Tag Archives: quinoa

Sunday Suppers: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

9 Aug
The squirt gun is to keep the Kittens at Bay

The squirt gun is to keep the Kittens at Bay

A friend whom I hadn’t seen in over twenty years came over for dinner last Thursday with his lovely wife.  We weren’t terribly close in college; he was a freshman when I was a senior, but one pivotal memory I have of him is this:  Wait for it.  In the summer of ’87, I babysat someone’s guitar while they went back home.  I stayed in the dorms, ostensibly Painting Bathrooms, but mainly it just meant that I lived there and got paid for it.  Awesome.  At any rate, I figured that, since I was babysitting the guitar anyway, I might as well learn how to play it.  So, I went to the local music shop downtown and bought strings and a Beginners’ Guitar Book.  It was red.  The book, not the guitar.  The guitar was Acoustic Guitar-Colored.  I practiced every day, got major blisters that turned satisfyingly to callous.  By the time the summer ended, I could play a (barely) passable rhythm guitar.

Jamie has always been a musician.  A wonderful musician.  He is a Mean Guitar Player, and he was in a Band and Everything.  Very Keen. (Here it is.  Finally):  I somehow found myself in his room with a couple of his buddies one day.  I told him the story of the Babysitting of the Guitar, and he asked what I could play.  I was all, “I know the chords to Supertramp’s Give a Little Bit.”  So, we played it.  Me on halting rhythm guitar, and he on Mean Lead Guitar.  And there was singing, too.  Here is Supertramp performing.  They are better than me, but they are Not better than Jamie.And, based on that one memory and the fact that our school was Very Small so there are not many of us Out There, we friended each other on facebook.  Turns out he now lives in North Dakota and is a professor at a the University of Mary in Bismarck.  He still plays in a band, Blind Mice, plus he’s a published Author and Poet and all around Cool Dude.  He also has a blog that’s over there in my blog roll–The Pipe and Pen.  His lovely wife, Gwyn, is taking on the formidable task of homeschooling their two genius children–literally, Genius Children.  I am not making this up–because they both should be in about the 17th grade, even though the older of the two is only nine.  Gwyn is also an Artist and Children’s Librarian.  And here they are:

Hooray for New-Found/Re-Found Wonderful Friends!

Hooray for New-Found/Re-Found Wonderful Friends!

Jamie, Gwyn and the kids were down visiting the relatives in the lower 47 states, and this brought them to within two-ish hours of Our Abode.  We asked them to come up for dinner, and they did.  Of course, both sides of this little dinner party were a wee bit nervous.  After all, Jamie and I had had One Musical Moment between us 21 years ago.  The Beloved barely knew Jamie at all, and we’d never met Gwyn.  Well, friends, let me tell you, we had a Fantastic Time.  We laughed and talked and were as comfortable with them as if we had been hanging out once a week for 21 years.  Fun, fun, fun was had by all.  I made Pitcher Mojitos for the Adult Beverage portion of the activity.  We ate marinated cucumbers (which, oddly enough, are in the same post as the Mojitos.  Handy), cheese and crackers and then had a really yummy Quinoa and Chickpea Salad for dinner.

Triscuits make the Perfect Platform for a Marinated Cucumber.  Jamie doesn't even like cucumbers, and he ate A Billion of them.

Triscuits make the Perfect Platform for a Marinated Cucumber. Jamie doesn't even like cucumbers, and he ate A Billion of them.

Jamie had told me on the phone a few days before that he and Gwyn are Vegetabletarians, so I immediately Dialed Q for Quinoa.  As an Omnivore, I figured that they were protein deficient (ha!), and I wanted to make sure to give them a Complete Protein.  Yes, I am that Accommodating.  Here was the thought process at the grocery store, after I’d gotten the quinoa and chickpeas:  Oooh, that looks good!  Snatch–I put it in my cart. Plus, I was sort of thinking along the lines of Hummus–I already had the chickpeas going for me, so I added some of the other Hummus Ingredients, too.

And here’s how it turned out.

