lemony quinoa with rosemary chickpeas + braised leeks

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Our eyes are ready to let in more light after Memorial Day — suddenly, everyone becomes aware of each other again. We stop looking at the ground, watching for patches of black ice or buckling under the wind, instead we’re looking into each other’s faces. We’re intrigued, as though seeing each other, ourselves, for the first time, skin out. It seems there’s no warning at all and yet it happens with such precise constancy, year after year.

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Sometimes it’s pure curiosity, like: “What do you do when you get home and finally get to take off your shoes and get to loosen the cinch on your wrist watch?”

Do you immediately chop the onions?
…The leeks?

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Or do you wait a while, until after you’ve showered in ice to cool yourself of the mugginess, before you pull arugula from that plastic bag you picked up at the farmer’s market and toss it with the chickpeas?

Questions like these are shuffled like a deck of cards under hot breath on the subway car with broken window latches. We get more intimate with each other; and more than ever I can smell apt. 1A frying potatoes in bacon fat.
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So begins a different kind of dialogue, between neighbors who have shared at best a few elevator-words: hello, how are you, can you believe this weather? Wisps of things under doorsteps, salty and burned, gooey and sweet, invite a different kind of intimacy unintended for what we’ve prepared to say in public spaces.

Knowing this, I like to send lemony quinoa with my fan, layered with fast leeks — the soft and light parts. Mostly because it smells like the opposite of winter’s warm vanilla.

And even though I know leeks become even softer and sweeter under gentle-fire with long-drawn patience, there’s still something to be said for the peppery sharpness of it, braised, in the summertime, especially over a fluffy bowl of lemon-scented quinoa, you’ve shared, if accidentally with your neighbor. Often I’ll grate the whole thing over with cheese.

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Basic Salad:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest, divided
  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken/vegetable stock, divided
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 leeks, chopped into 1/4″ half moons (~2 cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vermouth (optional)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • handful fresh arugula
  • grated parmesan cheese

Add-ins (any combination of the following, if desired):

  • 1/4 fresh fennel, chopped
  • 1/4 cup roasted beets, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley leaves

Saute onion with a tablespoon of olive oil in a small pot until softened, then add 1 cup of chicken/vegetable stock, lemon zest and a pinch of salt, allowing liquid to reach a boil before adding uncooked quinoa and reducing heat to low and simmering with a fitted lid to cook 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile in a large saucepan, heat two tablespoons of olive oil on high heat and stir in chopped rosemary and leeks. Braise leeks; stirring often until softened slightly. After about  3 minutes, stir in remaining teaspoon of lemon zest  and season with salt and pepper to taste before adding remaining 1/4 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water, vermouth if using,  and chopped garlic and continue to soften until stock is reduced and leeks are soft, about 4-5 minutes. Stir in chickpeas and more salt and pepper to taste. Stir in lemon juice Line serving bowls with a bed of fresh arugula, fluffy quinoa, chickpeas and any add-ins. Drizzle with extra olive oil, plus more lemon juice and grated parmesan cheese.

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