Comforting Recipes: Quinoa, Watermelon & Feta Salad, Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart, Peach & Nectarine Granita

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Quinoa, Watermelon & Feta Salad

We're back home. Everything and everyone is getting back to normal. Groceries, laundry, walks with the pups. And yet, everything's different. Every move taken and every thing said is tinted with a veil of deep sadness and compassion.

As some of you may have learned, one wonderfully kind and talented food blogger, Jennifer Perillo, lost her husband suddenly this past weekend. I did not know Jennifer well. We had met briefly at several conferences in the past. We were Twitter and Facebook friends. We did not live close. We did not email. We did not talk on the phone. Yet, if I could wrap my arms around her today and hope it helped a little, I would.

Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart

Over the year, I have come to deal with the fact that I don't care that much of August. I have a love-hate relationship with August actually. My brother passed away in August. My grandmother too. It's my mother's birthday in August. And my grandfather's too. He's 101 this year by the way. Talk about witnessing life and mortality.

I am finally ok with August being a crappy month for myself. I hate, hate, hate the fact that now it will be a difficult time for Jenny and her daughters. I, and others who have lost dear ones, know the journey ahead. And we hurt inside for Jenny and her daughters already. How to make it better? How to make it easier?

Peaches

Just like finding a few dishes prepared for you when you come back from travels, or finding the fridge a little fuller than when you left. Just like noticing a full basket of fruits on the counter and a "welcome home" note; we can be there for Jennifer and her family just the same.

Those little gestures mentioned above done by my mother in law right before we walked in the door, were immensely appreciated and resonated deeply within us. Caring for one another does is not about climbing the highest peaks or diving the deepest sea. Little gestures. A meal. A note. A walk. A hug. Expressing respect. And compassion.

Quinoa, Feta and Watermelon Salad

When I went back home to my brother's funerals, I came back to many cards of condolences, many phone calls and texts. I also had many friends drop by with a bite to eat. They knew food was the last thing I wanted. I wanted to disappear. I was numb. But mechanically, I ate the dishes they brought over. It was sustenance. I let Bill rocked me too sleep many many nights. It was a necessity. I still sleep as little now as I did then.

For weeks, life was on auto-pilot but I do remember the comfort of sharing memories with people who came over with a giant green salad or a pint of sorbet. I remember those moments gently pulled me out of this quiet space I had made for weeks. The comfort of my neighbor Camille's voice as she scooped her famous peach granita into little cups for us and her kids. The warmth of the oven touching my cheeks as I opened it to retrieve the first tart I had made since...since Thierry had left us.

Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart

Normalcy mixed with extraordinary circumstances. Jennifer and her family are going through this as I write it. They need us, our thoughts, prayers and memories of them for those who knew them. They need them now but they will need them months and years form now. Thankfully, and because the food community and humanity in general is pretty damn grand, reaching out to them is already happening.

Erika from Ivory Hut, who went through her own tragedy last year, losing everything in a house fire, is gathering the troops to help out. A care package program is being organized for those who are not in Jennifer's area so a little piece of love and care can be delivered now and for months to come right to her doorstep. Locals are also organizing a relief effort to show her that not only we care but we are here for her.

White Nectarines

To get more details and to lend a hand and a comforting gesture, please email Erika at erika@ivoryhut.com

My heart is heavy for the Perillos right now. But it is also full of hope. I know there will be many a smiles in their future even only through the solace of your thoughts and words for them.

When someone around Bill and myself is going through tough times and could use a night off, we volunteer to take care of their kids, their pups or we just drop off a collection of dvds and a good meal. It's small compared to the void we cannot fill but it's a start. Food I can do. Which is why I am sharing three recipes (click on "continue for recipes" that are good options to bring to someone who might need a little comfort and a lot of hugs.

Peach & Nectarine Granita

This post is dedicated to Mikey, Jennifer and their daughters. We don't know each other all that well, but I really wish I could change your August. Now and forever.

