Like the other 50% of Torontonians that flocked to High Park to admire the cherry blossoms, I thought I'd share their beauty with you (if you haven't gotten sick of them already). I went with my mom and cursed myself the whole time how I should have worn shorts. I didn’t believe how warm it was. It seemed implausible, an evil trickery from the weather people. The moment we parked the car, we were giddy with cherry-blossom-frenzy. Teeny buds of pink and white flowers swayed under the bright sun. I always forget how lovely it is this time of year, when we can shed our bulky jackets, throw on a bright dress and show some skin, and breathing in fresh air doesn’t hurt the lungs, but actually feels pleasant.
Mom and I walked around High Park, took more photos (I took about 259 photos that day alone) then strolled along Bloor Street West to find a good lunch spot. We were famished and sweaty and couldn’t be more happy to sit and rest our feet, we collapsed at a table at The Kennedy Public House. Getting my priorities straight, I ordered a Kronenberg, then we waited for our warm panzanella salad and chicken club sandwich (cleverly placed under the “witchcraft” category on the menu). We people-watched and again, boasted how lucky we were for the cooperative weather.
I craved something light and fresh, and the panzanella hit the spot. There were roasted tomatoes and red bell peppers, their syrupy juices seeping through the arugula and onions, softening the croutons, plus springy buffalo cheese and briny olives. I’m drooling just thinking about it. The sandwich was a delight too; moist bits of meat with mayo oozed between focaccia. Even the ceasar salad that came as a side was equally memorable; it won major brownie points for fried artichokes and homemade parmesan tuilles. I was so full I couldn’t breathe and thankful for the walk back to the car.
The following day it was just as sunny and warm. I still wanted something crunchy and laden with vegetables. I’ve had plenty of quinoa in sitting my pantry for a while now and always promised myself to make it and feature it on my blog, but obviously, never got around to it. Maybe it was the panzanella, or the ceasar salad, but I had the urge to make something with spring greens. I made a green bean and quinoa salad inspired by Sara Forte of Sprouted Kitchen. It comes together easily and will even make you lick your plate. I know, you don’t hear of plate-lickingly good salads often, but trust me, the key is in the dressing. I made my own mustardy version for the dressing and the combination of heat, acid, and oil helps to bring the otherwise bland ingredients alive. I whizzed together garlic, lime zest, and a dollop of Kozlick’s sweet and smokey mustard.
The green beans are blanched, then tossed with cooked quinoa, coated with the dressing and sprinkled with toasted pecans, to give you plenty of crunch in each forkful. It took less than 20 minutes to put together, I even enjoyed it on the balcony while watching the sun go down. It’s nice to see you too Spring.
Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen
I love mustard and particularly enjoy it in this salad dressing. To test for its freshness, take a quick whiff of the mustard. If your eyes water, that's a good thing. Mustard tends to lose it's potency if it's been sitting around too long.
½ cup quinoa
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
2 green onions, thinly sliced
½ cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
For the dressing
¼ cup olive oil
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons red balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
zest and juice of 1 lime
1-2 teaspoons mustard
a pinch of salt and black pepper
Rinse the quinoa with water a few times and drain. Bring a cup of water to boil and add the quinoa, turning the heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed. Transfer to a large bowl to cool.
Meanwhile, make the dressing. Blend all the ingredients in a blender or food processor until well combined. Add salt and pepper to taste.
To blanch the green beans, add water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Add beans and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain them and immediately plunge them in ice water to retain it's crunch and vibrant color. Drain well (alternatively, you can also steam the beans).
Add the beans to the cooled quinoa. Add the green onions and half of the pecans to the bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing. Finish the salad with fresh black pepper and the rest of the pecans. Serve at room temperature or chill in the fridge. Leftovers keep well.