The pots dotting the back porch are spiked with dead annuals.
A pile of rocks is on our back patio along edge of the pond, waiting to be scrubbed of dried algae, re-placed decoratively around the perimeter and sunk beneath the surface of the rainwater that filled it when we finally got a cloudburst this fall.
A raised bed along the side of our house is half full of plants that used to be the green of the irises. I removed the other half weeks ago but these craggy shoots remain, an eyesore to me and, I’m sure, every gardener within a two-mile radius.
We are way behind on yard work.* It’s curious that I can go weeks and weeks without addressing it. Not making excuses. Just deciding to do other things. It’s funny, since I actually enjoy time outside working with my hands.
As it goes when a person finds herself suddenly unable, this week I mourned the tantalizing proximity of both the depleted Alyssum and the pruners, that a nasty sprained ankle is keeping me from uniting the two.
Now that I can’t rake leaves, haul clippings to the yard waste bin and clean up the dregs of autumn, it’s exactly what I want to do. I can almost hear my yard sneering. Oh, sure. Now you want to do it.
I’m sorry, yard. But life takes it out of you. And so, I’m reminded, does healing. This week I’ve been exhausted by pain and effort, sometimes nauseous with it. It sounds dramatic for a sprained ankle, I know. I’m surprised, too.
I cooked this week but couldn’t manage to tote individual ingredients out to the good light and then back to the cutting board. Back and forth. Had I been able to, I would have taken a dozen or so pictures of the beautiful yam I used for this recipe. I love yams. So storable and sustaining. And one goes a long way. I used only half of it for this salad. We ate the rest (salted and roasted again) as a garnish on our standby black bean tacos.
This recipe is what it is, a simple salad made from what I had on hand. The version I made didn’t include ginger but it begged for it (salads don’t sneer at me, like the yard). I’ve included a half-teaspoon below because I just know it will taste fabulous.
* To be fair, and I want to be, my husband is keeping the leaves in check in the front. Thank you, honey. He also cleaned the gutters, though he was rewarded with a gash on the leg for his effort this weekend. I heard the ladder (almost) crashing and later the story that it could have been much, much worse. Maybe that’s why we avoid the yard. Thank goodness there aren’t two of us hobbling around.
Black Rice and Hijiki Salad with Roasted Root Vegetables
1¾ cups water
1 cup black or wild rice
½ large yam, cut into thick sticks to equal about 2 cups yam pieces
¼ – ½ large parsnip, as above
4 tablespoons dried hijiki
¼ cup grapeseed oil
1½ tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons mirin (rice wine)
½ teaspoon grated fresh ginger
½ teaspoon tamari sauce
¼ teaspoon Celtic sea salt
toasted sesame seeds
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a small saucepan, combine the water, rice and enough salt to make the water taste briny. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until done (the short-grain black rice I used cooked in about 25 minutes). If need be, drain rice of any excess water.
While the rice cooks, toss yams and parsnips with a splash of grapeseed oil, salt and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until softened and starting to brown at the edges, turning periodically to keep them from burning.
While the vegetables roast, place hijiki in a heat-proof measuring cup. Heat more water to boiling in a kettle or teapot and pour over the hijiki. Let sit until softened, about 5 minutes. Drain.
Combine grapeseed oil, vinegar, mirin, ginger, tamari and salt in a small bowl and whisk until combined.
In a large bowl, combine the rice, hijiki and root vegetables. Pour the dressing over all of it and stir well to coat. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve warm.