Vegetabletarian Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

  • Quinoa, cooked in water with salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon zest (hummus-type ingredients)
  • 2 cans of chickpeas.  Yes, you can start with dried if you want.
  • salt and pepper
  • diced tomato
  • diced bell pepper
  • shredded fennel
  • diced red onion
  • a jar of pimientos (sweet red peppers)
  • rice wine vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • tahini (hummus-type ingredient)
  • honey
  • splash of soy sauce (for a hit of Umami Goodness)
  • toasted sesame oil (to intensify the tahini)
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh herbs–I used basil and thyme because they were Handy
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • I think that’s all.  I don’t really remember.  Sorry.

The quinoa takes about 15 minutes or so to cook, so I started it first.  I made it just like I make my rice–I don’t measure the liquid.  I just put in some quinoa and then added water until it was about 3/4″ above the seeds.  I measure it by sticking my finger in until I Hit Quinoa/Rice/Whatever.  If the liquid comes to the first knuckle on my Pointer Finger, I’m there.  Seriously, it works every time.  Anyway, I cooked it until it was just underdone and then let it cool down.  It finished cooking as it cooled.  Thanks, Carryover Cooking.

Then, I prepped all the vegetables and put them in a Very Large Bowl.  I threw in the drained chickpeas.

I made the dressing.  It was more or less a vinaigrette, but instead of the standard two or three parts oil to one part vinegar, I Flip Flopped it.  I wanted more bite and less oil, so I probably used about a cup of rice wine vinegar and maybe 1/3 cup olive oil.  I whisked in a bit of honey, maybe 1 1/2 tablespoons of tahini a splash of soy sauce, a few drops of sesame oil and salt and pepper, to taste.

I stirred everything together and chilled it for several hours.  Before serving, I stirred in the herbs.  I also sprinkled the feta on top, although I could just have easily have stirred it in, too.  Do what you want.  Oh, here it is:

Yummy Vegetabletarian Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

Yummy Vegetabletarian Quinoa and Chickpea Salad

And that’s really it.  Jamie and Gwyn seemed to enjoy it.  The Beloved and I enjoyed it.  And we all got Complete Proteins.  Yay, us.

This isn’t really a recipe, you know.  It’s about putting some Lovely South American Seeds together with some fresh vegetables and Some Sort of Dressing.  Change up the veggies.  Add an animal protein if you’re not a Vegetabletarian.  You could make it Greek Style, Italian Style, Mexican Style–whatever, just by mixing up the vegetables and the flavors in your dressing.

In conclusion:

  1. Mini-Reunions with Guitar Heroes from College are a Very Good Thing.
  2. Guitar Heroes from College marry wonderful people.
  3. Jamie and Gwyn do not appear to be suffering from a Lack of Protein.  I like to think I did my Part.
  4. Quinoa and chickpeas go together Very Nicely.

PS  I decided not to use the pictured mustard in the picture up there at the top when I decided that tahini would be a good idea.  I figured that mustard plus tahini equaled ick.

That is all.

Sunday Suppers: Citrus-Scented Quinoa with Tuna

19 Jan
Anything rice can do quinoa can do better

Anything rice can do quinoa can do better

We bought quinoa a couple of weeks ago, just for fun.  We’ve heard so many good things about it, and we felt like, as health-conscious and enlightened citizens, we should check out this wonder grain.  First, the preferred pronunciation is “KEEN-wah” (I say “keen WAH” though, because it reminds me of Saturday afternoon Kung Fu movies.  I apologize for being an Ugly American, but there you have it).  It’s apparently okay to pronounce it all sorts of ways:  “KEE-no-ah” and even “KWIN-oh-ah” are okay, too.  So, if you ask for it in one of these ways, don’t let anyone try and tell you your pronunciation is wrong.  Tomato, toMAHto.

