Last night I attended a food bloggers event here in Seattle, something I don’t often do because a, I haven’t been blogging (you noticed, didn’t you), and b, I still think it odd to sit in a room full of people who I might or might not follow on twitter, who I might have read some odd personal bit of information about on their blog, and vica versa, and NOT SAY HI, or have them say hi to me, like I’ve known them for years. Let’s be honest, It’s weird. Like online dating, but wooing with food and a touch of look look away.
The absolutely adorable Keren Brown (you have to hear this girl laugh, it will send an honest grin across your face- Keren I’m being sincere!!) hosted food celebrity, Jaden of SteamyKitchen.com– THE resource for Asian Recipes. All us food bloggers were asked to bring our signature dish to be judged by Jaden. I brought along not a signature dish, but a signature style of dish, the grain salad, something I’ve been consuming a lot of over the summer and well into fall.
As a single lady in the city, I’m a fan of a dish that is going to offer more than just a wild night of culinary esctasy. I want something that is going to last me a bit, sustain me. The brilliance of grain salads is that they lend themselves beautifully to leftover reincarnations. No wham-bam-thank-you-mam here.
- You can throw them into a tortilla, or rice paper, with some greens, pickles and various condiments for a lunch time wrap/spring roll
- Add an egg, form into patties, dredge in flour and pan fry. Serve with a lusty sauce (ghetto aioli- vegenaise with mashed garlic and sea salt is my personal favorite)
- Boil some bow tie pasta and toss with the grain salad, along with a handful of baby spinach or arugula.
- Fill and shape egg roll wrappers into samosas, deep fry and serve with an tangy accompaniment, ie spring roll dipping sauce, dijon mustard mixed with a bit of maple syrup, or… ahem- ghetto aioli.
Below is my current go-to and my offering at the food bloggers meet up. Make a big batch and keep in the fridge for up to four days, single lady or not.
Red Quinoa, Cilantro and Carrot Salad, with Red Onion, Avocado and Toasted Almonds
Makes 4 servings, takes an hour.
3/4 cup red quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cup chicken stock, vegetable stock or water* if using water add a good pinch of salt for flavor.
1 bunch carrots (about 5), peeled and sliced on the diagonal into rounds, and sliced in half again (half moons)
1/2 red onion, julienned, soaked in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes* soaking the onions in cold water helps to take some of the heartburn bite out of them!
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, washed and dried
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
Juice and zest of 1 lime (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
Agave nectar or Honey to taste (at least a teaspoon)
1/2 a jalapeno, veins and seeds removed, small diced
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled, and near minced
A big dash of fish sauce- if that’s the type of thing you keep in your cupboard.
1 1/2 tablespoons canola or grapeseed oil
1. Place quinoa in a medium sauce pan and add chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. Remove lid and if too soupy (the quinoa should look like cooked rice, no liquid floating about), drain in a fine mesh strainer and return to pot. Fluff with a fork, replace the lid and let sit off the heat for 15 minutes. Transfer quinoa to a baking sheet, spread out the grains and allow to cool to room temperature.
2. While the quinoa is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots and faster than it takes to update your status on facebook, drain and rinse with could water (about 2 minutes). Transfer carrots to a large bowl. Add the onion, cilantro, nuts, and avocado.
3. In a another large bowl, mix the lime juice with the avage nectar, jalapeno, ginger, and fish sauce to combine. While whisking, slowly add the oil in a pencil thick stream. Continue whisking until the dressing is emulsified. Add a wee pinch of salt and taste. What do you think? Is it good? Does it need more agave? More lime? More salt? Adjust the seasonings by adding just a touch at a time. At this point I like to pour out about half that dressing and reserve it in a separate bowl, you can always add more later.
4. Add the carrot onion mixture to the bowl with the dressing, and using tongs, toss to evenly coat the veggies. Add in the cooled quinoa and toss to combine. Taste again. What do you think? Does it need more dressing? Yeah? Well go on! Add a little more, tasting after every addition. How about the salt? Good? No? Add a bit more. Need more heat? chop up the rest of that jalapeno that will likely end up in a sad coat of plastic wrap in the back corner of your produce drawer and throw it in. Continue tasting and adjusting until you’re satisfied.
Serve the salad in a large shallow bowl, garnished with a few more cilantro leaves or chopped almonds, or dish up onto individual plates, or, if like me, you live alone, eat right out of the mixing bowl.
Delicious, right? Well here are some tips to keeping that salad fresh over the next few days. Add the highly perishable items (the avocado, the nuts) as you go. These will keep fine in the fridge, however the moisture will soften those nuts right up. Same goes for the dressing. You can easily toss all the salad ingredients and keep that dressing on the side, only adding as you go.