The key to successfully cooking for other people while they are on a meditation retreat is to think thoughts of love and compassion, so as to channel those same qualities into the food you make, hence providing nourishment that dares to delve into a world beyond physical. With this intention in mind, I like to think of unicorns and bunnies to facilitate this work. If I find myself getting caught up thinking whether my imagined unicorn should have a pink mane or a purple one, I resort to softly humming, “Kumbaya” or “My Favourite Things” from the Sound of Music (bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens are da bomb).
Ultimately, retreat-worthy food is nourishing, but easy to digest; tasty, but leaves the palate clean so to avoid distractedly licking one’s chops while trying to meditate. Here is a vegan salad made of pickled beets and black rice that I served this past weekend at a day of silent meditation – I think it would be an enjoyable lunch, eaten in silence or not.
Beet and black rice salad
1 cup uncooked black rice
1-750 ml jar of sliced pickled beets
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1/4 cup nigella seeds
1/2 cup zereshk or chopped dried cranberries
1 heaping handful of fresh parsley
1/4 cup sesame oil
salt and pepper
Cook the black rice in a spacious pot so that it can simmer in excess water (start with adding 3 cups). By cooking the rice in a loose, dance-y way, it will clump less in the salad. When the rice is cooked (about 30 minutes), drain in a fine-mesh sieve and rinse with cold water. Tip the rice into a big bowl. Now drain the jar of beets and rinse the beets with water – just a little bit is fine, you want the beets to still retain some of their vinegaryness. Add the beets to the rice. Grate over the zest of the orange, and squeeze over its juice. Add the remaining ingredients and toss toss toss. If it still tastes too sour for your liking, add a tablespoon of sugar or maple syrup to balance out the flavour.
A note about sourcing ingredients: black rice can be found at an Asian supermarket, or substitute wild rice if that’s easier to find. Nigella seeds are little, dusty-looking black seeds that have a spicy, onion-y taste – they can be found at a Middle Eastern supermarket. Zereshk is the dried fruit of beriberis, and look like smaller versions of a raisin, but have a sour taste. They can be found in a Persian or Middle Eastern supermarket as well. If you happen to live in Winnipeg, both nigella seeds and zereshk can be found at Dino’s Supermarket on Notre Dame.