Monday, April 23, 2007

quinoa with pine nuts and porcini

teeny grains

I’ve been so remiss about posting, you would think me a slacker. And while I haven’t been adequately applying myself to blogging, it’s not for lack of desire or effort.

I’ve been detained so to speak. And not by socializing or work or lack of initiative. I think my age is beginning to show and with it, a slew of health issues – in this case a torn lower back muscle (How? Why?) – and boy does it hurt!! Last week, I couldn’t even carry my trusty, beloved Le Creuset across the kitchen!! And I’ve all but taped the heating pad to my lower backside. That and some strained peas make me a perfect candidate for assisted living!

roasted pine nuts and porcini mushrooms

A week away from the ripe age of 29 (gah!), I realize I don’t have much to show in the ways of worldly accomplishments. And I’ve been humbled, really humbled last week, upon learning that a former school mate of mine, a grade below me and two years my junior who works for the Wall Street Journal – won the Pulitzer prize for excellence in Journalism. Or rather his group did – a group of four journalists. But still – to be 26 or 27 and have that excellence bestowed upon you – well, that’s an accomplishment.

awaiting its fate

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not feeling inadequate. I think that I’m doing okay and I’m blissfully content with my life being blessed with a job I love, a fantastic, beautiful relationship, a supportive family, and wonderful friends. But I am humbled, and if anything, last week’s events yet again reminded me to strive higher, reach further and never be complacent. While I doubt the Pulitzer is in my future, I think that the credo of continuous self-improvement is a worthy one.

verdant green

And self-improvement can be found in so many places – for me, normally, it’s finding inspiration around me. And with spring finally, finally, upon us, my mind is brimming with ideas thoughts. Just last week, while perusing my favorite food blogs and contemplating dinner – and all things vegetarian, as I was suffering from a meatover, Heidi of 101Cookbooks provided some of that inspiration.

addictive after the first bite

I’ve long wanted to try and cook quinoa. I’ve heard so many things about it and have been meaning to give it a go, for so long, I’m surprised that with my love for grains I haven’t yet given it a whirl. But when I saw her quinoa bowl recipe, I knew that I found my dinner dish. I made a few changes, modified a few things, but I have to credit her with inspiration – her photography, writing, recipes, and her commitment to cooking with whole, unprocessed ingredients, often stressing organic/local produce, are a constant source of inspiration. Her is not just a love of cooking, but a thoughtful lifestyle approach as well.

Self-improvement, inspiration, reaching higher. Spring is in the air!


Quinoa with Pine Nuts & Porcini Mushrooms
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/3 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup dry porcini mushrooms
Shaved Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Sauteed Potatoes & Asparagus
Half a bunch of asparagus
2 Russet potatoes
Salt
Pepper

Citrus Dressing
Juice of 2 oranges
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Cayenne Pepper
¼ tsp maple syrup
½ shallot, finely minced

Place the mushrooms in a cup and cover with water for 15 minutes or so – this will bring the porcinis to life so to speak.

Squeeze 2 oranges and 1 lemon out – pour the juice into a mason jar or a tall glass and add to it the extra virgin olive oil, the cayenne pepper (you be the judge how much of it you want in there), the maple syrup and the shallot. Set aside.

In pot, add 2 cups water to 1 cup quinoa, bring to boil, reduce heat and cover letting a small bit of the pot remain uncovered (so that the steam can escape). Quinoa should be done within 20 minutes. When it is cooked through, it opens up and releases these tiny spirals. The texture should a bit firm and nutty to taste.

Concurrently, on high heat, fry the Russet potatoes, thinly sliced – I like to slice mine into halves lengthwise, and then split the long halves into two, and then thinly slice the potatoes. When crispy and nicely browned and almost done, add the sliced asparagus for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

While prepping quinoa, in a small pan, over low heat, roast the pine nuts in a tsp of olive oil. Set aside when the pine nuts are golden brown. In the same pan, with a bit more olive oil, slowly cook the finely minced porcini mushrooms.

When quinoa is done, drain of the remaining water and place into a bowl. Add the pine nuts and the porcini mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to taste. Some like it saltier than others – I’m letting you be the judge of your own preference. Maybe you want to omit the salt altogether.

Shake up the citrus dressing again and pour over the quinoa/nut/mushroom mixture. Let stand for a few minutes before eating, so the flavors of the dressing are absorbed by the quinoa.

Place a few heaping tablespoons in the bowl and accompany with the potato/asparagus medley. Liberally sprinkle the shaved Parmesan over the quinoa.

I also served this with an avocado salad, but that’s a story for another day!

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