Perfume: “Breathe properly. Stay curious. And eat your beets.” Much better. 
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Roasted Roots with Quinoa, Lentils & Pistachio Cream

Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Vegan

Serves 4

Ingredients:

1 pound/500g (about 2 large) beets (tops intact and trimmed to 1-inch), sliced into quarters
1 pound/500g (about 4 large) carrots, peeled and cut into sticks (4-inches x ½-inch)
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup cooked green lentils or black lentils or chickpeas

Pistachio Cream
½ cup mild fresh herbs such as basil, mint, or cilantro (I used mint), tightly-packed
1/3 cup water
¼ cup raw, shelled, unsalted pistachios
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, peeled

Directions:

Make the root vegetables: Preheat oven to 350°F. Line aluminum foil with a sheet of parchment and make a parcel for the beets. Repeat in a separate sheet of parchment-lined foil with the carrots. Tightly seal the bundles and place them on a baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until tender. Meanwhile, prepare the other components.

Make the quinoa: In a medium saucepan, combine uncooked quinoa with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover (or partially cover for a few minutes to avoid over-boiling), and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let steam, covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and mix in cooked lentils. Set aside.

Make the dressing: Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender (best) or food processor. Purée on high until smooth and creamy. Pour into a serving container and set aside.

Assemble the plates: Add a bed of the quinoa and lentil mixture to the bottom of each plate, top with a few beet wedges and carrot sticks, drizzle on pistachio cream. You can garnish the dish with a few chopped pistachios and herb leaves, if you desire.     

Notes:
1. All dish components can be made up to 3 days in advance.
2. This dish tastes wonderful warm, room temperature, or chilled.
3. If you don’t like pistachios, try raw, unsalted cashews or blanched almonds. 

 

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