It was a busy Fourth of July weekend this year, but it was also a fun one. Desi and I took a day trip to one of our favorite places here in the Washington area, Harper’s Ferry, a national park on the West Virginia border. Harper’s Ferry is just an hour’s drive from Washington but perhaps the fact that you cross two state borders to get there gives it that slight touch of the exotic.
It was a gorgeous day perfect for hiking, and hike we did. Harper’s Ferry has something for everyone: mysterious trails, sweeping views, a confluence of two fabled rivers– the Shenandoah and the Potomac– a historic and still active railroad, ruins of an old mill, and stories of heroic abolitionists.
As we made our way to Lower Town, where everyone converges, we saw wildflowers of every color and thorny bushes filled with little red berries that Desi insisted were raspberries because they looked just like. He would have eaten them had I not stopped him — it’s like traveling with a kid. Eagles cut an arc across the perfect blue sky dotted with white clouds. As we walked along the river we spotted a turtle, a heron, ducks, and an intrepid deer who stared at us with huge, soft eyes, wondering, no doubt, why we were there.
We had a leisurely lunch at one of the restaurants in Lower Town, gave a miss to Jefferson Rock — a shale rock formation from where Thomas Jefferson is said to have viewed the confluence of the rivers– just because we’d been there a dozen times before and were too tired to do any more walking and climbing, and finally we headed back home to Opie and Pie, in time for dinner and to watch the fireworks on TV.
Hope you had a lovely Fourth. What did you do?
I made this recipe the other night so we could have something tasty to brown bag, but we nearly ate it all up before we could actually get it into our lunchboxes. This Quinoa and Lentil Salad is complex, delicious and so simple that you will wonder how it got to be all those things.
I added to the salad a ton of fresh vegetables, including onions, carrots, celery, green peppers and sweet potatoes. And then I drizzled over it strips of fresh basil from my yard. The smokiness of the cumin and the chili was perfect with the earthy lentils, nutty quinoa and the sweetness of the sweet potatoes, carrots and basil. And each serving has more than 16 grams of protein and nearly 19 grams of dietary fiber. Beat that.
Just looking at the pictures now, as I post this, is making me hungry. Hope you’ll try it too. Enjoy!
- 1 cup puy lentils (use brown lentils or whole masoor if you'd rather)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in a small dice
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ½ cup quinoa
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes or paprika
- 2 medium carrots, finely diced
- 1 medium onion, finely diced
- 2 stalks of celery, finely diced
- 1 green pepper, deseeded and finely diced
- Juice of ½ lemon
- ¼ cup packed basil leaves, cut into thin ribbons
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the sweet potatoes and cinnamon and place in a single layer in a baking pan. Bake the sweet potatoes for 20-25 minutes or until they are fork tender. Set aside.
- Soak the lentils in water mixed with 1 tsp of salt. There should be enough water to cover the lentils by an inch. Set aside for 30 minutes. This helps the lentils better hold their shape when they're cooked (a trick I picked up from watching America's Test Kitchen)
- Drain and wash the lentils and place them in a pot. Add 2 cups of water and bay leaves. Bring the lentils to a boil over medium heat, cover and cook until lentils are tender but still hold their shape. This took me under five minutes, so be sure to check your lentils frequently so they don't turn mushy.
- To cook the quinoa, wash the quinoa and let it drain thoroughly. In a dry skillet, roast the quinoa until you get a nutty fragrance (also a trick learned from America's Test Kitchen). Add 1 cup of water to the quinoa, bring to a boil, lower the heat to the lowest point on your stove, and cook 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.
- Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onions, carrots and celery and a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper. Cook, stirring, for about 8 minutes or until the onions turn soft and the carrots are cooked a bit but still have a bite.
- Add the garlic. cumin and ed chilli flakes and saute for another minute.
- Add the green peppers and continue to saute until the peppers are just tender, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the roasted sweet potatoes, quinoa, lentils and lemon juice and mix everything thoroughly. Stir in the basil.
- Serve hot or warm.