I have one more recipe from 2012 to share with you before I can officially dismantle the holidays and start the New Year’s purging of the leftover desserts we didn’t eat, the stacks of Christmas catalogs I didn’t order from, and the clothes I didn’t wear this year. That can wait until tomorrow.
This particular dish works well as a main course for vegans or a side dish for meat-eaters, and is a wonderful “company’s coming over for dinner” recipe because you can make it the day before. It’s also a dish that can sit out on a buffet table for hours and still look and taste fresh. (Double the recipe for a crowd.) The secret to the success of this recipe is using dried porcini mushrooms and cooking the quinoa in the mushroom broth. That and a splash of truffle oil provide a rich, complex earthy flavor.
If your truffle experience has been limited to the chocolate variety, the truffles infused in oil are a kind of subterranean fungi, meaning they are a mushroom that grows underground. Black and white truffles grow mainly in Europe in forested areas around the base of trees and are traditionally hunted by pigs (although more and more dogs are being recruited for the job as they can be trained to not eat their quarry.) Because a limited amount of these prized truffles can only be found several months a year (found, not grown), the prices are astronomical. The black truffle, from the southwest area of France, can sell for as much as $400 a pound. Italy’s white truffle can run as high as $3000 a pound. They are traditionally shaved (sparingly!) over pasta, risotto or egg dishes.
One way to enjoy the earthy flavor of truffles without taking out a loan is to use truffle oil, which is a finishing oil, not a cooking oil. Drizzle it over your cooked pasta and pizza. I found a bottle at Whole Foods for $10- worth every penny. Before you buy, make sure to examine the label carefully. It should say truffle-infused oil, not truffle-flavored or truffle-essence or truffle-aroma oil. These are synthetic products.
A couple more notes: rinse the quinoa well before cooking! Quinoa seeds are coated with saponins, naturally-occurring plant chemicals that can cause a bitter taste if you don’t rinse them off. Also, in the list of ingredients, I’ve listed pine nuts as “optional” because of their expense. If you already have pine nuts at home, or if you have a store where you can buy them at a less than exorbitant price (Costco, Trader Joe’s) then they’re a nice addition, but not necessary.
Happy 2013! Wishing you good health and good food on your table.
- 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms (or other dried exotic mushrooms)
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
- 1 large head cauliflower, chopped into small pieces
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- juice of 1 lime
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- salt to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
- truffle oil
- Heat one cup water in a microwave for about 2 minutes. Pour over 1 oz dried porcini mushrooms in a bowl and let soak for 30 minutes.
- While you’re waiting, toss chopped cauliflower with olive oil, juice of one lime, cumin and a dash of salt and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes until lightly browned and tender.
- Drain the mushrooms in a colander and save the mushroom water. Rinse mushrooms and then chop into smaller pieces.
- Rinse 1 cup quinoa in a fine mesh strainer. Combine the reserved mushroom water with enough tap water to make 2 cups of liquid. Pour into a pot, add the quinoa and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until quinoa is tender and sprouts what looks like a tail. Drain any excess water.
- Saute 4 cloves of garlic in a Tbsp of olive oil and then throw in the chopped mushrooms. Saute for a minute or two and add the cooked quinoa.
- Add the cauliflower, salt to taste, pine nuts and drizzle truffle oil over everything.
- You can serve this warm or at room temperature.