Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Fried Quinoa Rice: How I fly by the seat of my pants

My favorite movie growing up was Pretty Woman. At the time I didn’t understand half of what was going on – partially because the version I was watching was edited for TV – but I loved all the fairy tale-esque moments that I did understand.

Over the course of the three dozen times I watched the film when I was home sick from school or because “Full House” was a rerun, I became intimately familiar with all the scenes and dialogue. It got to the point where I could recite the exchanges word-for-word (a useless skill I still possess today). One of the exchanges between Edward (Richard Gere) and Vivian (Julia Roberts) shortly after they’d checked into the “Reg Bev Wil” was particularly memorable to me.

“Do you plan everything?” Vivian asked Edward.

“Always.” He responded.

“Yeah me too!”
She piped up, before continuing. “I'm actually – no, I'm not a planner. I would say I’m a kinda fly by the seat of your pants gal, you know moment to moment. Yeah that’s me, that’s...yeah.”

Even at the age of seven, this floored me – a precocious, perfectionist child who already possessed a day calendar. (It was mostly filled with the birth dates of my stuffed animals.)

Twenty years later, I’m still in awe of those people – men, and, well, prostitutes – who don’t plan out every second of their existence. While I don’t always write things down (I lost the ability to use a pen and paper three years ago), I always have things plotted out in my head. By Sunday morning, I already know what I’m going to eat every day and night that week, and if I’m going out to dinner, I already know what I’m going to wear, how I’m going to screw up my hair, and what I’m going to order.

In my mind, it’s the only way to live.

So last night, I was completely thrown for a loop when I got a text message from my friend asking if she could get a rain check on our dinner date. I wasn’t upset with her – I completely understand and encourage the need to stay in when the mood so strikes – I was more stupefied by what I should do since I hadn’t planned on what to make for dinner and I am not, as Vivian so eloquently says, “a fly by the seat of [my] pants kind of gal.”

I was supposed to eat at Robata Jinya, and order the spicy ramen with an egg added and some grilled broccoli for a green side. That was what was supposed to happen. That was what I’d been gearing up for since my friend and I had finalized the restaurant location at 2 pm earlier that day.

I couldn’t think straight. Did I use up the rest of a head of suspect cauliflower? If I cut off the tiny flecks of black mold could I still eat it without compromising my immune system? Or should I play it safe and make something with the asparagus I bought at the farmers’ market on Sunday? I wasn’t sure I wanted asparagus – or what I would even have with the asparagus since gal-who-does-not-fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants also cannot eat asparagus alone.

For 30 minutes, I stared blankly at the contents of my cupboards and refrigerator. Nothing sounded good except for fried rice – which I was seemingly incapable of making because I didn’t have any of the proper foodstuffs for it. Namely rice and an acceptable fried rice vegetable mix-in like broccoli or snow peas or even green beans.

I had asparagus.

Finally, after several more minutes of debate (which included a weak moment where I contemplated extracting the partially spoiled cauliflower from the trash can), I decided to go for broke with a “Spring Fried Quinoa Rice” dish. They were my pants and I was going to fly by them any which way I wanted. So help my taste buds.

I wasn’t sure how the dish was going to come together when I began roasting my asparagus, preparing my quinoa, and mincing an indecent amount of garlic and shallots. But when I sat down to my spontaneous supper less than 30 minutes later (take that Rachael Ray!), it tasted as though I’d spent all day planning to make it. So good in fact, that I’m already thinking about making it for dinner again tonight -- instead of my original plan for quinoa with asparagus, slow-roasted tomatoes and pesto.

Because that’s the way I fly by the seat of my pants -- sort of, kind of, not really at all.

Spring Fried Quinoa Rice
Serves 1

¼ cup (dry) quinoa, prepared with ½ cup of water
7 spears of asparagus, sliced diagonally into 1-inch pieces
2 shallots, finely chopped
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced (amount can vary depending on size and personal tolerance for garlic breath)
1/3 cup frozen peas
1 egg
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Juice from 1/4th a lemon
1 teaspoon honey
½ teaspoon sesame oil
Red pepper flakes, to taste
Salt, pepper
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, honey, and sesame oil. Set aside.

Toss asparagus with salt and pepper and place in a glass baking dish. Roast until tender – approximately 15 minutes. .

While asparagus is roasting, heat a large, nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Add a splash of olive oil, swirling it to coat the base of the pan. Reduce heat to medium, then add the shallot and garlic. Sauté together until onion is translucent, then add a pinch of red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to low, cook together for a minute, then add the quinoa. Let cook over low heat for 1-2 minutes so the quinoa can begin absorbing some of the flavor from the garlic/onions. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add a splash of olive oil to the pan and reheat over medium high heat. Crack the egg into the pan, and scramble until just barely set. Add the quinoa, shallots, garlic, asparagus, and frozen peas to the pan, and stir to combine. Toss the quinoa fried rice mixture with the soy-lemon sauce until well-integrated throughout. Serve immediately.


Esi said...

You're right. It is sooo my kind of recipe. I have everything except the asparagus and peas too. May have to make a stop to get them on the way home!

Gastronomer said...

You need to keep some Chinese sausages in the pantry. Fried rice ain't complete without it ;-)

Does the quinoa get a nice sear on it?

The Duo Dishes said...

Four cloves of garlic. Why not! They are your pants anyways.

Anna A. said...

Good work, TALF. You would make quinoa fried rice. Isn't Pretty Women the greatest?

Ashley said...

This is my kinda recipe. We need to add it to the desperation dinners list.

Katherine Josh said...

i've been drinking bird nest soup every night (i only get the homemade kind
back at home). the only reason why i drink it is because it's supposed to be
good for complexion.

i’ve been taking the store-bought kind online (e.g. of famous branded
only of course) which is directly mailed from Hong Kong. this would be at a
more affordable price.