Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Quinoa with Toasted Pistacios, Flying Saucer Squash, Kholrabi, and Gooseberries

I've met an awful lot of health food freaks lately who feel that quinoa is the next big super food. I'm not adverse to super foods, in fact, I'm a pretty big fan of vitamins and such. But sometimes if you're just having plain quinoa, I feel a little bit robbed of a succulent side dish. I feel the same way about farina... which sucks. Farina sucks. Don't argue.
Gooseberry - with husk
Gooseberry - husk opened
But quinoa is pretty easy to make, and equally easy to jazz up with little bits of flavor from other miracles of the garden. On Sunday, I had the pleasure of stopping by Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. At the farm store, I picked up some lovely little Cape gooseberries, complete with their lantern-shaped husks. Kohlrabi were also in a bin marked "half off," so I couldn't walk away from one of these sputnik-shaped orbs, and at home I had a whole bunch of pistachios, a half of a flying saucer squash, and a handful of olives. These would all work to spice up my quinoa into a delicious side dish.
1) So, quinoa is a little bit of a pain in the butt to make, say compared to just boiling pasta, but it's worth the effort. Start with about 2 cups of the little grain, and wash the buggers thoroughly. This means essentially filling a bowl with water and the quinoa, mixing the whole lot, draining, and then repeating the process. When you've gone through this enough so that the water runs clear, the quinoa is clean. Prior to washing, you can go ahead and set a pot of water with about half chicken stock, and half salted water to boil. When the liquid boils, throw in your quinoa for ten minutes, until almost tender. Drain. Fill the pot back up with about an inch of water, an throw in some salt. Now, with your quinoa in a fine mesh strainer, set this into the pot so that it sits above the water. Throw a moist kitchen towel over the top. Throw a lid on top of everything, and let the quinoa steam for about fifteen minutes until tender and fluffy. Your quinoa is done.
3) While your quinoa is steaming, you can go ahead and shell all of your pistachios. I like to crush the nuts a bit more using a mortar and pestle, and then throw them into a hot pan to toast up. This should only take a couple minutes before the smell of the pistachios fills your kitchen. When they are toasted enough, you can set aside.
4) Now is a good time to dice up the olives. I used about seven big olives, and threw the pieces into a nice big mixing bowl. De-husk all of your little gooseberries, halve the little fruits and add those to the mixing bowl. I also diced up a couple sprigs of fresh parsley and fresh thyme. The parsley went into the mixing bowl with the olives and gooseberries. Likewise, I sliced up half of a flying saucer squash, dicing into little cubes, and peeled the outer skin of about half of the kohlrabi and diced that up into similarly sized cubes. Now, in a little nonstick frying pan on medium heat, I threw in a tablespoon of butter. In went the kohlrabi, the squash, and the minced bits of thyme with a little salt and pepper. Toss for about four minutes, and those will be nicely sauteed, but still with a little fresh crunch. In those go to the mixing bowl.
4) When your quinoa has finished steaming, and you're veggies and herbs are prepped in the bowl, add the quinoa to the bowl, top with the toasted pistachios, and give everything a thorough mix. Salt and pepper to your taste preference, and you have a lovely side dish, ready for dinner, and some leftovers to bring to work for the next couple days (yes, we made a lot on purpose).
This side dish will taste purely of all the flavors that you've added. There's crunch from the pistachios, and the fresh cabbage flavor from those cubes of lightly sauteed kohlrabi. The gooseberries are sweet, and vaguely reminiscent of the savory flavors of little grape tomatoes. The flying saucer squash adds that summer freshness that is always a good thing. Then you have your fresh herbs, and the straightforward flavor of the quinoa. Quinoa, pronounced "kinwa," does not suck as much as farina when treated with care.

2 cups quinoa
1 pint container gooseberries
1/2 kohlrabi
1/2 flying saucer squash
fresh thyme and parsley
1/2 cup of pistachios (after shelled)
Chicken stock and water for steaming quinoa
Salt and pepper to taste

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