Quinoa Salad

A few weeks ago, I needed to prepare potluck dishes for two events, each of which involved a dizzying array of food allergies, sensitivities, and disgusts. I consulted the Facebook hive mind and was presented with a plethora of ideas, many of which I intend to experiment with later. What I settled on for that weekend, though, was an old standby that I hadn’t made in a long time: quinoa salad.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

It had been so long, in fact, that I had forgotten how to make it. And it was one of those things I never wrote down. So here I am, a few weeks later, trying to remember enough to preserve the recipe for posterity.

First I had Brian prepare a 12-ounce box of quinoa (more or less according to the package instructions). We used the kind that doesn’t require any rinsing before cooking. I loathe rinsing food.

While that was cooking, I chopped things. I chopped up a small red bell pepper, a medium tomato, and a seedless cucumber. I tend to chop pretty coarsely, as you can see in the photo. I normally chop up half of a sweet onion as well, but I discovered that I had none. What I did have was a tiny amount of freeze-dried red onion and some freeze-dried chives, so I added them to the dressing mixture, and it turned out surprisingly well.

Now, this is where things start to get fuzzy. One of the purposes of this dish is to use up pickle juice. I don’t remember exactly what kind of pickle juice I used this time, or how much, but I’m going to guess it was roughly a cup of bread & butter pickle juice. I added a few elbows of maple syrup (which I’ve discovered works much better than honey in salad dressings), the aforementioned freeze-dried bits, a bit of lemon juice, and a bunch of garlic salt, herbes de Provence, and ginger powder. There was probably something else I’m forgetting, but you probably have favorite things you like to include in salad dressings, so have fun experimenting!

Oh, yeah, I’m sure I used some kind of oil in the dressing. Not olive oil, because that is a huge no-no in our kitchen. So probably sesame or grapeseed. Maybe rice bran.

I shook up the dressing (with the jar lid firmly attached), let it sit for a bit, then shook it up a bunch more and poured it over the chopped veggies. I stirred that mixture really well, then let it sit for a while as the quinoa finished absorbing its water. Once the quinoa was ready, I dumped it in with the veggies and mixed it all together.

So, relatively quick and easy. And it’s good to make a big batch because the flavors keep blending in the fridge over the next few days and it just keeps getting better. Well, I presume there is a point at which it would start to spoil instead, but it’s never lasted that long in my house.

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Simple But Tasty

This past weekend my friend Marta invited me on a little retreat to the mountains. I suppose I should have taken some photos of the mountains, but really, all we did was hole up in a condo and read and write and cook and eat. I’ll share the reading and writing at some point in the future, but here are the highlights of the cooking and eating part.

For Saturday dinner, we got some veggies and salmon and cooked those up. Marta baked the salmon with salt and pepper and olive oil, and I did a saute of sweet onion, red bell pepper, and zucchini in white truffle olive oil. For seasoning, I think I used powdered ginger, herbes de Provence, salt, and dried chives. Marta did a rice-quinoa pilaf with rosemary (Near East brand, I believe), and we stir-fried that in with the veggies.

The next morning I did a polenta crumble using up the remaining bell pepper and onion. The polenta was the kind you get in a sausage-style tube, so no fuss there, and it was already mixed with sun-dried tomatoes and some Italian-style seasonings, so I didn’t really have to do much at all. I think I added some powdered ginger and salt and fried the whole mess up in olive oil.

Yes, I have been lectured at length by an Italian shopkeeper in Wisconsin on the evils of pre-cooked polenta. But if you don’t have a gas range, it’s really the most reliable option.

Sunday dinner involved shortcuts as well. I did not have the energy required to make my own sauce for the angel hair pasta, so it came out of a jar. And the veggies came out of a bag in the freezer. I nuked them in butter (yes, real butter), salt, and herbes de Provence. And yes, I actually prefer cheap, sawdusty “Parmesan cheese” out of a can. Well, at least when it comes to basic pasta in tomato sauce. Seriously, I tried the nice stuff one time and didn’t enjoy it at all. It just didn’t seem appropriate. Anyway, super-easy meal, and we washed it down with Kon Tiki cabernet sauvignon. IMG_20160306_192254

Yesterday, I couldn’t resist the strawberries at Costco, and there are a lot of them (because Costco), so I had some for breakfast this morning. I also couldn’t resist the call of the Laughing Cow yesterday, so I spread a few wedges on some rice crackers and topped them with strawberry halves. I washed them down with a mug of “Rubiee,” an appropriately reddish tea from Dryad Tea. That’s my idea of a delicious and decadent breakfast that is also ridiculously easy. IMG_20160309_105514

 

 

Pineapple Fusilli Chicken

It’s nothing really fancy or challenging, but Brian wanted chicken for dinner last night, and we were pleased with how this turned out. IMG_20160303_184934One of the things I absolutely refuse to do is handle uncooked poultry, so Brian took care of that part, seasoning the chicken breasts with black pepper and garlic salt and baking them. They took rather longer than expected, but that’s okay, because I needed the time to prep the pasta mixture.

Not that it was a really complex task, though. First I chopped up a red bell pepper and set that to cooking on medium-high heat with a little bit of grapeseed oil. Then I chopped up about half of a medium sweet onion and added it in, along with a healthy dose of whatever white wine I had handy. I think it was a sauvignon blanc. I still have the bottle and can look it up if anybody really cares. Then I added in a bunch of powdered ginger, minced garlic, garlic salt, and herbes de Provence. I thought I was quite liberal with the ginger, but next time I’ll be sure to add more. That’s what I get for learning Chinese cooking from a housemate named Xinan. “When in doubt, add more ginger.”

While I was working on that, Brian opened a can of pineapple chunks and drained the liquid off for later use. I then added the chunks to the pepper-and-onion mix and waited for the pasta.

I am including a photo of the fusilli package here mostly for my own future reference. This is the best rice pasta I have come across so far. I always remember what the packaging looks like, but I can never remember the actual brand name, so if they ever change their packaging, I’m screwed. Unless, of course, I post this photo someplace handy, like the Internet. I cooked the pasta in salted, boiling water, but I didn’t cook it for the full time.

I strained out about half of the pasta and put it in the pan with the pepper-onion-pineapple mixture. Then I added the reserved pineapple liquid and increased the seasonings accordingly. This time I also added a bit of dried lemon thyme. IMG_20160303_183537 Then I reduced the heat and let it all simmer until the chicken was ready.