This is pretty much the way I feel about food. I spend more time than I should watching Giada de Laurentiis serve couscous appetizers in Japanese soup spoons to a small gathering of friends sitting around a white linen table oceanside, bathed in golden sunlight. There never seem to be any bugs, no one complains about the heat, no one’s on a low-carb diet. Everyone is thin and beautiful, and in between bites of crostini, they do yoga and travel to bed and breakfasts in Tuscany with their Dresden-doll toddlers, who also love crostini and arugula. Let’s not even talk about Ina Garten, who just walks outside her kitchen door to her neoclassical rows of basil and flat-leaf parsley whenever she needs them for a recipe, and serves Tuscan bean soup (and crostini) to the construction workers restoring the nearby windmill.
Clearly I’m not alone in my romance with food. It’s officially a genre. In fact, my current read is Gabrielle Hamilton’s food memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef. I still make a veggie version of the fried green tomato recipe in the back of Fannie Flagg’s book. I remember my husband reading me passages from Like Water for Chocolate in some kind of attempt to woo me about a thousand years and twenty pounds ago. Reading Jane Kenyon’s “Fat” and smoking Kools (I never did find Pall Malls here) after pigging out at the all-you-can-eat buffet at House of India. Diane Lockward’s What Feeds Us is an entire poetry collection exploring the relationship between food and . . . everything! What better way to tap into this vein than to cook? Think of it as ekphrasis.
Quinoa is the forgotten supergrain that many health nuts are now rediscovering. Unlike rice, it’s chock-full of protein and low in carbs. You can bring out the natural nutty flavor by toasting it before you cook it, as I do below, but it pretty much will taste like whatever you season it with. This salad is a nice picnic or barbecue side and can be served warm, room-temp, or chilled, if you want to prep ahead and refrigerate overnight. I use black-eyed peas because they’re cute, but you can substitute another bean if you like.
¾ cup uncooked quinoa, washed
¼ tsp. coriander
1 ½ cups water
1 can (15 oz) black-eyed peas, drained
1 cup each chopped parsley, green pepper, onion, and carrot
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3 tbsp. canola oil
1 tbsp. chili oil
1 tbsp. honey
¼ tsp. red chili powder
¼ tsp. garam massala
¼ tsp. lemon pepper
¼ tsp. salt
- In a large pan, toast the quinoa and coriander together, until the quinoa starts to pop. Add water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing together in a small bowl.
- Fluff the quinoa and add the remaining salad ingredients. Toss with the dressing. Serve at room temperature.