Apr 022011

IMG 74631 600x400 Cook Your Goosefoot

A minute ago, I was sitting on the patio making googly eyes at a cloudless blue sky, breathing in the first scents of summer. A small bird with bright green feathers on its chest has made a nest underneath an eve, and weak, barely-heard chirps announced  an even smaller avian yawning its yellow beak in anticipation of food. The mimosa bushes on the hill are slowly shedding their yellow clusters and the lizards have become bolder. I love the fierce attack of the sun on my skin and the promises that come with its touch: the splash of the waves, sand-covered knees, grains of salt dried out on tanned arms, freckles, and gelato in Laguna Beach.

Living for years in Michigan and Ohio, my culinary experiences steered me toward the familiar and recognizable tastes of Eastern and Central Europe. The sky stayed gray for seven months, and once the leaves disappeared after a glorious October burst of color, green was exiled until the and of April. It seems that I cooked many dishes that involved simmering, roasting, and braising for hours, to bring to the table a plate as comforting to the palate as to the soul.

The girls and I spent summers in Serbia, and as soon as we got back, the stacks of firewood would start appearing in the yards, the pumpkins would greet us from front porches, and the north-western wind would begin to dispel the summer stuffiness and humidity.

And then we moved to Southern California where the world opened up its gates and my head started spinning from the various gastronomic influences competing for my attention. Long, warm days like this one were not a rarity, as I once thought, and it became easy to turn our lives into a globe-trotting adventure. Curious and daring, I plunged into the experience head first, filling the house with the exotic smells of countries that suddenly stopped being so far.

I don’t fret about dinner when the days get longer, the skies bluer, and the breeze warmer. I bid a teary-eyed farewell to my beloved winter friends: braised lamb shanks, oxtail soup, stuffed cabbage, and short ribs. I try not to think of the crispy crackling skin of a pork shoulder, or a comforting bite of pot roast. The wide open front door reminds me that there is a trusted charcoal grill on the patio eager to accept a beautifully marbled ribeye steak or some boneless chicken thighs from our local Persian market. A can of coconut milk in the pantry is enough to inspire me to take a culinary trip to Asia and bring all the flavors of Far East to my California kitchen. A sandwich night comes together in minutes with freshly baked rolls we buy at Henry’s Market, and several types of pasta I always have at hand make meatless meals an easy afterthought.

For dinner tonight I made a quinoa salad to accompany baked Vietnamese swai fish and sauteed summer vegetables. I discovered the pseudocereal (it is not a true grain as it doesn’t belong to the grass family) that originates in the Andes shortly after our move here. It is a species of goosefoot related to beets and spinach, but the seeds of the plant are very much like grain, a very rich carbohydrate. The ease of preparation, its nutritional properties, and the ability to meld with many different ingredients earned it a very common appearance at our dinner table.

First, I rinsed the quinoa, cooked it for 15 minutes, left it covered to finish absorbing the liquid, seasoned it with salt and pepper, fluffing it up with a fork, and then let it cool down. In the meantime, I toasted and cut almonds and hazelnuts and peeled some pumpkin seeds, grumbling and sending all kinds of evil thoughts in Husband’s direction for buying the seeds in the husks. I plucked a couple of large basil leaves from the plant on the patio, and chopped them, along with some mint, cilantro, and parsley that I buy in (very cheap) bunches at the Persian store. The nuts and the herbs went into cooled-off quinoa together with raisins, dried cranberries, and chopped dried apricots.

I made the dressing from grated ginger, lemon juice, and olive oil, and poured it over the salad, stirring until every grain was touched with it. The taste was fresh and light with flavors evoking the bazaars of Morocco and Tunisia, playing well together and complementing each other. Served atop mixed salad greens and finished off with a dollop of tangy yogurt, it was ready to be praised and cherished by the family.

Quinoa, Nuts, and Dried Fruits Salad was this week’s assignment for French Fridays with Dorie group. The recipe can be found in Dorie Greenspan’s book , among many other wonderful recipes. The book is well worth buying, and if you are curious about different experiences with this salad, visit our .

AS we learned to love quinoa, I have to live the link for a completely different, but equally flavorful and satisfying dish using quinoa that I made this past year: Quinoa Stuffed Peppers.

