The Quinoa Solution

April 11th, 2011 · 23 Comments · Organizing, Strategizing, Planning, Posts by Andy, Quick, Sides, Salads, Soup, Vegetarian

We usually do our food shopping once a week, on Sunday afternoons, bolting to Trader Joe’s as soon as the final whistle on the final soccer event of the weekend finally blows. It’s our secular pilgrimage. We genuflect at the altar of dried fruits and granola bars, we load up the cart, we drive home, the kids go upstairs to animate some plastic stuff, and Jenny and I begin the never-gets-less-brutal process of unpacking the groceries… at which point, we realize, as we put the fresh crop of vegetables into the refrigerator, that we haven’t made use of half of what we bought last week. There’s a sad fennel bulb, once crisp and fresh, now yellowish and funky. (A pity, too: I had big plans for that. Look for a roasted fennel recipe one of these days.) There’s a quart of now-slimy mushrooms, and an exhausted hunk of red cabbage. There’s an ominous cluster of tupperware containers, each holding part of an onion, lemon, or red pepper, all of uncertain vintage, all well past their prime. And way in the back, by the sour cream, there’s always a tub of grape tomatoes, now a week old and only 1/3 eaten, and we really want to make use of them, but they’re just this side of too-far-gone to put on our salad.

We’re not proud to admit this, but we often end up throwing too much of this stuff away. It’s a lot of food, and a lot of money, to go to waste.

Last weekend, though, we may have solved the grape tomato problem. Since they were already starting to turn, we embraced the shrivel. We doubled down on the decay. We slow-roasted them, until they were all wrinkly and intense and sweet, and then we tossed them into a quinoa salad. Roasted tomatoes are so easy, very hard to mess up, and versatile as they wanna be: you can put these over pasta with olive oil and cheese, on bruschetta with garlic and basil, on top of fish or chicken. Or, as we ended up doing, you can use them to add a whole new hearty dimension to a salad. Tomato problem: solved. I don’t know why it took us so long.* – Andy

* Very important note: I highly recommend listening to this while you cook. And maybe follow it up with this. Or this. Or just buy the whole album. It’s in heavy DALS rotation. (more…)

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Quinoa: A Love Story

June 1st, 2010 · 23 Comments · Vegetarian

I’m sure you knew this one was coming — you’ve only seen the confetti-like pearly grains (that are technically not grains, but it’s just so weird to say confetti-like pearly chenopods) accessorizing my dinner plates for the last three months. All I have to say is this: Once you’ve tried quinoa, you will forever question your couscous and rice habit — well, I guess I can’t speak for you, but those were the two default starches on the dinner plate that I was raised with. Quinoa is a complete protein (which is why it’s so popular among vegetarians), it’s gluten-free (ditto parents of children with wheat allergies) and so freaking delicious (ditto people who like freaking delicious things).

You know that rule about how you have to put something new in front of the kids 25 times before they try it? Well, if that is indeed the case, we are about a month overdue for the under-four-feeters to swallow a solid forkful of quinoa. I’m not exaggerating — they’ve seen us spoon up a side of it pretty much every other night all spring long.

My friend and Time for Dinner co-author Pilar makes a vat of quinoa on Sunday so all week long it’s ready to be mixed into salads or heaped on her sons’ plates. (Supermom alert.) The few times I’ve followed her lead, this has been a boon for quick lunches, when I can toss in cooked vegetables (asparagus, broccoli), nuts (walnuts, slivered almonds), cheese (feta, goat) and dried fruit (cherries, pomegranates) with a basic vinaigrette.

But the dish above, Quinoa with Spinach and a Fried Egg, is the dish that really kicked my love for quinoa to Friday Night Lights-levels of obsession. It took less time to make this meal (that I would have paid $20 for in a restaurant) than to heat up a frozen Trader Joe’s pizza. And yes, it’s true that this comparison falls slightly flat since my kids will actually eat a Trader Joe’s pizza. But you might have better luck than me. (more…)

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Fried Fish with Ramps

April 28th, 2010 · 3 Comments · Dinner, Seafood

I laid down a few rules for myself before I started this website. No using that word that starts with “food” and ends in “i-e.” No going into detail about things like the interplay between quince paste and aged gouda. No fetishizing. No buying into the whole two-week ramp frenzy that takes over farmers markets and f–dies this time of year. (Aren’t there more important things to get excited about, like, for instance my daughter’s 15-second solo in the 2nd Grade Songfest last week? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. No bragging should probably also be a rule. I’m sorry! I’m sorry!)

But the thing is, I do happen to love those wild, earthy, oniony ramps — mostly because, like daffodils and magnolia trees, they are one of those first fleeting signifiers of spring. And probably also because I don’t actually have to personally partake in the frenzy. The frenzy — how’s this for lucky? — comes to me! Every year, my friend Yolanda (that’s her kick-ass family travel blog, Travels with Clara, over there in my blogroll) shows up on my doorstep or in my office carrying a bouquet of them like a prom date with a corsage. This year, she met me on a busy corner of Soho just to hand me my share of the ramp bounty that is her Catskills backyard. So what am I supposed to do…not get excited? I didn’t. Honest. I just sauteed the things in olive oil, fried some fish, and played it cool.


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