Spring is always an uneasy surprise.
Classes end, suddenly it seems. The light sharpens, anticipating summer, and I see disarray everywhere; the piles of marked midterms on my desk; the litter at the edge of my garden; the dust in the guestroom.
Out of the corner of my eye I see crocus; narcissus; cherry blossom. The landscape of trees outside my new house is a daily surprise: the chartreuse of the willow; the small dusty pink buds of an unknown tree that slopes across the frame of my bedroom window.
The city is mine to explore again, but, newly released from the cage of my teaching schedule, I stay close to home. Nonetheless, there are things to discover nearby: a new hipster art gallery – Gerrard Art Space – in the middle of India Town, fresh paint on its walls; a new cafe about to open, called, intriguingly, Tea ‘n Bannock, promising aboriginal cuisine.
Cooking slowly returns to me. I make manicotti, for no other reason than that the Italian grocer in my ‘hood sells a delicious housemade ricotta. More-or-less following a recipe in The Rebar Cookbook, I stuff shells with with ricotta, fontina, chard, sundried tomatoes, sunflower seeds; that sustains me through the final, draining week of teaching.
The students are unruly,brusque, exhausted, that week. They know more than they did, but they are now aware of the limits of their knowledge. In other words, they know what they do not know, and this is what transforms them into scholars.
I buy a mess of vegetables, too, and roast them, using a wonderful recipe, Moroccan Mint Roasted Vegetables, from 101 Cookbooks. Thrown into salads, or frittata, or just eaten on their own, they help me transition from the last few weeks of winter vegetables into a new season of food.
Moroccan Mint Roasted Vegetables
“As I mention in the main post, I used a mix of what looked good and seasonal at my local market here, but feel free to mix it up a bit. You could certainly do pumpkin or other winter squash here, or straight potatoes (no cauliflower / radish), or green beans and broccoli in the summer. Asparagus and artichokes in the spring, etc.” -101 Cookbooks
1 lb / 16 oz / 450 g mix of potatoes, cauliflower, and a few radishes (save the tops)
1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint
1/2 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
toppings: fresh mint, toasted sesame and/or pumpkin seeds, plain yogurt (seasoned with a bit of salt)
Preheat your oven to 425F / 220C. Wash and dry the vegetables, then cut the potatoes and cauliflower into 1/4-inch thick slices/pieces. Trim and quarter the radishes, setting aside the green radish tops.
Place the dried mint, chile pepper flakes, cumin seeds, and salt in a mortar and pestle and pound a bit, long enough to somewhat break up the cumin seeds. Add the ground cumin, cinnamon, and ground ginger. After that, add the olive oil and stir until combined.
Place the potatoes, cauliflower, and radishes in a large bowl. Pour the spiced olive oil over the vegetables and toss gently but thoroughly – until everything is equally coated. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until everything is cooked through.
Remove from the oven and serve on a platter topped with the radish greens, a squeeze of lemon and any/all of the other toppings. A fat dollop of salted yogurt really brings everything together.
Prep time: 5 min – Cook time: 15 min