I never like to be too systematic when it comes to anything domestic.
It drives Avo batty when I clean a few dishes, then start to neaten the toys, and dust the mantel...I end up doing a little bit of everything and never doing a good job at anything.
Therefore, it seems fitting that I start at the random #94 when I attempt to cook my way through Mark Bittman's list of 101 Simple Salads for Summer.
94. Cook and cool quinoa. Toss with olive oil, loads of lemon juice, tons of parsley, some chopped tomatoes and, if you like, toasted pine nuts. Call it quinoa tabbouleh.
First, how do you pronounce quinoa? Keen-wa. Apparently, it's an ancient Aztec grain that is really good for you (high in protein and minerals).
The good news is that quinoa cooks quickly, but, apparently, it also becomes rancid quickly, so be sure to refrigerate it.
Next, how do you cook quinoa?
I turned to my handy copy of The Joy of Cooking (p. 254) for basic directions. There are actually several easy ways to prepare quinoa. I go with the following:
1. Rinse 1 cup quinoa in a fine-mesh sieve and drain
2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium heat
3. Add and cook 1 clove finely minced garlic, stirring constantly to avoid burning
4. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring constantly, until the grains are separate and golden.
5. Stir in 2 cups water (I used 1 cup of water and 1 cup of Avo's homemade chicken stock for added flavor) and 1/2 teaspoon salt
6. Reduce to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed (12 to 15 mins). Fluff with a fork.
"Can't I just buy toasted pine nuts?" I asked Avo. "Do I actually have to toast them myself?"
He didn't bother to answer me. Instead, Avo walked me through the steps for properly toasting pine nuts:
1. Get a small frying pan.
2. Toss in pine nuts.
3. Turn up to low heat (don't add oil).
4. Toss gently until they are lightly browned.
I think I overdid it with the lemon juice (Bittman did say "loads of lemon juice"), but the amazing August tomatoes kicked this dish up a notch (as Emeril might say).
You might have noticed that Bittman's recipes don't include specific proportions. On the one hand, it's a bit scary because you might go overboard on lemon juice or another ingredient (as I did in this recipe).
But, on the other hand, it is sort of liberating. Not having to worry about messing up the measurements gives me confidence to tinker with Bittman's recipes and make them my own.
Next up...Salad #98.