18 Responses to “Cook Your Goosefoot”

  1. Lovely story (as usual!) and beautiful pictures.
    recently posted..French Fridays with Dorie- Quinoa- fruit and nut saladMy ComLuv Profile

  2. Yuri says:

    My herb of choice was cilantro. Good job with this FFwD recipe :)
    Yuri recently posted..Quinoa- fruit and nut salad FFwD Music Man’s Asian quinoaMy ComLuv Profile

  3. says:

    Mene quinoa podsjeca na male oci (kada je kuhana)! Inace volim ovakvu hranu, jedini problem je sto sam za pola sata ponovo gladna! Divna prica (kada bih ja bila tako elokventna…)

  4. Kathy says:

    As always a wonderful post! Your salad looks great! Now I know a little more about quinoa. I would love to try the stuffed peppers.

  5. Adriana says:

    Your salad looks wonderful. Since I live at a tropical climate year-round I don’t have many of the seasonal associations to certain foods, with the exception of holidays.

  6. This story reminds me of my summers and food in the Philippines. And now I’m easily inspired by Indian cuisine! Amazing post as usual.
    yummychunklet recently posted..Weekend FoodMy ComLuv Profile

  7. Cher says:

    Ah. The benefits in living in a temperate world…. Although, as much as NorthEast winters make me want to cry come March, the summers and the fall more than make up for it. (Our one week of spring will too, when it finally shows up).
    This salad was certainly a welcome departure from winter fare…
    Cher recently posted..Hello- Has Anybody Seen Spring Fruit- Nut &amp Quinoa SaladMy ComLuv Profile

  8. Bunkycooks says:

    Hi Lana,

    This was a beautiful post. I also love seeing all these dishes from Dorie’s Cookbook. I have a copy and need to make some more of her great recipes. This salad is one of them!
    Bunkycooks recently posted..A Sanguine Sling Cocktail for Casual FridayMy ComLuv Profile

  9. Elaine says:

    I am also happy to say goodbye to winter food and hello to lighter fare. I think that’s why I enjoyed this week’s recipe so much because it was so healthy and something I will make again and again – without the yogurt and salad greens. :)
    Elaine recently posted..French Friday with Dorie- Quinoa- Fruit- and Nut SaladMy ComLuv Profile

  10. Patty says:

    Hi Lana,
    Lovely writing on a beautiful Spring weekend that inspires a change of pace in the kitchen.
    Your quinoa with toasted nuts looks delicious and would be perfect with fish.
    Have a nice Sunday;-)

  11. I especially love your picture of the lemon, herbs, and ginger. Everything looks so fresh!

    I also don’t worry about dinner as much in the summer. My local farmer’s market opened today for the new season, and I’m excited for all the fruits and vegetables to come. I have never shelled pumpkin seeds, but I imagine it takes a while. Great job sticking with that.

  12. Betsy says:

    I am so jealous that your weather matches the taste of this recipe! As you saw, we had an April Fools’ Day storm, though it was warm enough to melt on Saturday. I wish that I had used fresh ginger as you did. The dressing was so refreshing, and fresh ginger would have added an extra spark. I’ll definitely be making this again, especially as the weather warms here in my world.
    Betsy recently posted..French Fridays with Dorie- Quinoa and Nut Salad Avec ou Sans FruitMy ComLuv Profile

  13. gaaarp says:

    Beautiful photos! Your quinoa salad looks delicious.

  14. says:

    I love the idea of fresh ginger…my dressing needed a little flavor boost. Beautiful job with this salad…your photos are lovely~
    Liz recently posted..BaklavaMy ComLuv Profile

  15. Ryan says:

    What a beautiful post! I could almost feel the sun on my face and the hear the birds chirping and smell the fresh basil! Your quinoa looks delicious and that’s a great idea to toast the nuts. I’m going to try that next time!

  16. Teresa says:

    I love the multitude of influences and ingredients that are available to cooks today. Especially when they’re as healthful as quinoa and as tasty as an FFwD recipe.

  17. Rosa says:

    A great accompaniment to your fish! That side dish must be very flavorful and so scrumptious. I love that combination of ingredients.



  18. sanya says:

    I missed this week’s post, feeling sick, but I was curious to see what it would look like!
    Looks fantastic, really like your photos too, they look great.
    I don’t think I really appreciated the weather and produce of Australia until I started to blog. I’ve never seen so much snow! My mother shudders at her memories of Yugoslav winters and I’m starting to understand!

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