Sunday, October 9, 2011

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dates, Almonds, Red Quinoa: This I know

"It's like you are buying flowers for his family," The Apple Store sales associate had told me on Friday night when I was purchasing my new iPod Nano.

"I totally am!" I'd practically squealed, unable to contain my delight at his clever justification of my unnecessary, but totally necessary purchase. "It's even pink!" I'd said with pride.

It had seemed ironic earlier in the day when the sound on my three-year-old iPod had stopped functioning in the middle of my bike workout at the gym. After I'd gotten past the initial horror of having to finish my workout sans musical accompaniment, I'd realized it was almost appropriate given the recent passing of Apple Co-Founder and former CEO Steve Jobs.

Usually this type of technical failure would dishearten me -- another expense to add to the ever-growing list -- but I'd felt empowered that day. "I'm just going to buy myself a new one!" I'd thought defiantly, not letting myself think about the expense of my recent car repairs or the Chicago trip I have coming up at the end of the month.

I felt like a fierce, independent woman as I strode through the Grove shopping mall that night, shiny new iPod in hand. I'd even allowed myself to flirt with the tattooed associate for a few minutes before getting embarrassed and saying, "I have plans when some girl friends," when he'd asked me what I was doing after.

It felt like a victory to me -- a declaration of adulthood and my ability to buy myself what I wanted at the precise moment I wanted it. Just like when I'd bought myself my MacBook computer nearly five years ago. Just like when I'd signed the check on the deposit for my first one bedroom apartment. Just like when I'd slapped down my credit card and said, "Let me get this one," when I'd taken a friend out for dinner a couple months ago.

So today, when I found out the software on that five-year-old MacBook is incompatible with the version of iTunes I need for my new iPod, I felt like a child again. I stared blankly at the Apple Store Genius as he told me that I needed to buy the new software update so I could download the most recent version of iTunes.

"But my disc drive doesn't work any more," I protested. "Isn't there any other way I can get the update? Can't I download it online?"

He shook his head.

"Are there any older version of iPods available that would be compatible with the iTunes I have now?" I pressed, not wanting to believe that there wasn't an easy way to correct the situation.

He shook his head again.

I sat dumbly on the bench, waiting for him to come up with some "genius" solution. How he could telepathically update my computer so I wouldn't have to replace my disc drive just so I could actually use the iPod I'd triumphantly purchased two days prior. Surely this couldn't be it. Surely he or the tattooed associate could employ some Jedi mind tricks and just wave their hands over my computer to make everything work exactly as it should.

This was the Apple Store -- the land off possibility, not shaking heads.

"So, there's really nothing you can do?" I asked one last time.

He shook his head once more, a curt, definitive motion that made it clear this was the end of the road. It was time for me to get up and leave and let him not help the next person in the long queue of customers waiting for their Genius consultation.

I walked slowly toward my car, clutching my bag from the Farmers Market that contained a jar of whole grain mustard I had purchased to make my lunch. The pride I'd felt so vividly on Friday was gone, replaced with an overwhelming sense helplessness. There was nothing I could do to fix my problem in that moment.

All I could do was go home and make lunch.

Lunch I can fix.

Lunch makes sense to me.

I know that if I toss Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in the oven for 30 minutes, they will emerge crinkly, crispy and tender to the fork. I know that if I make red quinoa with just slightly less water than the ratio of two parts liquid to one parts quinoa it will fluff up perfectly. And I know that if I combine whole grain and Dijon mustards with apple cider vinegar, honey and a splash of oil, I'll have an assertively tart and sweet dressing ideally suited for an eclectic mix of sprouts, quinoa, dates, almonds, and sauteed tofu.

This I know.

Without using a single Jedi mind trick.

Brussels Sprouts Salad with Dates, Almonds and Red Quinoa
Serves 4

This salad is inspired by one of my favorite deli salads at my beloved Los Angeles cafe Joan's on Third. Collapsing Brussels sprouts are tossed with an assertive whole grain mustard dressing that is counterbalanced by crunchy almonds, manchego cheese and sweet dates. My version includes red quinoa and tofu for a little extra bulk -- my way of turning the side dish I always want to eat a pint of into an actual main course. Feel free to adjust according to personal taste -- leaving out the quinoa or swapping in manchego for the tofu. I think apples might do quite nicely in here as well.

