Wednesday, September 21, 2011

As Autumn Approaches - Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa Pilaf

As the days grow cooler and shorter, my tastes change. I want fewer salads and more soups. Summer's the time for iced rooibos sun tea, watermelon slices, and pops. But there's nothing like a spiced hot apple cider after a brisk fall walk. When I get home from work and it's already dark, I find comfort in tending to a vat of warming stew. Here is one of my favorite transitional recipes that is perfect for those changeling September nights when the air isn't sure if it's clinging to Summer or letting go to Autumn at last.

Quinoa Pilaf ingredients


3/4 cup Quinoa
1 1/2 cups Water or Vegetable Broth or a combination

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 - 1/2 of a small Onion
1 big clove of Garlic
2 cups sliced Mushrooms [I prefer portobello or baby bella, but you can use any type]
1 med. Zucchini
1 cup Chickpeas
Pine nuts, toasted or untoasted [optional]
Parsley, Basil, Thyme, Salt, Pepper


- Soak your protein-rich quinoa in water while you wash, slice, and otherwise prep your veggies. This will remove the saponin, which is a naturally occurring bitter coating on the seeds. Drain off the water using a fine mesh strainer, rinsing one more time if you wish.

- Cook the quinoa and water [or broth or a combination thereof] over medium heat for 10 minutes, then turn the heat off but keep the pot on the burner and leave the pot's cover on to let it steam for a bit while you finish up the veggies.

- While the quinoa is cooking, heat a bit of Olive Oil in a deep pan and cook down the onions until they are translucent. You can skip this step if you're an onion-hater. [Don't be a hater!]

- Add the sliced mushrooms, chopped garlic, and a pinch of sea salt and stir. Cook until the mushrooms begin to let go of their juices.

- Throw in the sliced zucchini, another pinch of salt, a couple of grinds of pepper, and cook to almost desired doneness. [Is "doneness" really a word?] In stews, I prefer my zucchini more tender than if I were serving it on its own, but your mileage may vary.

- Mix in your chickpeas. Whether you soaked dried ones [preferred] or drained canned ones, these are ready to go and only need to be incorporated into the mix and warmed through, which happens quickly enough.

- Next you will throw the veggies into the quinoa pot or the quinoa into the veggies pan, depending on which has more real estate, and mix them together adding your desired seasonings to taste. Basil and parsley taste lovely in this dish, but my favorite is fresh thyme if you have access to it.

- Serve warm topped with toasted pine nuts, if desired, and a nice sided salad. Enjoy!

Monday, September 5, 2011

There's a garden in my drink

I remember way back in the day when I fell in love with gin and the Gin & Tonic.  I wasn't a big vodka fan (that came later) and G&Ts were perfect for a hot day and I was living in Texas so there were plenty of those.  Made well a Gin & Tonic is light and crisp not too sweet and not too heavy like even sometimes the most everyday pilsner can be (for me anyway).  It seems like for a long time there was quality gin and rotgut both more or less mass produced and that was pretty much about it.  At least here in the US.  Anyone doing anything close to micro batches or anything with a bolder botanical profile was likely making it in their bathtub or perhaps a distillery like they had on the tv show M.A.S.H.!

Enter gins like Hendrick's from Scotland and a little closer to home Death's Door from Wisconsin.  There's a great list here of different brands of gin, their flavor profile and where they are crafted if you really want to see the variety.

Cut to about a month ago when M sent me a link for a Gin Martini made with cucumber, mint, and tarragon.  We were doing a lot with cucumber and tarragon - those popsicle recipes - and I believe her comment was, "this looks great!  we should try it out!"
Cut to last Wednesday when I was cruising  at the farmers' market and they had all kinds of great herbs.  Everything except my tried and true cilantro, but there was mint, tarragon, dill, four varieties of basil and lastly the lovely shiso.  Completely intrigued by shiso (up until this point I had only seen shiso in the few Japanese grocery stores I frequent and it's always highly guarded under a thick layer of plastic wrap and styrofoam - I think it is where Fresh Direct got their idea about produce delivery - such a waste, but anyway...) I gave it a sniff and for 2 bucks I was in.  It's part of the mint family and it did have that, but there was also some pepper going on and it was grassy and delicate.  The wheels start turning.  I look in my bag and see that I've already purchased a gazillion kirby cucumbers, tarragon - check, mint - check (and just in case), the shiso and M's birthday is coming up on the weekend.  I start to have visions of cute antique jars, gifting this ├╝ber botanical mixer and serving my friend a fancy cucumber tarragon martini to toast her!

The link to the recipe is above and here.  I replaced the mint with shiso leaves.  Depending on the size of the leaves use 2 - 4.  The cocktail is strong and herbaceous.  The St. Germaine gives it just enough sweet to round everything out.

Happy Birthday M!  


The leaves sticking out of the top of the jar was supposed to look like a sophisticated and subtle hint about the ingredients - a card of sorts.  I can't help, but think of a mullet when I look at this picture - business up front and a party in the back.  Next time I'll remind myself "less is more".