Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quinoa with Zucchini, Tomato and Basil

It's no secret by now, to anyone who knows me well, that I love quinoa. And I use the word "love" in its accurate sense, which I made clear in an article I'm currently using as my manifesto. Love must be reciprocated for it to be true love, and quinoa definitely loves me back. It feels good when I eat it, I can feel my body deeply appreciating what I'm giving it, and it feels good after I eat it. True love.

So it follows that I'm always eager to come up with new ways to serve and eat quinoa. Recently, I was working on an article for Delicious Living Magazine that involved vegan entrees, and one of the recipes I designed was "Quinoa with Zucchini, Tomato and Basil."

For me, it's not enough that food be healthy; it also must deliver pleasure to the eye, the nose, the tongue, and the whole digestive system. I always try to present my food in an eye-appealing way, so here's what I did for this dish:

I cooked the quinoa first. Then I sauteed some onion and garlic in a little EVOO, and added the zucchini. Once the vegetables were just tender, I stirred in the cooked quinoa and warmed it through. Just before serving, I stirred in a fair amount of sliced basil leaves--I've been combining onion, zucchini, and fresh basil ever since I first made Marcella Hazan's "Fritatta di Zucchine," back in 1983 (it's that good). Of course, I've since dropped the butter, eggs and cheese, but the vegetable-herb combination is a winner. I do use other herbs with zucchini, depending on the particular cuisine and application, but this one is like an old friend I'm always happy to meet again.

To serve the dish, I set a 3-inch ring mold on the plate and fanned out a few slices of fresh tomato to cover the bottom. I packed in the quinoa mixture and topped it with three more slices, pressing down just enough to compact and set them in place. I removed the ring, seasoned the top with Kilauea black sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, and then scattered sliced basil leaves all around. As a final touch, I drizzled a thin circle of chive oil around the dish. I would probably have used basil oil instead, but I just happened to have some freshly made chive oil on hand, and as it turned out, this added yet another layer of flavor. Serendipitous success.

The article I was writing required "quick and easy" recipes, which, like those in Speed Vegan, had to take 30 minutes or less to prepare. Naturally, the ring mold would complicate things too much for the average home cook (how many people even know where to get one?), so the magazine will feature the bare bones recipe--where all the flavor is, if not the full visual effect. But to my readers, I can't recommend a ring mold highly enough. As you can see, this simple tool has the power to transform a good dish into a great one--with only a little more effort.

As I'm fond of saying, "Why settle for good enough, when it's not that much farther to extraordinary?"


1 comment:

  1. Alan, you could use a small cake mold if you have one...I have some heart-shaped pastry cutters which are large enough for such a dish...btw, I made the corn chowder (w/o dairy) and the quinoa dish w/zucchini and carrot juice from your site the other day...yummmmm! They were very tasty and I shared them w/ Jimmy and a friend who enjoyed them thoroughly. The soup was even better the next day...thank you! :o)