Saturday, August 22, 2009

Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa

Recently I picked up a LOT of grains at Whole Foods and I like to pick up interesting looking stuff to try out, even if I don't have something exactly in mind for it at the time. One of my acquisitions was Bhutanese red rice, and I remembered a recipe a few days later from my favorite recipe site. The recipe comes from a cookbook by the owners of a restaurant in the UK called Ottolenghi. It is something like a grain salad, served at room temperature. The dish is called Ottolenghi Red Rice and Quinoa, but the name doesn't even express the deliciousness!

At first when I was making this, I was feeling pretty overwhelmed. You cook the red rice and quinoa in two separate pots, then spread them (separately) on a sheet pan to cool to room temperature. At the same time, you slice and sautee white onion in olive oil. At the same time, you toast pistachios in the oven before chopping them up. And at the same time, you have to slice and dice and zest and juice and more with all the other ingredients. That is a lot to do all at once. I don't think it would be too much of a problem if you had the quinoa and red rice already made and let them warm to room temperature, or toasted and chopped the pistachios in advance, or did a lot of the chopping and zesting in advance. This would probably be another good picnic salad since it is intended to be served at room temperature. In smaller portions, it would also be a great salad course.

I halved the amount of grains knowing that the recipes on 101 Cookbooks usually produce way too much food for us as two people, and I estimated how much I would need for the other ingredients, whether using the quantities for the full recipe or halving them. This is really a matter of personal taste. I used the juice of a whole lemon and a whole Valencia orange because I like the citrus taste. I also love the orange zest - I like how zest kind of melts or dissolves into whatever the dish is, so I really love using it in almost anything. I also used a little more pistachios and apricots than the recipe calls for. The chopped dried apricots are so great in this dish - they add a fantastic sweetness against the arugula and grains, and they really complement the citrus flavor too.

In the end everything turned out all right. I ended up cooking the rice a little longer than the suggested time and having to add more water. The quinoa is easy to get right - when their little tails come out they are all done! You can always strain off any extra water if you overestimated or measured wrong. I got everything chopped and mixed together. Rather than putting a small bit of arugula on top as the picture shows, I served the grain mix on top of it and used quite a bit more. I think the peppery bite of the arugula goes really well with the citrusy grain mix. I am finding that I love citrus-dressed grains so I will probably be looking for more recipes that incorporate that, especially now that I have a huge stock of whole grains!

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