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, stems and outer leaves removed
1 cup red quinoa, rinsed well
10 ounces extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/4 inch thick, 1/2 inch sticks
6-8 Medjool dates, chopped
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Slice each Brussels sprout from the top down into four even pieces. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in oven safe baking dish for approximately 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes to scrape up any leaves that start to stick to the edges of the dish. Sprouts are down when they can easily be pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, bring 1 3/4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add the quinoa, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for approximately 25-30 minutes. Red quinoa takes longer to cook than white, and is done when the white shells have visibly separated from the red kernel. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool.

Heat large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Once hot, add a teaspoon of olive oil and swirl to coat the base of the pan. Add the tofu, reduce heat to medium and stir fry until well-browned on all sides, approximately 7-10 minutes.

While salad components are coming to room temperature, prepare dressing. Whisk together both mustards, apple cider vinegar, honey, olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust accordingly.

Toss quinoa, Brussels sprouts, tofu, dates, and dressing together. Chill at least an hour.

Just prior to serving, stir in the almonds.


Postdoc said...

Came out from lurking to ask: Do you mind if I ask what software update you're looking for? And you've checked the Mac App store online? You're not looking for OSX Lion by any chance, are you? I just find it hard to believe that whatever you're looking for isn't available online somewhere as a download. But I could be totally wrong.

I've had mixed results myself with the Apple Genius Bar. A true story:

Me: My iPod won't turn on anymore.

So-called Genius: Ok, well, you'll have to make an appointment with the Genius Bar and come back in. And make sure to back up your iPod before your appointment.

Me: I can't - because my iPod won't turn on anymore. (Genius)

Best of luck with the situation! I love your blog, by the way - I'm a new reader, but I love your combination of recipes and personal vignettes.

Bianca said...

Glad you felt empowered to buy the iPod but I'm sorry for the snafu you ran into with your macbook. At least some good came out of it. That quinoa looks great, like something right out of a mag

Diana said...

Postdoc - That's what I thought too! It seems very strange that I wouldn't be able to get it from the Mac App store! Though now that I'm looking at it, wondering if my computer is even too old to download the software apps? Hmm. Well, regardless, thank you for coming out of the lurking to comment - really really appreciate the advice and Apple Store Genius (or not so Genius) sympathy.

Bianca - Thank you so much! I was pretty proud of my salad -- the perfect antidote to a bad day! :)

Postdoc said...

Hmm, are you running OSX 10.4 now? It looks like OSX Lion (10.7) is available as a download from the Mac App store, but in order to download it, you need 10.6.8 - which I think you can update as long as you're running 10.6 (Snow Leopard). But 10.6 might not be available as a (legal) download, if you're running something earlier than 10.6. I thought iTunes is compatible with 10.5 though, so if you have at least that you might be all right. Might be worth getting a second opinion though from a second, er, Genius. Or from the support line at 1-800-MY-APPLE, and just ask them if there's a way to update from 10.4 to 10.5 without a working disc drive. I can't imagine you're the first one to run into this, you know? So hopefully they've seen this before and have an answer. Anyway, sorry this is so frustrating! Best of luck!!

Postdoc said...

PS - Forums claim that you can do it with a second MacBook with working DVD drive and a FireWire cable to connect it to yours:

I can't speak to whether or not this works, but might be worth asking the "Geniuses" directly about this option. Good luck!!

Diana said...

Postdoc - Thank you so much! You've been so incredibly helpful! I contacted my Mac fix-it guy (don't know what else to call him!) and I might just have the disc drive repaired, but I'll call the Mac support line first just to make sure there aren't any other options. Thanks again!

Monet said...

Computers, phones...a blessing and a curse. But this looks so good...and I'm so glad that my arm is better and I can visit and comment again! Thank you for being such an inspiration. Your words, recipes and photos...yum, yum, yum! Blessings from Austin

yutjangsah said...

Diana B. Sprouts Power,

Same thing happened to me. Old Macbook broken disk drive - same with my other girlfriend. That's how they get you to buy a new macbook.

I have no tips or solutions. I bought a separate disk drive but it's broken too! Alls I can say it, them sprouts look delicious. Also, if your old iPod ever works again, you can hook it up to your work computer and download the songs there and then upload your new one. Keep on cookin!