The first time I tasted quinoa was in the mid-1980′s. I’d just moved to Vermont and was discovering all kinds of new foods. It was a thrill.
I remember eagerly looking for recipes for it, but in those pre-Google times, the only thing I had to go on were the directions on the package.
So I started experimenting on my own. Before long, quinoa was a favorite in our household; it was on the menu at least once a week, in one form or another.
For me, the most seductive thing about quinoa is its texture — it is so refined! And although I often serve it in place of rice, I also love creating more sophisticated recipes for it.
That’s how I came up with today’s dish. I wanted to make an elegant appetizer, something I could serve at dinner parties — something that would highlight this little seed’s delicate shape and subtle flavor.
The best part, though, is that this recipe is extremely versatile. With a little attention to detail, it is indeed transformed into the stylish appetizer I had envisioned. And with a little nonchalance it becomes a super-easy salad served family style.
Either way, one thing’s for sure: this dish is just plain delicious!
Note: Piquillo peppers are little Spanish red peppers that have been fire-roasted, hand-peeled and jarred. They are very sweet and flavorful. I chose them for this recipe because they are as delicate as the quinoa itself! You can find Piquillo peppers in gourmet food stores such as Whole Foods, or online at La Tienda.
A manzanilla sherry from Sanlúcar de Barrameda in southern Spain is marvelous with this appetizer! The wine’s complex flavors work well with the Piquillo peppers and the cured olives, while its acidity stands up to the vinaigrette. Of course, a dry rosé would be delightful here too.
Quinoa with Piquillo peppers, cured olives and frisée – served with a balsamic–shallot vinaigrette
active time: 30 min
For the vinaigrette
- 1 1/2 tablespoons aged balsamic vinegar
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small shallot – skinned and finely chopped
- 1 small garlic clove – skinned and crushed (see Viviane’s tip below)
- 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad
- 1 recipe quinoa
- 1 – 8 oz (225 g) jar Piquillo peppers (or roasted red peppers) – cut in 1/4″ strips
- 1/4 cup pitted cured olives – very finely chopped
- 1 handful frisée leaves – torn in 1” pieces
- 1 tablespoon pine nuts
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- 1 half-cup-capacity ramequin
- Step 1: To make the vinaigrette — Place all ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk until well blended and set aside.
- Step 2: Toss the quinoa with two thirds of the vinaigrette and mix well. Spoon the quinoa mixture into the ramequin and press with the back of a spoon to pack it tightly. Invert ramequin in the center of a plate and gently lift it off. It will create a small mound. Top with the Piquillo pepper slices and then a dollop of the chopped olives. Garnish with a few frisée leaves and some pine nuts. Drizzle with the balance of the vinaigrette and finish with freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve immediately.
- Cook’s note: To serve the quinoa family style, toss the quinoa with two thirds of the vinaigrette and mix well. Place quinoa in a serving bowl. Top with the peppers. Sprinkle with the chopped olives. Garnish with the frisée and pine nuts. Drizzle with the balance of the vinaigrette and a little black pepper and serve.
Viviane’s Tip — Crushing garlic using a microplane grater
I like to use a microplane grater to crush garlic. It’s easy and there’s no mess to clean! Just quickly rub the garlic clove back and forth on the blade…
… and in seconds you have a perfectly crushed clove!
Disclaimer: As always, my point of view is my own. I do not accept samples, and have no commercial relationship with any product, food or wine company.