Quinoa is one of my most favourite ‘grains’ (tho technically it is not actually a grain at all). But I use it like you might rice, kamut or barley or even orzo – as a neutral backdrop that can go in many directions. When I prepare it, I usually double the batch so I will have some left over for another meal, often it is the basis of a California girl’s Bibimbap with quickly sautéed greens or maybe kimchi, topped with a basted egg. Just a smidge of it is part of one of my very favourite meals – the original Leon Superfood Salad (see this recipe from Allegra McEvedy).
Often the leftover quinoa is tossed into a kale salad, or tossed with a citronettte and dried cranberries, apples and pistachios. If I have roasted beets and feta that will sometimes be just enough with a little olive oil and lemon juice.
For a more substantial midday meal today I added fall fruits and tofu, keeping the flavour as simple and clean as I could, so I stayed away from toasted sesame oil which would have been a heavier approach. I wanted the brightness of the fruit to come thru and be balanced with the quinoa.
So very quickly, fall is becoming real, but it still seemed early to see Blood Oranges this last week. I could not resist them along with the Cara Cara (a pinkish navel variety) even tho we are still seeing beautiful summer produce. My good friend, Jenny Yamate shared some of her family’s Asian Pears with us a few days ago, and their delicate and juicy flavour was my guide to not overdo the dressing. Since this was a full meal for two, I wanted to add some protein, and another flavour dimension, so I cubed a block of braised five-spice tofu from Hodo Soy, and chopped a handful of walnuts. All tossed with a light dressing and perked up a bit with a sprinkle of Japanese pepper, furikake and a light hand.
2 cups cooked quinoa
1 Cara Cara orange, skinned and cut into cubes or slices
1 or 2 Asian pears, peeled and cubed
½ cup shelled walnuts, chopped roughly
1 6-ounce package of braised firm tofu
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon low sodium soy or tamari sauce
1 tablespoon walnut oil
splash of Yamajirushi Yuzu Seasoning Base
Japanese red pepper (Ichimi Togarashi) and nori or furikake with sesame, to sprinkle when served
Mix salad ingredients in a medium bowl, trying to not over mix or smash the pear or orange.
Combine dressing ingredients in a small bowl, adjusting to your taste for acid level. Add dressing to salad and gently toss again. Sprinkle the pepper and nori/sesame lightly over the top of each serving.
note: you should be able to find the Yuzu seasoning base, Ichimi Tgarashi and Furakake at Asian markets. The Yuzu seasoning base canbe used for drinks as well as seasoning food. It is an intense and perfumed citrus flavour, so use just a splash. My favourite tofu products from Hoda Soy Beanery are the firm tofu, plain or braised, and the hand-made Yuba. Another brand we find and like here in the Bay Area is Tofu Yu – they make a Five Spice tofu as well as a smoked jalapeno and smoked tea versions.
Looks very good. It’s time I get back to some healthier eating again. Taking too much comfort in cheese these days.
I often do more straightforward salads, but I like the extra texture and flavour quinoa adds, even to a very veggie idea, like cucumbers, rubbed with salt then broken up with a rolling pin (a tradition I have seen in recipes from Japan to the Mediterranean), tossed with ripe tomatoes, rice vinegar and shreds of scissored nori. You could also do a yougurt-based dressing. The small amount of quinoa (even a half cup) just gives it one more element and often satisfies my carb desires.