Sunday, January 24, 2010
I've always been a lover of words. As a kid, I wasn't allowed to watch television during the week, except for Friday nights with my mom and my sister, watching Dallas and The Love Boat. This televisual deprivation led to a great affair with books, which in turn led me to writing. Writing, words, putting thoughts down, this is how I've always communicated best. The downside to my love of words, however, is that I tend to use twenty of them when twelve will do.
I seem to have the same problem with food. Despite my best efforts to cook simply, I have a tendency to overcrowd my dishes with too many flavours. I can't help myself. I grew up on simple, lightly seasoned meals, and I was an annoyingly picky eater. But now, I am so excited by food, by the sensuousness of it, by all the different spices and herbs and tastes, that I have a hard time choosing just a few at a time.
I know that when you're starting out, it's a good idea to master some simple recipes before you start improvising. But sometimes I think it's not only okay, but imperative to throw caution to the wind. How else do you learn what you like if you don't try it? And I'm pretty sure even the most accomplished of cooks sometimes get it wrong. And occasionally, these improvisations lead to the most accidentally delicious meals.
This salad, to me, is like that. I found this recipe here, on the Fine Cooking site, and as soon as I saw it, I was mentally adding chickpeas and onions. Once I'd made it and tasted it, I wanted it to have some heat, so I added a few chili flakes. I love it. I find the flavours subtle and bold, sweet and salty; the best of all worlds. I don't care that it's overcrowded. Sometimes, the best parties are.
Quinoa and Avocado Salad with Lemon-Cumin dressing
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 can chickpeas
2 tbsp raisins
1 tbsp dried apricot, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup mixed white and red quinoa, rinsed well
half a lemon, zested
2 tbsp olive oil
1/8 tsp cumin
1/8 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp paprika
pinch of chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1 ripe avocado, cut into smallish cubes
2 tbsp coarsely chopped nuts - I used walnuts
1. Heat oil in pan, then add onions. Cook till softened over medium heat, about 5-7 minutes, then add chickpeas. Cook till onions are almost translucent.
2. Soak the dried apricot and raisins in hot water for 5 minutes to soften. Drain and set aside.
3. After quinoa is rinsed, bring the quinoa, salt and 1 cup of water to boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium and simmer till cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Once ready, remove from heat, fluff with a fork and bring to room temperature - you can lay it out on a baking sheet to cool.
4. Squeeze 1 tbsp lemon juice into small bowl. Add lemon zest, then add in spices along with the olive oil and whisk till combined.
5. Once quinoa is cooled, add the nuts, avocado, dried fruit, chickpea and onion mixture and combine. Then add the dressing and season with salt and pepper to taste. You may wish to add an additional dash of lemon juice...
***I found this tasted amazing the second day; the flavours had a chance to mix and mingle. I can also see this as a filling for a grainy pita bread.