There are certain flavors that I return to, again and again, because they please me so deeply. Like a favorite song, I play with them over and over, comforted by the repetition. While I sometimes alter the setting, some flavor combinations are steady old friends I know I can count on time and again.
On the flip side, I also adore novelty. I am lucky enough to live near a fabulous spice shop with a solid selection of basics, as well as a fascinating array of individual spices and intense, pungent blends. The visits I love best are the ones where I discover a new-to-me flavor, or a new combination that enlivens a favorite dish with new flavors.
This side dish came about as a blend of both these leanings. The carrots and onions, of course, are a classic combination: they are two-thirds of the traditional French mirepoix, and are used in a million other dishes.
The new-to-me element is Nigella Sativa* (AKA charnuska, black caraway seed, kalonji). Found in many eastern European dishes, it also stars in Indian food as well. I have recently been reading about the health benefits of it, and it seems to be very nearly a wonder drug, being useful for diabetics, people with hypertension and even seizures. With all those benefits, I would probably take it anyway; happily, it also tastes delicious. I usually pair it with fish.
- Eight large carrots, washed
- One large onion, peeled and sliced
- Two tablespoons oil, divided
- One tablespoon turmeric
- Two tablespoons nigella
- Two tablespoons chives (or fresh herb of your choice).
- Trim the carrots at top and bottom. In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, "chip" the carrots by pulsing them for 30 seconds at a time until they are in small, triangular chunks (you may need to work in batches so that the carrots are all about the same size and shape).
- Warm a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of oil to the pan, swirling it around until its surface is fully coated. Add the spices to the oil and warm them through, stirring occasionally, for approximately two minutes or just until they are fragrant.
- Add the onions to the pan. Cook them until they are translucent, approximately five to eight minutes.
- Add the chipped carrots (and reserved oil if needed) to the pan, cooking them for approximately eight to ten minutes, until they are just tender. Remove from the heat and mix in herbs.
- Serve immediately.
* = Affiliate link.
Jo Robinson’s book, Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health*, is a wonder. Its premise is simple: in our quest to make our staple foods look good, sturdy enough to survive long transit times, and more palatable (i.e., sweet), we have bred much of the nutrition out of it. Since we can’t go back to eating a true hunter-gatherer diet, each chapter offers tips for choosing the most nutritious foods we can within our modern food system.
This book is, simply put, genius. Divided into two large sections on vegetables and fruits, each chapter features a different food or food group. At the start of each chapter, Robinson hooks the reader in with an interesting historical or scientific anecdote. She then discusses the transition from the wild versions of a plant to the modern domesticated one, and suggests the best types to buy and grow, along with serving suggestions and interesting facts about the various foods. Did you know white-fleshed peaches contained more phytonutrients than yellow ones? I certainly didn’t. That cooked blueberries are even better for you than raw ones? News to me. Or that allicin, found in garlic, can be as effective as penicillin?
Most chapters also include a featured recipe, such as the Armenian Lentil Soup in the chapter on legumes, a tomato salsa, Black Plum Sauce (Stone Fruits) or the mixed fruit salad with Thai herbs (Melons). Every chapter ends with a chart of recommended varieties to look for when shopping or to grow yourself in the garden, as well as a bulleted list of the chapter’s major points that makes a great reference when you are ready to shop for seeds and plants for the garden, or for produce at the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Another reason I love this book is that Robinson provides a thorough list of references to the scientific sources for each chapter’s claims; being able to follow up on a thread that has piqued my interest makes the pleasure of the book last that much longer. Not to mention, Robinson’s writing style is casual yet engaging: even though I fully intended to savor the book bit by bit, somehow I found myself speeding through it eagerly. Because I did cruise through the book so quickly, I am certain there is more to be found in another, closer reading. The book is so pleasant to read, I look forward to revisiting it again and again.
Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health*
* = Affiliate link.
It boils down to community.
I’ve been trying to think of a first post that didn’t sound cheesy or silly to my ears, but consistently came up short. This makes no sense at all – I am an excellent communicator (this is code for “I talk. A lot.”). I love words. I love them so much that I majored in English. I love them so much that my house literally overflows with books. I love words so much that I ended up in law school, where so much of what we do is parse meanings.
Yet, when considering how to introduce myself and this blog to the world, I was flummoxed. The great communicatress was sidelined and the proverbial well ran dry. Obviously, this meant I needed to dig a little deeper into my thought process. Why on earth did I want to put my thoughts out into the big bad Internet, anyway?
When I thought it through, it came to this: I like to write. I like to be creative. I love to cook. I love to eat. I love to learn things, and I love to talk about the things I learn. Once I got there, I realized that all of that really added up to a search for community. I am not a paleo lifestyle expert, but I want to learn. I have access to a culinary genius (also known as my mom), I write reasonably well, and I can share what I know with the world. If I’m lucky, people will share back, and genuine connections will result.
So I’ll start. Hi. I’m Cher. I am an enthusiastic novice in the garden. I have a tendency to use long words, even when short ones will do. I think exercise is the invention of the devil. I am married with ridiculously adorable children. I still dream of writing the great American novel. Or maybe the great American cookbook. Or even just the great American blog post. Welcome to my Internet home. I hope you find something useful here, and that you stick around.