Please read this.


Quinoa, Watermelon and Feta Salad:

Serves 6 to 8 as a side dish

When it comes to food and comforting friends with a little something to nosh on, I always gravitate towards dishes that can easily last a few days and only get better with a bit of time. Lately, we have been feasting on bowls after bowls of Quinoa, Watermelon and Feta Salad many days in a row. Sometimes with a poached egg on top. In the heat of the summer, this salad is not only healthy and light but also super refreshing.

Ingredients:
1.5 cups quinoa
3 cups water
1 cup watermelon, rind removed and cut into small cubes
2 oz feta, crumbled
2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped thin
1/3 cup loosely packed mint, chopped thin
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of one lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of salt and pepper

Directions:
In a large saucepan, bring the quinoa and water to a rolling boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover the pot halfway and cook until the water is completely absorbed and the quinoa is translucent (about 20 minutes). Let cool completely.
When the quinoa is cooled, add the remaining ingredients and fold carefully. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta Tart:

Serves 4 as a light main dish.

Another dish that I always find easy to fix, transport and leave in someone's fridge or freezer for them to reheat easily and quickly is a gluten free Roasted Pepper & Ricotta Tart. Accompanied by a green salad and you have something satisfying and nourishing. A little balm for the heart. And the belly.

Ingredients:

For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon piment d'Espelette (or pinch red pepper flakes)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
3 egg yolks (save one white for the filling)
pinch salt
1/2 cup (80gr) brown rice flour
1/2 cup (60gr) millet flour
1/4 cup (30gr) sorghum flour
1/4 cup (40gr) potato flour
(or 1.5 cups of all purpose flour if not using gf flours)

For the filling:
3 to 4 bell peppers of various colors (red, yellow, orange)
1 cup ricotta
1 egg white
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip together the butter, piment and mustard on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add all the different flours and mix briefly. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your preferred tart pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
You can freeze the dough for up to 3 months and prepare it up to 4 days in advance.

Prepare the filling:
Method 1:
Preheat the oven to 400F and then roast the peppers until their skin turn black, remove from the oven, place then in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Remove the plastic, and peel the skin right off the pepper, seed them too and cut them in halves or at least fairly large pieces.

Method 2:
Blacken the skin of the peppers over an open flame such as a gas stove or grill. Place then in bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let them cool completely. Remove the plastic, and peel the skin right off the pepper, seed them too and cut them in halves or at least fairly large pieces.

Preheat the oven to 350F and position a rack in the middle.
In a medium bowl, mix the ricotta, egg white, salt and pepper. Layer at the bottom of the prepared tart shell. Layer the roasted pepper pieces on top.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes.

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Peach and Nectarine Granita:

Makes enough for 8

Since it's August, and it's still mostly to very warm just about anywhere, I got to say that the most comforting thing for me and many others I know, is still to dig my spoon in soft soothing ice cream. Or sorbet. Or granita. In this case, I was pressed to use the four peaches and nectarines we still had from our trip to the market before heading down to Florida. So easy to make and since it's stored in the freezer, it'll be there anytime you need a little cooling treat.

Ingredients:
2 peaches, skin and pit removed
2 nectarines, skin and pit removed
1/4 cup honey
juice of one lemon
1 cup Greek yogurt or creme fraiche

Directions:
In a food processor, puree all the ingredients together. Place in a large baking dish and freeze. After two hours, run a fork along the length of the dish, breaking up the fruit mixture into a granita. Repeat the process every hour or so for about 4-5 times until the mixture is completely frozen but you get a shaved ice consistency all the way through. We like ours chunky but the more times you run your fork in the mixture, the thinner the shavings will be.

39 comments:

Mikki said...

I think you may have a bad link there on the 'read this'. Just to let you know. Beautiful post.

london bakes said...

