9 January 2006

Three Babies Quinoa with Cashews and Yoghurt (yawn!)

Posted in food at 8:19 am by Tricia

The Meal, created for participation in the Brand Spankin’ New Paper Chef #14: Sauteed Chicken, served with Three Babies Quinoa with Cashews and Yogurt.

By the way, do you pronounce the nut as [CASH-oo] or [cuh-SHOO]?? Inquiring minds want to know whether or not my in-laws are the only people in the world to use the latter…

The short form:

  1. Prepare spice infusion (boil garlic & spices in water). Rinse quinoa. Prepare chiffonade of spinach.
  2. Cook quinoa in a mixture of spice-infused water and pureed sweet potatoes. (Reserve some infusion to soak baby corn.) Start roasting some unsalted cashews in the toaster oven (350F to begin, turn up to 400 at the end).
  3. Saute chicken, seasoned heartily with Tia Rita’s green chile salt blend.
  4. When chicken is done, deglaze pan with orange muscat champagne vinegar. Reduce until it looks right and pour over chicken on serving platter. (Reserve some ‘plain’ chicken for boys with sensitive taste buds!)
  5. Film pan with a touch of oil, briefly saute baby corn and wilt the spinach, and steam for a few minutes in a few tablespoons of reserved-for-corn infusion water.
  6. Plop quinoa into half of serving bowl, put vegetables in other half. Top with chopped toasted cashews.
  7. Serve [with hastily remembered plain yogurt!]

The Back Story:

Quinoa. Cashews. Yoghurt. A “baby” food. Well that’s easy – cook quinoa, stir in a “baby” food, top with cashews and yoghurt! Borrrrrring…

So what might be exciting, or at least potentially unique and innovative? I keep trying to convince the boys that quinoa is just another rice, so rice pudding popped to mind. Maybe I could make quinoa pudding! Except I don’t think I’ve ever even had rice pudding and certainly don’t know how to make it. Forget that idea! I spent more time toying with the dessert idea, though. Maybe something like a crisp, only using quinoa for the topping. Quinoa and cashews, that is, and with a nice yogurt for a topping. But how would I prepare the quinoa? Should it be raw (raw but thoroughly rinsed, that is), or should I cook it first? Cook partially, perhaps? (No quinoa flour in this house!) And one more thing – where’s the baby ingredient? I suppose I could use rich and creamy YoBaby for the topping and cover both bases. But all our YoBaby is months old, from when T-boy decided he was tired of eating “Baby” and wanted those same brightly colored yogurt cups as his big brothers, and is probably too sour to make a delightful dessert topping.

In the end, I made: “Three Babies Quinoa with Cashews and Yoghurt” and served it with sauteed chicken. Yeah, yeah, I’m uninspired, but at least I got this far… Do I get points for having a few interesting ideas along the way?

Why Three Babies? Because I used baby leaf spinach, baby corn, and a jar of baby food. (And yes, it’s supposed to make you think of “Three Sisters”!) (I almost just used the baby food, but didn’t want to incur the wrath of Kitty Kaga.)

Although “baby corn” typically connotes “oriental food” (and Tom Hanks in Big), corn is a new world crop just like quinoa. Quinoa is the seed of a plant related to spinach – or is that amaranth? [Vague memories of decades-old Organic Gardening magazine stories…] Besides, when unloading my groceries on Saturday, I noticed that the spinach I’d bought was officially “baby leaf” spinach. And the jar of baby food – pureed Earth’s Best organic sweet potatoes, officially labelled weird by Mrs D – well, it’s been in our pantry for over a year and since I spent most of the day moving everything from the temp pantry into the new pantry, I didn’t want to squeeze an odd jar of baby food into the organization scheme!

To be honest, I almost forgot about the yogurt, but when my husband saw the serving bowl, he said “this dish looks like it’s begging for some plain yogurt. Do we have any in fridge?” “Great idea!” I responded, and retrieved a container of plain fat free yogurt. (Note: As far as I know he is completely unaware of this Paper Chef event.)

To cook the quinoa, I took some inspiration from Crescent Dragonwagon’s book The Passionate Vegetarian. She writes that one way to imbue grains with flavor is to create an infusion of spices, then use that as cooking liquid. Her infusion tends towards the curry end, but I was still thinking South American (which is completely conflated in my mind with Mexican, which I know is false, but hey, it’s my mind!) and thus replaced her {cinnamon stick, anise, and cloves} with cumin. [Bring to a boil: 2.5 cups water mixed with 4 cloves garlic, a dozen colorful peppercorns (black, white, green, pink – Trader Joe’s blend), 4 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, and some ‘Better Bouillon’ [vegetable] powder. In retrospect, I realize there wasn’t much in that mix to add a big flavor punch.]

The End Result:
The chicken was great (green chile salt and that orange vinegar does the trick every time!), the three babies quinoa was pretty good. The sweet potato suffused a very nice color throughout the quinoa, while the darkly roasted cashews added a nice richness to the dish. I’m not sure the infusion did much (except when I bit into peppercorns that didn’t strain out!), but then again, I probably overwhelmed it with the sweet potato…

And for dessert? We had Baby Ruth candy bars, of course. Just kidding!! We’re not that weird. We also found an unopened bag of Oreos while moving the pantry, so handed those out.
[Possible reputation-saving-disclaimer: We rarely fed our boys jarred baby food. The one exception was jarred carrots, because Dr Sears book makes some claim that carrots take up naturally occuring nitrates (nitrites?) in the soil, something that doesn’t affect most people but might babies, so baby food manufacturers get theirs from safe sources. So why did I have a jar of sweet potatoes? All I can figure is that I bought it by color and didn’t get carrots, or I bought it summer 2004 when T-boy was going through feeding therapy to learn to swallow.]

Update: Paper Chef is now finished, and the roundup of all the amazingly creative entries is available at Belly-Timber.

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