Today’s delightful recipe is from The Clever Cookbook, a beautiful debut work written by the talented, humorous and fun-loving Emilie Raffa.
I was first drawn to Emilie’s blog, The Clever Carrot, a number of years ago through her distinct visual artistry. If you enjoy quality food photography, or are a food blogger looking to improve your own, my advice is to pitch a tent, get installed and bring your popcorn. This girl has the magic touch — a clean at times ethereal aesthetic that will leave you breathless in its wake. Most infuriatingly, (and I mean that only in a loving way), she makes it look easy. A couple of my favorite examples are here, here and here.
But what keeps me connected to Emilie and interested in her work is her grounded, relatable and friendly style. A busy mom of two boys, she often shares hilarious antics about life, love and family and its from this perspective that she writes her first cookbook packed with ingenious tips, techniques and time saving savvy for stress free cooking.
What I appreciate most about this cookbook is that it delivers on its promise.
By using a handful of originating or master recipes (be it a sauce or a base stock for example), Emilie shows us how to build a number of delicious spin-off recipes from that point of origin — it’s a clever and extremely useful time-saving technique that keeps us connected to home cooking while also minimizing our grief. And anyone living under the crush of today’s modern demands – parent or otherwise – will value this approach.
If there is one thing I have learnt along this nutrition journey is that most of us want to be preparing wholesome meals made from real food it’s just that we often feel overwhelmed and time defeated. Through her thoughtfully organized and executed cookbook, Emilie shows us how home cooking is not only possible but also fun.
This delicious Southwestern Quinoa Salad is a gorgeous example. I made a double batch of quinoa in the rice cooker the night before (30 second prep = 6 cups of cooked quinoa) creating not only enough for the salad but also additional portions to pop in the fridge or freezer for the next time I make this salad or any recipe with quinoa — (I often use quinoa as a sub for rice in stir-fries and sides of all kinds).
I also tossed Emilie’s vinaigrette together the night before which reduced my dinner time prep and also allowed the flavors of the dressing to gather overnight drawing out their tangy deliciousness. You could easily double this recipe too and store in the fridge for the week to enjoy on anything!
As for the black beans, much like the grains, Emilie has devoted a section to cooking beans (yes, you can prep beans as effortlessly as the quinoa I just described) and once you’re on a roll you won’t believe how easy and worthwhile it is. You’ll be using these get-ahead strategies over and over again in your kitchen and stocking your freezer as you go along.
Reading this cookbook is not only helpful, it’s also entertaining.
I found myself laughing out loud at certain intersections as Emilie’s characteristic sense of humor shines through at the most opportune times: “my freezer is a war zone” she admits – “you need a helmet and an ice pick to excavate that thing” and suddenly, I feel right at home.
Also not to be missed are the clever tips she sprinkles throughout the book including reviving tired spices (I know I have quite a few and prefer not to toss them out) — and maximizing the absorption and flavor of marinades — did you know that you can prep and freeze marinaded proteins and that there is a distinct advantage to doing so? Neither did I but I’m so glad I discovered her technique. The book is full of ideas like this.
I hope you give this delicious recipe a try and I heartily encourage you to check out Emilie’s beautiful debut effort The Clever Cookbook featuring over 80 recipes with a photo to accompany each recipe (love that). Whether you’re a beginner or a well-acquainted confident cook, there is something for everyone in this book and I know you will find inspiration within its pages.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to make Emilie’s irresistible looking Easy Zucchini & Brown Rice Gratin (or perhaps I’ll float over to her dreamy Banana Cloud Cake…), I haven’t quite decided yet.
- For the Quinoa Salad
- 2 cups cooked quinoa, room temperature
- 1 + ½ cups cooked black beans, rinsed and drained if using canned
- 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or thawed from frozen
- 1 cup cheery tomatoes, halved
- 1 orange bell pepper, finely diced
- ¼ cup scallions, thinly sliced (I used red onion)
- ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley, plus some for garnish
- For the Honey-Lime Jam Jar Dressing
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tbsp honey (sub pure maple syrup for vegan version)
- 1 tsp cumin (I used ½ tsp powder + ½ tsp whole seeds)
- ½ cup olive oil
- coarse sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, combine: quinoa, black beans, corn, tomatoes, bell pepper, scallions and cilantro or parsley. Toss well but gently taking care not to mash the tomato.
- For the dressing, add the first five ingredients to an empty jam jar (any lidded container/jar will do). Season with salt & pepper. Affix the lid securely and shake well to blend fully.
- Lightly drizzle some of the vinaigrette over the salad and mix it together. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Garnish with additional sprigs of cilantro or parsley, as you wish.
- This salad tastes best after it has had a chance to sit for about 30 minutes to absorb flavor.
Make-Ahead: this salad can be assembled up to 3 hours in advance and dressed lightly according to Emilie who also suggests adding extra herbs and more vinaigrette to refresh the flavors just before serving.
Southwestern Flare: I happen to love the combination of chile and lime in dressings particularly in the company of Southwestern ingredients ~ if you would like to experiment, consider adding a touch of your favorite chile powder to the mix. Chopped fresh peppers, such as seeded jalapeño, could also be added to the salad itself.
Optional Add-Ins: meal salads are convenient and delicious and you can play around with the ingredients to suit your taste preferences and needs - consider adding in diced avocado, crumpled feta or goat cheese and a handful of chopped nuts or seeds for an additional nutrient boost.
Cilantro or Parsley: although we are all cilantro lovers in this home, I decided to go with parsley because, through forces I don't quite understand, my parsley managed to survive the December/January frost and is still thriving in my outdoor herb garden. I was so pleased with its beautiful grassy taste in this recipe that I would not hesitate to recommend it.
Cumin: I was introduced to cumin seed before cumin powder and I never quite got over my affection for the whole seed. It is punchier in flavor than the powder and I find it irresistible by comparison in most recipes but it does not 'dissolve' the way a ground spice does so, as always, it's a matter of personal preference.
Emilie Raffa is the creator of The Clever Carrot food blog ~ she was a finalist in the category of Best Photography in Saveur’s prestigious annual Blog Awards 2015 and her work was most recently featured in Oprah Magazine. As a not-so-secret admirer of Emilie’s work over the years, I am delighted to take part in this celebration of her beautiful and thoughtfully rendered debut publication The Clever Cookbook. Congratulations Emilie ~ O the places you’ll go! x.