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Posts Tagged ‘avocado’

quinoa salad with avocado, radish & lemon

In gluten free, salads, sides, spring, vegan, vegetarian on 9 November, 2011 at 11:35 pm

It’s rather predictable, really, but when spring rolls around all I want to eat is salad. There’s something about that raw crunch, the burst of flavour, the pure freshness of it all that’s missing over the long, dark winter stretch of Cooked Food (sure, you can have salad in winter, but is it ever as earnest as all the young leaves of spring?).

And I’d be exaggerating if I said everything I ate over winter was a monotonous succession of homogeneously-textured slop, because I certainly ate well throughout the winter months. But I can hardly remember the details of the stews, the soups, casseroles and curries that got me through. I’m too engrossed in trying all the different flavour and texture combinations within the realm of salads.

And as far as flavour and texture combinations go, this salad, which I’ve adapted only very slightly (and only to reflect the ingredients I had at hand) from Yotam Ottolenghi’s most excellent cookbook Plenty*, is a winner. Nutty, yielding quinoa. Hot, crunchy radishes. Smooth, mild avocado. Sour, juicy bursts in the form of lemon segments. Edamame adds a bit of nubbly texture and, um, more nutty flavour, and the baby mustard greens I used add just a breath of barely-there heat.

I wasn’t sure how it would all work together but I shouldn’t have doubted Ottolenghi. I should really be used to that oh-my-god-so-eye-poppingly-delicious feeling by now, but like every time I try something a little bit new and delicious I did a little personal squeal of delight (quiet enough for the flatmates not to notice… hopefully): all of the FLAVOURS! And all of the TEXTURES! And they all work so well TOGETHER!**

So this is a salad I urge you to try. It’s a little bit substantial, too, thanks to the quinoa, avocado and edamame: plenty of good stuff like proteins and amino acids and monounsaturated fats and whatnot. And it’s got that added bonus of being gluten-free, in case you were wondering. But enough of the health benefits. It’s just good, okay? And it tastes just as good, if not better, when you pack it up and eat it for lunch the next day (though I’d recommend letting it reach room temperature before serving).

Also while we’re on the subject of this salad can I just say I love radishes? Radishes thinly sliced with salt, radishes with butter and salt, radishes with butter and salt and crusty baguette, radishes in salads, radishes cut in wedges, radishes whole, radishes short, radishes long***, I am a girl obsessed. And in this salad the radishes in all their sharp crispness are the perfect foil for the creamy, luxurious avocado, so much so that I don’t know why I haven’t been consciously aware of this opposites-attract combination. And now I’m thinking about radishes, thinly sliced, with salt and avocado in a halved segment of very-fresh baguette.****

*it really hasn’t taken long for this book to become a favourite. Some nights I go to bed with it, waking up at 2am all confused as to why I’m clutching a hard, rectangular object… sad but true.

**cue little shoulder-shrug and cheeky silent excited-smile and resisting the urge to do little handclaps even now, yes, it was that exciting.

***those ones came from the same Wairarapa-dwelling workmate who brought me the bag of Jerusalem artichokes that went into this soup, as well as the freshest eggs I’ve ever tasted. She’s awesome. And the radishes were deliciously hot.

****And now I’m thinking I should end this stream-of-consciousness rant about radishes and get onto posting the recipe. Sorry everyone. I’m very tired and bleary-eyed tonight, and I love radishes. Though maybe not as much as that I-love-cats girl (making the rounds on youtube a wee while ago) loves cats.

QUINOA SALAD WITH AVOCADO, RADISH & LEMON
(from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, with a couple minor changes)

Serves 2-4, depending on whether you’re eating this as a main course or a side dish, how hungry you are, that sort of thing.

Cook 100g quinoa using your favourite method. Ottolenghi recommends bringing it to a boil in a pan with lots of water, then simmering for 9 minutes, draining, rinsing with cold water and letting it dry. It worked for me.

Meanwhile, cook and shell (or defrost, or whatever you need to do) 250g edamame.* Let cool slightly.

Slice a lemon into segments by first cutting off both ends, then carefully removing all the skin and outer pith, then slicing between each membrane so you get pretty, jewel-like segments.** Do this over a bowl to collect the juices and chuck the segments in there as well.

Cut a small-to-medium avocado into thin slices and add to the lemon juice. Toss very gently just to coat it with the lemon juice, then add the quinoa, 100g radishes cut into wedges, the edamame, a handful of baby mustard greens***, a clove of crushed garlic, 1/2 tbsp ground cumin, 2-3 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes. Season with flaky sea salt and cracked black pepper and toss with the gentlest touch you can manage.

