My husband has this silly notion that I need to eat meat every single day. I don’t understand where he’s gotten this idea. Yes, I like to eat meat. No, I probably won’t ever become a vegetarian. Each time he jests (not maliciously) about my carnivorous inclinations, I laugh (not sincerely). I serve meat once, twice, maybe three times a week. We are part-time vegetarians. I wonder why being labeled (even jokingly) as a strict carnivore seems almost an affront. Because it implies that I don’t know how to balance my diet? My best explanation for my eating habits is that I follow my cravings. Some weeks I crave more chicken, fish or pork. Some other weeks, they don’t appeal to me at all. I like to think my body knows what it needs.
Take tonight’s dinner, for example. My current favorite starch is red rice. I picked up a bag of Thai Jasmine red rice recently and really liked it. It’s not quite as dense as brown rice but it has the same nutty quality with the mouth feel of white rice. Stir fried with a little oil, garlic and soy sauce, it’s been a tasty, easy side to prepare.
On my way home from the office tonight, I knew that red rice would be part of our dinner. I also had an acorn squash that needed to be roasted. What else, though? I needed something else to round out the meal.
Contrary to what my husband would have expected, I arrived home with more vegetables. I skipped the meat counter and didn’t even consider picking up a roast chicken (at least not tonight). I picked up beets–been craving them (see what I mean?). I also wanted to give fennel another chance. I was never fond of its anise-y flavor but I had a bite at a restaurant recently that left me reconsidering my dislike for it. The cast of characters in place, I set about roasting them.
The vegetables were fantastic together. The sugars caramelized to bring out their mild sweetness but all had different qualities that complemented each other in both taste and texture. I even loved the fennel since the licorice flavor mellowed a lot during roasting. And the colors–compliments of Mother Nature–are a feast for the eyes.
Never one to eat things as-is, I dressed the rice and veggies with a vinegar, garlic, salt and soy sauce mixture (a common Filipino dipping sauce). Just a little to balance out the sweetness of the veggies and also so the rice wouldn’t be too dry. In went some chopped chives and chopped Italian parsley since I already had them in the fridge (turned out to be a very nice addition).
You know how some things were just meant to be together? This is how I feel about red rice and this trio of veggies. This was a truly satisfying meal and there’s nary a piece of meat in sight. I’ll be making this again and again.
- ***For the veggies***
- 1 acorn squash, peeled and cut in 1-inch pieces
- 2 golden beets, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 3 red beets, cut in 1-inch pieces
- 1 fennel bulb, quartered
- olive oil for tossing
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Granulated garlic (not garlic salt) or 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- **For the rice***
- 1 cup red rice (cargo rice, red Thai Jasmine rice)
- chopped parsley
- chopped chives
- ***For condiment***
- White vinegar (a few tablespoons to ¼ cup)
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- salt, just a pinch or two
- soy sauce, a few dashes
- To prepare the rice: Rinse the rice and transfer to a 2-quart (or similar size) sauce pan. Add water to cover rice. I always use the finger-joint method and dip my middle finger into the water until it touches the top of the rice in the pan. The water level should reach the first joint of your middle finger. Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until cooked, about 30 minutes.
- To roast the veggies: Preheat your oven to 375°F. Toss the veggies in olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet. Arrange in a single layer and bake for about 40-45 minutes until the vegetables are tender. You might want to toss the veggies once or twice while roasting them.
- Five minutes before you take the veggies out of the oven, sprinkle the granulated or fresh crushed garlic over the top. Roast for a few more minutes to allow the garlic to cook before taking out of the oven.
- To prepare the condiment: Combine the vinegar, garlic, salt and soy sauce in a small bowl.
- To assemble: Place one serving of rice and veggies on a plate. Drizzle a teaspoon or two of the vinegar/garlic condiment and garnish with chopped parsley and chives. Serve warm.