Monday, September 21, 2009

not another baked good...

I know it’s been a while since I posted anything... and it's not because I haven't wanted to... it's just that I've been busy – you know, taking advantage of the sunshine to get out on my bike, seeing friends, trying new activities (yay rock climbing) and attending a wedding. Sigh. It was a BEAUTIFUL wedding - I would say just about perfect - and the cake was delish :0) (not one of my creations, but delicious nonetheless)

I took advantage of the incredible warm weather yesterday and ran around the Ottawa market picking up my weekly stash of veggies. It was there that I found myself face-to-face with a pile of beets. Yes, the beetroot, my love of this vegetable has not diminished over time; it only seems to grow stronger and stronger. I could perfectly imagine roasting the beets, pouring warm balsamic vinegar on top of them and then sprinkling them with coarse sea salt... that to me is perfection in a bowl. But I seem to be digressing… :0)

I had set out knowing that I would be using some of the quinoa that my mother had brought back from Italy for me. Rather than cooking the quinoa and making it a side dish, I decided to create another “one-pot” meal; allowing me to grill my vegetables, boil my quinoa, sauté a block of tofu and whisk together a maple-mustard vinaigrette. The result was a HUGE bowl of salad – enough to feed me at lunch this week – which means, BEETS EVERYDAY!!!!! Whoot! (enjoy)

Fall Vegetable & Tofu Salad
1 c. quinoa
2 c. water
5 peppers, assorted colours, deseeded and cut in large pieces
4 mini eggplants, cut length-wise
1 large onion, peeled and cut in large chunks
1 broccoli, trimmed, cut into florets and blanched in boiling water
5 beets, washed, quickly boiled and then sliced
spicy olive oil, as per your needs (regular will do as well)
3 baby cucumbers, diced

If you are lucky enough to have a BBQ – perfect time to use it. Otherwise, if you are like me and apartment bound then pull out that electric grill and fire it up!

Once your grill is nice and hot, brush some of the flavoured olive oil on it and start grilling – I grouped all the vegetables – so that the cooking time would be about even – eggplants first, then the peppers, onions, broccoli and finally the beets. Be sure to brush some more of the oil on the tops of your veggies before you flip them over – and be patient! That’s always my biggest fault when grilling, I just want it done ASAP – but in order to get the best out of your veggies (especially the peppers and onions) you just need to let them sit on the grill and do their thing.

As they come off the grill I place them in a large bowl and cover it with a clean kitchen towel to keep some of the heat in.

Meanwhile, add the water and the quinoa and a pinch of salt to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and allow it to cook for between 10 – 15 minutes (it’ll be done when all the water is absorbed). Remove it from the heat, and set aside (I was still grilling at this point).

You’ll notice that I have cucumbers in this recipe – I really wanted something crunchy so I grabbed a few of the beautiful mini-cucumbers. I also knew that I didn’t want the pieces to be too large, since the quinoa is such a small grain. (I took that into account with the rest of my vegetables as well – dicing them into smaller pieces after they’d come off the grill and rested a few minutes in the covered bowl)

Time to start to dress this salad up :0) The thing with my dressing though is that I really didn’t measure a single thing… years of watching my mother just grab the ingredients and start mixing has warn off on me… so other than remembering how many cloves of garlic I used, everything else is by taste… SORRY!

Maple-Mustard Vinaigrette
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
good knob of ginger, peeled and minced
Dijon mustard
maple syrup
lemon juice
red wine vinegar
salt & pepper
sunflower oil

In a medium bowl whisk together the garlic, ginger, mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. At this point, start tasting it – too bitter? Not sweet enough? Play around with your ingredients and make it taste exactly as you like – that’s why you’re making it and not buying it right? I decided to use sunflower oil so that it wouldn’t compete with the other ingredients – and since I had used a spicy olive oil I knew my vegetables would already have lots of that flavour.

Once you’ve sorted out the exact flavours that you like, incorporate the oil – you want to thin out the dressing.

Now that you can dress it up, it’s time to finish the salad!

In your large bowl, combine all the diced veggies, toss in the cooked quinoa and if you decide to use tofu (or any other protein) cube it and throw that into the mix as well. Pour your vinaigrette over it all and toss everything really well. You want the dressing to add flavour but not to make it mushy…always dress with caution :0)

And there you go… thanks to a trip to the market my week is looking good… I’d say it can’t be “beet” (ha ha ha)…

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