It’s a rare weekend that I miss going to any farmers markets. It’s a priority for me, since most of what we eat comes from there. But with the University of Maine holding its homecoming on an already time-pressed Saturday (Soccer games! Book festival! Date night!), I didn’t make it to Orono for the market there. On Sunday, similarly busy, I had to miss the Bangor market too.
Fortunately, I have some stray vegetables in the fridge just waiting to be transformed into delicious meals. More on that in a minute.
First, let’s talk about Sunday, and specifically about the Maine Cheese Festival in Union. When BDN reporter Kathleen Pierce wrote about the event in September, I was excited to hear that Maine — specifically The Maine Cheese Guild — wanted to celebrate cheese here. With more than 80 licensed cheese makers in the state now, there’s so much good cheese to be had here in the Pine Tree State.
I do, after all, love cheese.
At the event, I demonstrated how to make better than the box macaroni and cheese — the same recipe from last week’s column. Though we weren’t on a stage, and the demonstration was pretty casual, chatting with readers and cheese lovers about my techniques for making macaroni and cheese (for instance, always shred your own cheese — preshredded cheese will make the sauce gritty) was magical.
But perhaps the best part was meeting former state representative Leila Percy and actress Birdie Newman Katz, who for seven years starred in “At Home With the Singing Chef,” a cooking show broadcast throughout Maine. The dynamic, bright duo regaled us with tales of their on-screen antics and off-screen friendship … and then they sang for us.
Those two … I wish their show was still available for public consumption. Sadly, there’s no trace of it online right now — something they said they’d like to change. I agree. They were a hoot.
As for the macaroni and cheese, the samples went as fast as they could be dished up. Good stuff, and always fun to see others try a favorite recipe of mine.
But lest you think I only dwell in the decadent side of cooking, this recipe for Balsamic Roasted Beet Quinoa Salad is also a favorite. This is something I love to pack for lunches — both mine and the kids. It’s packed with vitamins and other nutrients, and so tasty too.
For this salad, I roasted beets, a small sweet potato, carrots and onions together with olive oil, salt and pepper. This classic combination has a wonderful, natural sweetness when roasted. It’s delightful. As the weather becomes cooler, roasted veggies are a go-to for our meals.
It’s a nice plus that the act of roasting also warms up the house too.
The roasted veggies, which are finished with balsamic vinegar, are tossed with quinoa. Season with salt and pepper, and an additional drizzle of balsamic vinegar, if desired.
The salad is fresh and filling, refreshing but also pleasant — perfect for lunch.
- 2 large beets, small diced (about 3 cups)
- 1 small sweet potato, small diced (about ½ cup)
- 3-5 carrots, small diced (about 1 cup)
- 2-3 small onions, small diced (about 1 cup
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- ½ cup dried quinoa, thoroughly rinsed
- 1 cup water
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Add the beets, sweet potato, carrots and onions. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir well. Roast for 35-40 minutes, stirring a few times, until tender. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and roast for an additional 10 minutes.
- In a small saucepan, combine the quinoa and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed. Remove from heat.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the roasted vegetables and quinoa. Taste, and season as desired with salt and pepper.
- Serve hot or cold, with an additional drizzle of balsamic vinegar, if desired.