Friday, June 15, 2012
Quinoa Salad with Grilled Scallions, Edamame and Dates: A deconstructed class act
"You're totally rockin' that t-shirt," She said nonchalantly as though she was stating a fact like "You're tall," or "You like pink."
I stared back at her, swirling the words around in my head like wine.
"Me? Rockin'? T-shirt?"
My cheeks immediately filled with color.
"Oh... really?" I finally spattered back in surprise, a horribly uncool reaction that was the opposite of how I should have responded -- an elegant, unqualified "Thank you" that comes out as effortlessly as an exhale.
Because of course I was rockin' my t-shirt. Why wouldn't I be rockin' my t-shirt? I was totally the t-shirt version of Cupcakes and Cashmere!
Quinoa and Cotton.
"Yeah!" She enthused, reaching for her phone to take a picture -- to Instagram my Target fedora, chunky red necklace and large dineLA t-shirt, roped off with a woven tan belt, into the social media ether.
As I ceremoniously posed for her iPhone, I had a flash of what it feels like to have the innate stylishness I always believed skipped over me. For a moment, I let myself believe that I'd suddenly acquired the ability to pull a heap of random, seemingly incoherent pieces together to form the type of ensemble that makes people pause and say, "You are totally rockin' that t-shirt."
Me. The girl who can barely manage to paint her toenails without getting it all over her toes. And the floor.
While to her eyes, I might have looked momentarily constructed, underneath I was still the same hot neurotic, questionably fashionable mess that assesses nearly every wardrobe decision I make by asking myself "WWAW?" (What Would Ashley Wear?)
Because she, like Emily, actually does rock t-shirts -- and/or cashmere.
But this was all lost on me. In that instant, I was totally the cool girl in the blinged-out t-shirt and not the girl who spends an entire week tearing her apartment apart looking for the 3-month-old check she forgot to cash, or who absentmindedly carries her dinner plate into the bathroom to wash it instead of the kitchen, or who stands over the sink eating Everything flavor Pretzel Crisps and dark chocolate almonds at 1:30 a.m. on a Thursday night.
A deconstructed class act.
Just like this quinoa salad.
An indecent smudge of date puree on one side, a tangle of grilled scallions and leeks on the other, and jagged pieces of pecans scattered over the top.
Seemingly random, incoherent pieces brought together for a brief moment of stylish cohesion.
Quinoa Salad with Grilled Scallions, Edamame and Dates
Adapted from Food & Wine
Notes: The most significant change I made to this dish was using edamame instead of fava beans -- mostly because I couldn't find favas at my Farmer's Market that day. (Though in the interests of full disclosure, using edamame is infinitely easier and recommended if you are short on time!) I also added pecans for a bit of texture, and used the recommended leeks instead of green garlic. Finally, I reduced the amount of oil, doubled the amount of lemon/zest (I'm an acid junkie), grilled my onions on a grill pan, and roasted my dates instead of grilling them. I was also a bit more heavy-handed with my mint and arugula.
4 soft Medjool dates, pitted
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1/2 cup red quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1 cup shelled edamame, cooked
Finely grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
6 scallions, tips and ends removed
1 small leek, rinsed well, sliced vertically into 1/2 inch wide strips
1/4 cup roughly chopped mint
2 cups arugula
1/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place dates in small, oven-safe container and roast until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, season with salt and using the back of a fork, smash together. Add sherry vinegar, mixing until well combined. Mixture will be thick and sticky. Set aside.
Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add 1/2 cup of quinoa, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, until all the water has been absorbed and the quinoa kernels have separated from their shells (approximately 20-25 minutes). Fluff quinoa with a fork and then set aside to cool.
Whisk together lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Toss the leeks and scallions with a tablespoon of the lemon dressing.
Heat a grill pan (or use an actual grill) over medium high heat. Cook the scallions and leeks until tender and browned on both sides, approximately 2-3 minutes.
In a medium bowl, toss together the quinoa, edamame, mint, arugula and rest of lemon dressing.
Smear the date mixture on the side of two plates. Heap the quinoa mixture in the center of each plate, lining the other side of the plates with the onions. Sprinkle with pecans. Serve and eat immediately.