“Wow, you don’t often have complete failures. I can’t remember the last time we threw the whole dinner out before ever eating it.”
Hey he meant it well—I don’t often have complete failures, so it was mostly a compliment. But yeah tonight’s dinner was a total bust.
I am still not sure what went wrong. Theories so far include that my chickpeas started out undercooked (I actually like them kind of firm) and sucked all of the water away from the rice, the Three Guys from Miami give lousy directions for rice dishes (this is the second one to go awry from their books for me–but I love their stir fries), and (possibly a little outlandish) that my Texmati rice went bad. It was a Cuban rice and chickpea dish with Spanish chorizo (yum) that called for the rice to be cooked with the (already cooked) chickpeas, chorizo, stock, tomato puree, wine, spices and a sofrito. And something like 2 hours later and at least 1 full cup extra liquid dumped in, the rice was still crunchy! By the end I couldn’t stand the sight of my meal. And poor Alex, who had “helped” me make dinner by stealing my prep work (the peppers and chorizo especially) kept asking where the “soup” was (I think she thinks everything I make is a soup). It turned into a ham and cheese with frozen veggies night, and yeah we dumped dinner. In light of that I don’t think I will be posting any pictures (of my food in the garbage can) or recipes for that meal. But I did have a success with lunch today, so that is the good news.
Latin Inspired Orange Quinoa Salad
I rarely cook entirely from my head. I am someone who is inspired by cookbooks, cooking magazines and cooking websites. My favorite of the three is easily cookbooks–I am an old-fashioned girl. I adore holding books in my hands, the heaviness, the shiny pictures, the different fonts… The heavier the better, frankly. The tangible, irrefutable fact of their existence somehow thrills me. Hence the fact that we are running out of shelf room for my cookbook collection. I just love them. However, I rarely follow the recipes from any of these myriad of sources, but instead use them as guideposts or even just for general ideas. When I use them as guideposts I tend to increase here, decrease there, make familiar substitutions (such as beef for lamb, which many authors suggest). But the final result is pretty consistent with the recipe. But then there are other days, when the recipe in my hand bears very little resemblance to the final product. Some days this happens because of my mood, but sometimes, like today, it happens out of necessity based on what I have in my pantry.
This is another recipe found on the CLBB that is originally from Cooking Light (see where it is discussed, here, as well as a more general discussion of quinoa). I have been on the hunt for healthy whole grain or legume based one pot dishes for my daughters and myself for lunch. I would say at least one dish per week (stretching to 2-3 lunches) is a homemade dish like this. The other weekdays we are either eating on the go or the girls are eating the typical toddler lunch of diced cheese, fruit and veggies while I grab a frozen meal. So today I decided to try a quinoa salad. I knew I had oranges and buttermilk for the dressing and honestly didn’t look too much more closely than that. Ooops.
So while the quinoa was cooking I discovered I did not have parsley or almonds but I did have cilantro and pepitas. Which really did not go with cranberries so out went the cranberries and in went dried mango. By now it had a decidedly Latin feel so I also threw in some cumin–just a pinch. Next time I would garnish with queso fresco, but today all I had was diced Monterey Jack cheese, which actually worked pretty well. I really liked this dish—and I think it would be outstanding with more mango (I had a limited amount, about half what the original dish called for in dried fruit) and green onions (once again, I only had 3, it needed 6). So here is the recipe as I would make it next time. But you know, I might also make the recipe as written next time too (in which case I refer you back to the CLBB).
Latin Inspired Orange Quinoa Salad
Source: CLBB, Cooking Light
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons extravirgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons low-fat buttermilk
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/3 cups uncooked quinoa
2 2/3 cups water (check your package to see how much water they recommend) (I replaced a small amount of water with homemade stock)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup thinly sliced green onions (about 6)
1 cup dried mango
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup roasted and salted pepitas or pumpkin seeds plus some for garnish
crumbled queso fresco, to taste, for garnish
To prepare dressing, combine first 6 ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until well blended.
To prepare salad, place quinoa in a large nonstick skillet; cook 4 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently. Place quinoa in a fine sieve; place sieve in a large bowl. Cover quinoa with water. Using your hands, swish the quinoa around in the water; rinse and drain well.
Combine quinoa, 2 3/4 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat; simmer 20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Stir in dressing, onions, and the remaining ingredients. Cover and chill. Servish garnished with additional pepitas and queso fresco.
Yield 10 servings (serving size: about 1/2 cup)