Such a beautiful post, full of compassion and empathy. I can't imagine what Jennifer is going through but I know that we can help. Thank you for you words.

Ruth said...

The tart looks amazing! So vibrant! Thanks again for sharing your fantastic photos and recipes.

Maria said...

Moving post. My heart is aching for Jennifer and her family. They are in our thoughts and prayers.

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga said...

Helene what a lovely post!

The Roasted Red Pepper & Ricotta Tart looks soo good and I am usually a sweets rather than savory girl but that one has me captivated!

As do the peaches and nectarines and summer wonderful fruits.

Laura V said...

Beautifully written! Thank you for sharing your heart. See you next week!

Caneel said...

Thank you for this. I've been reeling from this news since Monday, and I've never met Jennifer (only through following her on Twitter and her blog). I'm sorry about the loss of your brother. This is a beautiful post, and offers so much light in both words and photos. I love that you provided these recipes. How wonderful.

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com said...

Well said Helene. Blogging community is so compassionate. I am glad to be able to support in any way.

MikeVFMK said...

Beautifully written. Thankfully we have food like this which connects people and brings them together.

We're all thinking about Jennifer and her children. Hopefully some of those packages can help.

Laurel said...

Thank you for this post. Food is something I do well and fortunately a way to comfort. I really appreciate these recipes, as they will be helpful when the unfortunate time arises.

Dori said...

Oh, such a beautiful post. My heart goes out to Jennifer and her girls.

Lulu, Voyage Gourmand said...

Well, I'd love to have a piece of tart and taste the granita! It looks so good, like always!

Liz Rueven said...

You have articulated compassion in the most heartfelt and perfect way. Sensitive souls ache for those who are suffering, even if we don't "know" them well. Extra compassion is a beautiful thing.

One day, unexpectedly, this family will find beauty in small wonders again, like perfectly ripe peaches dripping with August nectar. They truly will, they just can't imagine it yet....

Shelby said...

My heart goes out to their family...thank you for your recognition and compassion for the challenges of life and love..

Ann said...

What a lovely tribute post....so eloquent and heartfelt. I'm sorry for the loss of your brother.

Helene Dsouza said...

great post with touching words, interessting photographie and new recipes for me to discover. =)

Chris Saxon Koelker said...

It's so strange you said that you have a love/hate relationship with August. I thought that exact same thing yesterday. I was chopping up veggies for a salad and that very idea elbowed its way into my thoughts. I don't like August for some reason. But I want to always be grateful for each day too. Thank you for blending beautiful food with sweet and loving words. I will send healing thoughts to Jennifer and her daughters.

decocinasytacones said...

Oh Helene, the pictures are beautiful, specially that with the peaches and the indigo colour background. I love that color.
I like the recipes too, quinoa is something I have discovered not so long ago and I already love it.
Thanks for sharing
Love from Spain
Marialuisa

Marina said...

very warm post. thank you for sharing.

my grandmother would've celebrated today 90 years, but she passed away 14 years ago.

very sorry for the loss of your brother, but he is in your memories and nothing could take him away from you

Hinna said...

I lost my grandparents and father in the span of 14 months. My grandmother was very sick, so it was kind of "expected." My grandfather missed my grandmother so much and within 3 months, he passed away from pneumonia. But my dad...his death was very sudden and unexpected. I was away from home and I got the news over the phone.
I know how mind numbing death can be and it was with help from God and family and friends who rallied behind me and my family that helped us get through the difficult times.

Valérie ( Franche-Comté ) said...

I love quinoa, bulgur, too, do you know "the FONIO" is a grain of African type.
I wish you a nice evening

Valerie.

LisaKnowsTea said...

What a lovely post. Food and I also believe tea can help those going through a tough time. It shows you care, you took time, and you tried. I remember becoming widowed at 25. I always thought widows were old people. That is not the case sometimes unfortunately.

athena said...

what a devastating loss for this family. puts everything into perspective. i am thinking of jennifer and her children at this difficult time. thank you for the beautiful post.

marissa said...

