I hope there's still a bit of time left here for a New Years toast.
No, not that kind of toast, dear readers. We've had quite enough of that stuff!
I'm talking about toast as in toasted almonds and the toasty, crunchy goodness of quinoa and brown rice and apples. Good heavens. To tell you the truth, I never really expected to use the words "crunchy goodness" unless I was being paid big commercial bucks, but it is exactly crunchy goodness I am offering you this week.
My favorite days at the marché are Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays - who am I kidding? I love each day of the week at the marché. But on those alternate days, the big market is set up and the section that begins at the left end of my little rue is where you can find most of the bio (organic) growers. Actually my go-to growers are a couple that set up camp in another section of the big market with a crumpled handmade cardboard sign that has BIO written in green wide felt tip pen. The sign has certainly seen better days but I can always count on these two for the freshest organic veggies - and almonds - as well as organic coconut cookies when I'm jonesing for such treats. And that little habit started when she dropped a couple of those gems in my basket as a little offrir (gift). I'm confident she knew exactly what she was doing.
I load up on everything from beets to zucchini but for my apples, I am a loyal customer of a fellow who sells six different types along with a few types of pears. Steps away from my front door, I was first struck by the numbers of people crowded around his set up while other vendors stood alone with their crates of pommes. There is always something to a crowd of French speakers swarming around some food item or other so I stepped into the swirl and bagged myself a few pink ladies...apples, of course. Crisp and juicy, each bite offered the perfect balance of sweet and tart. I was hooked.
I took my basket and little paper bag from the previous purchase of these little wonders (and he was quite impressed, may I add, at my recycling commitment! "Vive la planete!" or something like that he said as he stuck a we're-number-one-type finger gesture in the air.) As I stood over that day's crate of fragrant variegated pink ladies, he stopped me as I reached in for the first one to plop into my open and waiting sack. With a click of his tongue, "Tsk, tsk," he corrected as he wagged the same long finger that had previously been overhead in victory mode. "Take these," and he directed my attention to another crate set back from within reach of the rest.
"These were picked just 20 minutes ago," he said in a conspiratorial whisper. He had me at "20 minutes", which is not something I can say about most men I meet...but I digress. I reached in and plucked the dewy orbs one by one, some with the leaves still attached to their stems, and filled my little sack to the top.
As I headed back from the market, I risked showing the world my silly grin, but I kept my thoughts to myself: "I love this place!"
Those crisp apples were part of this crunchy goodness, along with celery, toasted almonds and quinoa. Mixed with chewy brown rice and a few raisins tossed in for an added kick of sweetness, it's balanced nicely by the creamy yogurt dressing. I love it when I make it warm, mixing the warm rice and quinoa mixture straight out of the pot just as much as I love the leftovers cold the next day. That's when there are any leftovers left over!
I know you're going to like this...even if your apples weren't picked just 20 minutes ago!
Curried Rice and Quinoa Salad
adapted from a recipe in the New York Times by Martha Rose Shulman
I used a mixed-grains combo along with brown basmati rice.
3/4 cup basmati brown rice, cooked
1/2 cup quinoa, preferably red quinoa, cooked (this is where I used the mixed grains - that included red quinoa - combo)
1/4 cup toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1 large stalk celery, diced
1 apple, cored, cut in small dice and tossed with 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
handful of golden raisins tossed in, if you wish
For the dressing:
1/2 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 tablespoons Hellmann’s or Best Foods Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon curry powder
Pinch of cayenne
Salt to taste
For garnish: 1/2 pound broccoli florets, steamed for four or five minutes
1. Combine all of the salad ingredients.
2. Whisk together the yogurt or buttermilk, mayonnaise, lime juice, Dijon mustard, curry powder, cayenne and salt to taste. Toss with the salad. Garnish with the broccoli florets (or toss them right into the mix as I did), and serve.
Yield: Serves six.
Advance preparation: You can make this several hours before serving, and keep in the refrigerator. Leftovers keep well for a few days.