[Red Quinoa Salad with Bell Peppers and Pine Nuts]
I am just a few days — three, to be terrifyingly exact — away from delivering the manuscript for my second book*, and although it is nowhere near as stressful a time as it was for my first (why do I sound like a young mother all of a sudden?), it is still a time of waking up bright and early and working intently through the day, with a few necessary breaks to shower, lunch, and take a few steps around the room when my foot has fallen asleep. (Not that I need it to help me write, but I wish it were more supportive.)
I have little time to cook, but I still have to eat, otherwise I die and my publisher is not happy, so my strategy is to prepare big bowls of salads that will make a few meals. I still have deep and sincere feelings for the grated carrot salad with avocado that got me through my last hang-in-there episode last spring, but this quinoa salad is the new teacher’s pet.
It uses quinoa, generally considered to be the nutritional superhero of grains, but it doesn’t use any old kind of quinoa, no: it uses red quinoa, which is enough to make the most blasé of your health nut friends go, “Oooh, fun!”
I might add here that red quinoa is not so much red as it is reddish brown, or mahogany. (I’ll admit that the first color comparison that presented itself beneath my fingertips was “dried blood”, but I am told that it is not a food-friendly image.) I spotted it at the organic store right by the regular quinoa, and thought, “Oooh, fun!” so I bought a package.
Because of color considerations, and because quinoa, red or otherwise, has a thinly crunchy personality, I chose to complement it with the moist plumpness of roasted red bell peppers, which we all know are very easy to make (see below).
A little more protein was needed to make this a meal-in-a-bowl type of salad, so I added cubes of smoked tofu (the Tossolia brand; I am addicted to this stuff, and I live in the fear that they will discontinue it or change the recipe, like they did with my sesame seitan burgers). But then the textural balance was leaning too heavily on the soft/tender side, so I threw in some toasted pine nuts to crunch it back up.
And the result, I’m happy to say, is just plain good, flavorful and satisfying, which is a lot more than I can say about the zucchini flans I attempted to make yesterday night, to disastrous results. (We fled and went out to eat.)
* Clotilde’s Edible Adventures in Paris is a book on Paris restaurants and food shops, with recipes. It was published in the US by Broadway Books in April 2008.
Salade de Quinoa Rouge, Poivrons et Pignons
500 ml (2 cups) vegetable stock
190 grams (1 cup) red quinoa, well rinsed and drained
3 medium red bell peppers, roasted (see below)
3 rounded tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (update: it is even better with pistachios!)
A dash olive oil
A dash honey vinegar
A dash hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used alderwood smoked salt)
Freshly ground pepper
200 grams (7 ounces) extra-firm smoked tofu, diced (I buy the Tossolia brand at organic stores; you could substitute diced mozzarella or good-quality canned tuna)
Serves 3 to 4.
Bring the stock to a simmer, add the quinoa, and cook for 15 minutes, or according to package instructions. Drain and let cool. (Note: I’ve read that quinoa can be cooked in the rice cooker, but I have yet to try that method.)
Peel the roasted peppers, remove the seeds, and cut the flesh into short strips.
In a medium salad bowl, combine the quinoa with the peppers, pine nuts, olive oil, vinegar, hot sauce, salt, and pepper, and toss to combine.
Fold in the tofu and serve immediately, or cover and refrigerate for a day or two.
Roasting your own bell peppers
There are different methods — over an open flame, with a kitchen torch, in a barbecue pit — but I do it in the oven. Choose firm and smooth-skinned bell peppers. Arrange them whole on a baking sheet lined with foil, and bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 200°C (400°F), turning the peppers every 10 minutes or so, until they are very soft and their skin has dark spots and blisters all over.
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and close the foil over the peppers to form an airtight package (use an extra sheet of foil if necessary). Let stand for 15 minutes. Open the package, and wait until the peppers are just cool enough to handle.
Pull out the stems and slice the bell peppers open. Scrape off the seeds and strings of membrane with a knife, and peel off the skin. Let cool and eat as is, add to sandwiches, salads, and pasta sauces, or use in this recipe. Roasted bell peppers will keep for a few days in the fridge; freeze for longer storage.