If you’re not in the know about quinoa, don’t worry. You’re only about 5000 years behind the times. Quinoa has been a staple grain in South America forever (well, for at least 5000 years).  It’s kind of a cereal, but not really.  Cereals are grasses, and quinoa isn’t a grass, but the little seeds harvested from the quinoa plant are often treated as cereals.  You cook them pretty much like rice, at a 2 to 1 ratio of liquid to quinoa.  Bring to a boil.  Turn heat down and cover.  Simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.  Fluff with fork.  Put in face.

Things I Like About Quinoa

  • I like the name.  Foods that start with “Q” are fun.
  • I like that it’s an American food.  Nobody had to cross an ocean and bring it back.  In fact, it still grows wild in on the slopes of the Andes.
  • I like its sense of humor.   Quinoa’s natural defense against hungry birds looking for a cheap snack is to coat their tasty seeds with saponins.  Saponins are bitter, and they get foamy if you shake them up in water.  Soap.  Yum!  Anyway, in order to make quinoa palatable, smart humans learned to soak the quinoa in several changes of water before using.  In modern times, bored food scientists decided to create a hybrid low in saponins.  They succeeded, and in one season, the birds ate ALL the quinoa.  Ha!
  • I like that it is nutritionally complete.  Quinoa has the highest percentage of protein of all grains–18-20%.  It also is a complete protein, containing all the amino acids humans need.  The Incas called it the “Mother of All Grains,” and it was their second most important food source, behind potatoes.  Check out its impressive nutritional stats over at Wikipedia.
  • I like how they look.  The little quinoa seeds are wee spheres of starchy, proteiny goodness.  When they’re cooked, the germ kind of separates from the seed, and they look like Lilliputian bombs.  You know, the kind the Road Runner was always handing to Wyle. E. Coyote?!  Take a close look at the picture at the top–the germ stands out like a little fuse.  Quinoa=nutrition bombs!  As much as I’d like to take credit for that last, the beloved came up with it.  He’s pretty funny sometimes, that one.
  • I like the texture.  Quinoa has a pretty neutral flavor, so they are perfect for soaking up all sorts of goodness.   The wee round bombs are just the tiniest bit chewy–not nearly as chewy as brown rice, but more interesting than white rice.  The fuses are what makes the quinoa, though.  They have a little bit more bite, and they sort of pop/crunch in a very wee way when you chew them.  It’s this play of smooth/chewy against pop/crunch all on a small scale that make quinoa so appealing, to me anyway.

Here’s what I did with our quinoa–you can do what you want, this was just based on what we happened to have in the house.

Citrus-Scented Quinoa with Tuna

  • 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 1 carrot, scrubbed and cut into small dice
  • 1 celery rib rib, scrubbed and cut into small dice
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 t. Old Bay seasoning
  • zest of one orange
  • zest of one lemon
  • 12 oz. quinoa (we bought the pre-rinsed, boxed kind, although I rinsed it again, just to be safe)
  • 24 oz. homemade chicken stock
  • 2 small cans TJ’s tuna in water

Here’s what I did:

  1. Heated pan; added oil and butter; let the butter stop sputtering
  2. Added shallot, carrot, celery, salt, pepper and Old Bay
  3. Cooked until vegetables were soft
  4. Added quinoa and toasted it up for about 2-3 minutes, coating it w/oil the oil and butter
  5. Added the chicken stock, tasted and adjusted the seasoning
  6. Brought it up to a boil, covered and reduced to a simmer
  7. After 15 minutes, added the flaked tuna and stirred it in
  8. Waited another 3 minutes or so, fluffed up the quinoa and served

I finished the plates with a drizzle of olive oil on each serving and a wee sprinkle of Fleur de Sel.  It was delightful.

Today, we bought two boxes–one “regular” and one “red.”  The red kind is sort of a faded burgundy color, and I’m looking forward to playing with it.  I think I’ll try to cook it like oatmeal and serve it with some cream and brown sugar.  Maybe a quinoa pudding patterned after a rice pudding might be nice, too.  The possibilities seem to be pretty endless.  Once we find a good bulk source for this, quinoa might very well replace brown rice in our kitchen.  I feel a little bad about breaking up with rice, but maybe I’m just not that into rice anymore…

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