We are at the point in the wedding process where glorious wedding gifts are occasionally waiting for us by the garage when we get home from work. (Thank you friends and family!!!) One gift that’s had an immediate impact on our cooking habits is our amazing Zojirushi rice cooker. This countertop gadget cooks every type of grain imaginable and it’s incredibly easy to use. It’s also so satisfying to pop open the top at the end of the cook time and find perfectly cooked, fluffy, steaming hot rice. Yum!
In addition to cooking the perfect pot of rice, the Zojirushi can cook quinoa, a protein-packed ‘superfood’ that, according to wikipedia, is actually more closely related to beets and spinach than grains. Quinoa can easily be substituted in for grains in a well-rounded meal so, armed with our new rice cooker, Matt and I decided that we’d try our hand at a nice summery quinoa salad. I found a great looking recipe on Garnish with Lemon and, after a few small tweaks (because I never follow recipes exactly), we ended up with a delicious, healthy salad that we’ll continue to enjoy all week for lunch.
Mediterranean Quinoa Salad (adapted from Garnish With Lemon)
You will need…
1 1/2 cups raw Quinoa (or about 6 cups cooked Quinoa)
1/3-1/2 cup Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Red Pepper, chopped
1 Cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 pint Cherry Tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup Kalamata Olives, halved
1/2 – 1 cup Crumbled Feta Cheese
1 teaspoon Salt
1/2 teaspoon Pepper
Juice of 1/2 – 1 Lemon
Cook the quinoa on the stovetop according to the package instructions or, if you have a rice cooker, cook it in the rice cooker on the normal white rice setting with a 2:1 water to quinoa ratio. When cooking is complete, transfer the quinoa to a large bowl, cool for 5-10 minutes and stir in the vinegar and olive oil.
Allow the quinoa to cool completely to room temperature, then gently stir in the next 6 ingredients (onion thru feta). Season with salt and pepper (add more to taste if needed). If you have the patience, chill the salad for 2 hours (we ate it immediately and it was still good) and “garnish with lemon” just before serving.
Guess what? All of these veggies came from “volunteer plants” in my garden. Volunteers are plants that grow on their own, either from the wind or a bird dropping a seed or, in my case, from compost. Seeds aren’t normally supposed to sprout out of your compost so, judging by the huge quantity of volunteers that are growing around my house, I think I must be doing something wrong! (Or very right, depending on how you feel about volunteer mystery plants!)
The squash and pumpkin plants sprouted by our front door and quickly took over our pink cosmo/dahlia flower bed. By mid-August the crooked-neck gourd vines were completely out of control and could be clearly seen from the street so we picked the mature squash and ripped out the vines. The pumpkin vines were growing across our front walk so today I finally decided that the pumpkin looked ripe enough to pick it and pull out the plant.
The tomatoes are the most exciting volunteers because we’re actually getting to eat those. We have about a dozen volunteer tomato plants and the campari-sized tomatoes are just starting to ripen on their vines. This is perfect timing because my “planned” tomatoes are pretty much done producing. Can’t wait to each some of them for dinner tonight!
After 9 months of waiting our garlic is finally ready to harvest! I’m pleased to announce the successful unearthing of eight beautiful, nicely formed garlic bulbs.
I patiently waited for the bottom of the garlic plants to start turning brown before harvesting them. Since these plants are a “hard neck” garlic variety I was able to pull them out of the ground with my hands fairly easily. One of the bulbs was slightly damaged (a clove had over-ripened out of its papery skin) so I peeled the whole bulb and used it to make a large batch of pesto. I froze the pesto in an ice cube tray so we’ll be able to enjoy our garden’s garlic and basil several months from now.
Based on Mike McGrath’s advice, I am now “curing” our garlic in a single file row on our dining room table. The spot is air conditioned and out of direct sunlight so hopefully the garlic should be ready to store in a week or so. We use garlic pretty quickly in our household so those remaining seven bulbs should be long gone by October!
This garlic was amazingly simple to grow (just plant the cloves in October, cut the scapes in June, and unearth the bulbs in July) and we are excited to finally be enjoying our own garlic!!
Please remember to leave a comment in my Tomato Salad post to be eligible to win a digital kitchen scale!
We’ve had a busy week! It was Matt’s birthday yesterday so we’ve been going out to dinner a lot and haven’t cooked anything elaborate lately. Despite our lack of exciting culinary exploits, I still wanted to share a recipe so here’s a very simple one for tonight: Grilled Zucchini.
Simple Grilled Zucchini
You will need…
2 small Zucchinis (or 1 large one)
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Garlic Powder and/or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (optional)
Slice the zucchinis in half lengthwise. Pour a small amount of olive oil onto the cut side of the zucchini and season with salt and pepper. You can add extra seasonings like garlic powder or Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute at this point as well.
Place the zucchini halves skin-side down over direct medium-high heat on a preheated grill. Grill for approximately 5 minutes and then flip the zucchinis over so that they are face-down on the grill. Grill for another 5-7 minutes (longer for a thicker zucchini) or until they are tender. Remove from the grill and enjoy!