What a beautiful and heartfelt post. As a fellow sister who has lost her dear brother (Andrew), I felt the need to reach out. I appreciated seeing you speak so openly about how those little gestures can help so many. Even just acknowledging the loss.

My thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer and her family, and hoping that this August passes quickly for you.

anneliesz said...

Helene- I agree with so much of what you wrote in this blog and am baking a pie tomorrow. Thanks for posting the care package info also. My May is your August. This past year has been one of more grieving than can be imagined. And I never would have understood it, had it not been firsthand, but time heals. Time does not make it right, but it does heal.

Sarah (Snippets of Thyme) said...

I lost a sister during my childhood. I share your grief and that of Jennifer's. I don't know her or the blog but have been so shocked by the suddenness of death brought to this family and in awe of the caring and connectedness of food bloggers everywhere.

carlyklock said...

Beautiful post. You so eloquently put into words what so many of us are feeling right now.

My husband and I have a date tomorrow afternoon to make that peanut butter pie.

Nic@diningwithastud said...

Oh what a beautiful post!
I love your tart - it looks so delicious!

Vicki Bensinger said...

Losing someone you love or care about is such a difficult thing. The void you feel can often be unbearable. I've lost several people in my life that I've loved and 3 very close friends. It's never easy and although time heals the wounds you never forget them.

Just yesterday my best friend from college, who was killed by a drunk driver - her girls were on facebook chatting. One said to the other that she loved her more than life itself. I almost cried and emailed their dad to tell them what an amazing job he did raising his girls. Lori was killed while her children were 6&7 and now they are in their mid 20s. My heart sunk, yet I felt so happy for Michael who raised them on his own.

Life is hard and everyday we are reminded of it with all the problems in our world. I think the suffering makes us stronger even when we feel weak.

Nice post even if it does stir up memories. Beautiful photos, I'm sure they're delicious as well!

Erica said...

Such a beautiful post!

Year Old Birthday Party Ideas

Jamie @ Wokintime said...

What a touching post. I lost my brother in August too, ten years ago next week. Thank you for sharing this with us and my deepest condolences to your friend.

I clicked through to her post about peanut butter pie and it brought a tear to my eye. Yes, we really need to be thankful for every minute we have with each other.

Stephy said...

Beautiful post. Love the sound of the watermelon quinoa salad

bicocacolors said...

Yummy Yummy!!!!

marla {family fresh cooking} said...

Hey girl, thanks for sharing these beautiful, nurturing recipes with us. Jennifer's loss is tragic and encourages us to all slow down & think about what is really important. The early loss of your brother and her husband is beyond sad and hard to understand. We are not meant to "understand" death. Though I wish we could.
Kisses, hugs and LOVE to you my friend.

darel said...

The pictures look great. I especially like the backdrop. It's the whole "at home" aesthetic. One thing that escapes me is the tart crust. Your readers more often than not do not purchase more than two types of flours. You should rework the recipe or explain the reason why you had to incorporate so many flour types. It's a tart shell recipe not the human genome.

Helene said...

darel: my readers know that the recipes on this blog are gluten free (It's in the post permalink, the tags and the recipe title). Substitution for regular wheat flour are also given.

Susan said...

Helene,
I somehow feel better reading your thoughts on this month, August.
I always felt the same way about this month. So many life changing events occurred this month to me in my life. Mostly ones I would like to forget, if only I could turn off that switch in my head, but, alas, it just intensifies, the more I try to put it out of my head, the more it invades my space.
A beautiful post, as usual.
Susan

Frances @The Foodess Files said...

Very well said. THoughts and hearts going out to Jennifer and her family. Food is appropriate medicine for almost everything life throws at us. Lovely recipes.

food, food, food, and more food said...

I love your blog. You did a great job. I like your photos and how you set them up, very artistic.

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