Garnish with some more baby mustard greens. Serve into bowls and eat with all the wide-eyed joy of a child discovering all the different flavours and textures at once. (Okay, maybe a little child would turn its nose up at this salad. But you get the picture).

*the original recipe used broad beans. If this is something you have in your garden right now, don’t hold back. USE IT. I just had no broad beans handy, and plenty of edamame in the freezer.

**Since first trying this technique when I made this salad (also roughly based on a Plenty recipe) I’ve become more convinced of its utility, despite the extra time. Not only do the citrus pieces look beautiful, they’re also free of the tough membrane you so often find in lemons.

***I was conveniently needing to thin the pot of mustard greens I’d planted some time prior to making this salad, and was glad, because I had none of the purple radish cress Ottolenghi lists in the recipe. If you have neither baby mustard greens or purple radish cress, don’t let it stop you from making this salad. Bits of peppery rocket would do, or any microgreens or baby greens would work, as would leaving them out altogether.

avocado smoothie, two ways

In drinks, gluten free, summer on 21 February, 2011 at 1:24 am

Just a quick, hastily-composed post tonight to share with you one of my favourite things. I’ve just had a magnificent weekend in Auckland filled with dear friends and music and good food and sunshine and this is incredibly cheesy but I couldn’t stop smiling even when I returned to Wellington today because the sun was out, the water was still and  it was one of those afternoons where you’re deliriously, achingly glad to exist; I made tacos for dinner and watched the free circus and saw the moon rise over the harbour and now it’s somehow Monday morning (just) and I’m sitting in bed, shell-shocked, bleary-eyed,  cheeks sore from the perpetual grin I’ve had plastered on my face since finishing up work Friday afternoon.

So there it is: I love summer. Who doesn’t? And I love avocados, which – conveniently enough – are plentiful right now. And one of my favourite ways of having them is not in the usual guacamole or mashed up on toast (both obviously awesome uses though), but blended into a cold, sweet smoothie.

I know what you might be thinking: Really? Sweet? Avocado? But it’s perfectly legitimate – avocados are bland enough to go either way, and creamy and decadent enough to carry a bit of sweetness through without being too over-the-top.

I think the first time I had avocado in sweet form was in Indonesia a few years ago where it was served as a shake drizzled with chocolate sauce. And then, while living in Singapore there was a little shop selling the creamiest avocado smoothies just around the corner from my apartment. I’ve been hooked ever since. In Wellington aside from making my own I’ve also had good versions at a couple of Vietnamese restaurants.

They’re incredibly simple to make, so these are hardly recipes, but I’ll share them just the same. Be warned that you’ll need to add plenty of sugar (or other sweetener), otherwise these will taste like a weird, bland, drinkable guacamole. Not nice. But get it right, and oh boy. These are thick and creamy, rich yet refreshing, so addictive.

AVOCADO SMOOTHIE:

Scoop out the flesh of 1 avocado and put in a blender together with a handful of ice cubes, a generous splash of milk* and plenty of brown sugar** (at least a couple of tablespoons, if not more – depends on how big your avocado is, how sweet you like it, but as I mentioned before, these require more added sugar than your usual fruit smoothie). Blend until smooth and creamy. Give it a stir and taste for sweetness/consistency; you may need to add more milk or sugar.

*Feel free to substitute other things here: I like using rice milk if I have it around (which is admittedly not often) because it’s already kind of sweet. Like I said: sweetness is key. This is not health food.

**I’ve also sweetened these with honey, maple syrup, agave nectar and white sugar; I’m pretty sure sweetened condensed milk is the norm in certain parts of Southeast Asia. All seem to work pretty well; brown sugar is just what I usually have on hand.

Somewhat channeling that very first chocolate-syrup-drizzled Indonesian shake is this chocolate version. Nothing much more to it except the addition of cocoa powder. Still, it’s a whole different experience – chocolate and avocado go surprisingly well together.

CHOCOLATE AVOCADO SMOOTHIE:

Follow the instructions above, but add a generous shake of cocoa powder (at least 3 or so tablespoons) in the mix. Taste for chocolatiness/sweetness and adjust as necessary.

I can imagine other variations working well, like maybe banana, or chocolate-banana, or maybe even blueberries? So far I haven’t tried anything other than these two basic versions I have on standby for hot, sunny afternoons. Tomorrow (today!!!) looks to be another good one – I may just have to branch out and try something new. In the meantime, so should you. Make these.