this colorful pilaf is the first recipe i tried from my new cookbook ‘tender’, by nigel slater (reviewed – by humble me – here). side comment: what i particularly like about his book (i might have forgotten to add this in my last post), is the fact that the recipes are sorted by vegetable, in an alphabetical order from A to Z. thorough as i am (or maybe it was just a coincidence), i started at the very beginning, namely at ‘A’ like ‘asparagus’…
truly, the ideas slater provides are fantastic. like, would you ever, in a million home-cooking trial and error years, have guessed that asparagus goes well with cinnamon? would you, now? i certainly wouldn’t have. but i thought it sounded just a bit adventurous. perfect!
instead of his rice version though, i used quinoa for the pilaf. i often find rice ‘salads’ boring and dry, and prefer to switch it for other, more interesting grains, like buckwheat or barley. this time around i had some leftover quinoa on hand, so i threw this in. otherwise, i pretty-much followed the original recipe*. here goes:
fava beans quinoa pilaf
adapted from nigel slater’s tender I
1 cup quinoa, cooked according to directions
1 onion, chopped
bunch of green asparagus, washed and trimmed
1 bowl shelled fava or broad beans
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 piece green jalapeno, medium hotness, minced
1 cinnamon stick and / or 3 cloves
1 tsp. black cumin seeds
1/2 cup vegetable stock and / or cup of (salted) water
2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more according to liking
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup mint leaves, minced
1 cup parsley leaves, minced
6 spring onions, chopped
1 lemon, juice
what seems like a really long list of things and never ending directions is actually quite simple to achieve. the concept is the following: pre-cook the three main ingredients (quinoa, asparagus, beans) separately. heat the spices in a saucepan and then combine everything and heat through. it’s not unlike a warm salad.
first, cook the quinoa according to directions. add a pinch of salt and / or some vegetable stock to the water. set aside.
in the meantime prepare the greens. wash and trim the asparagus, and quickly (shorter than you normally would) blanch in salted water, for about 1 minute. drain and ‘shock’ with ice cold water. then cut into bite-sized junks and put aside.
shell the fava beans (not much substance will be left after the shells are gone, so make sure to buy enough beans in the first place). blanch them in salted water for 2 minutes, then drain and shock, too. when cooled, make sure to remove the outer, slightly white transparent-ish fine skin of the beans by squeezing them tenderly between your fingers. i know it sounds like an ordeal (though i actually quite like this process), but it’s totally worth it and necessary. the beans are otherwise slightly bitter, with their skins on, and you won’t want that. it’s just not nice. put aside, too.
the next big step: start with the actual pilaf-spice-combo. in a wok or a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. sweat the onion and garlic, then add the jalapeno, cumin seeds and sweat for a minute more. now ‘deglaze’ with the water and / or vegetable stock. add the cinnamon stick and / or cloves, and bring to a boil.
finally, add everything: quinoa, asparagus, beans, and heat through for 1-2 minutes. this is why you shouldn’t over-cook the asparagus in the first place, because now it will cook a bit more. you don’t want your asparagus mushy. season with salt and pepper, and stir occasionally. turn off the heat.
just before serving, mix in the fresh ingredients: the herbs (i used mint and parsley), chopped spring onions and – if you wish – lemon juice. sprinkle with a bit more salt, maybe.
* note: seriously though, not really… eep! i hope nigel aka my personal hero wouldn’t mind or, worse, disapprove of my adaptations? it sort of seemed like the perfect recipe that he provided. but somehow, i just had to obey a certain mood that grabbed a hold of me during the cooking process, and make a few twists and changes here and there… you know how, right? okay i was just being a bit bold and thought that nothing could possible ruin this solid base of a recipe… and i must say i quite liked my pilaf version. it was a nice, green, spring-like pilaf, ideal for an afternoon snack on a saturday. or a midnight snack on that same day. or breakfast the following morning. or… hm, i think you get the picture.
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