The ideal version of my world would involve morning trips to outdoors markets (Rome’s Campo dei Fiori would do just fine, thanks) where I would chat with the vendors that I see every morning while choosing fresh, local ingredients for the day’s lineup of simply-prepared dishes which I would prepare in my much-larger kitchen of my dreams.
And although I do occasionally manage a morning run to a local farmer’s market (or, more often, my local Whole Foods), most of my days are more likely to include an all-day slog of work and emails and conference calls, leaving me searching for something I can quickly put together for dinner, using whatever I’ve got on hand, before heading for an ungainly collapse on the sofa with my plate and an adult beverage, for a few episodes of Nurse Jackie or (as of tonight!) the return of 24.
This quinoa dish is a good example of something that fits the bill on those all-too-typical evenings. Quinoa is quick to make, unlike brown rice or just about any other grain, and I almost always have a can of chickpeas lurking in the pantry. From there, it’s just a quick red onion pickle and a rough chop of flat-leaf parsley. The dressing is simply tahini thinned with a bit of olive oil — the vinegar from the pickled onion providing some zip. Add a sprinkling of cashews, and I’m done.
Pairing: Pinot Gris
This is a pretty versatile dish when it comes to a wine pairing. If I’m in the mood for something aromatic, a Viognier works nicely. If something more substantial is needed, then a Chardonnay or Chenin Blanc can fit the bill. But when I want a little bit of all of those things, without too much of anything, a Pinot Gris is a good choice. In fact, with its smooth, silky texture, nice palate weight, pleasant aromatics, and (typically) low oak influence, Pinot Gris is a nice all-purpose white wine choice for just about anything.
Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same thing, by the way. Wines made from the same grape, but in different places, with different languages. Pinot Grigio is a famous wine of Italy — grown all over the country, but with the best versions coming from the northeast regions of Friuli and Alto Adige. When made well, it can be a complex, bright, distinctive wine. The not-so-well-made stuff tends to be quaffable, neutral and (mostly) inoffensive, with not much going on.
Pinot Gris is the French name for the same grape, and it’s produced in places as diverse as Alsace, Germany, Austria, Oregon and New Zealand, among many others. In a very non-regulated way, there seems to be a stylistic difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, with the latter term used for wines made in a silkier, more aromatic, fuller-bodied style. They’re mostly affordable and easy-drinking, with a fleshy fruitiness, but crisp and dry, with bright acidity. Here are a couple I’ve enjoyed lately:
Soléna 2012 Pinot Gris Willamette Valley ($20). A terrific example of delicious Oregon Pinot Gris — manages to be both elegant and racy, with white floral aromas introducing pretty white peach, Asian pear, lemon and cream, with a touch of that honeysuckle through the finish. Lovely. Find it!
La Crema 2012 Pinot Gris Monterey ($20). Crisp and bright, with smooth white peach and fig flavors balanced with juicy citrus and a touch of honey through the finish. Find it!
Recipe: Quinoa with Cashews and Chickpeas
1/2 medium red onion, slivered
red wine vinegar
1/2 cup red quinoa
1/2 cup white quinoa
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 cup roughly-chopped flat leaf parsley
3/4 cup roasted, salted cashews, roughly-chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 T tahini
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of dried thyme
Place slivered red onion in a small glass/nonreactive bowl and add red wine vinegar to just cover. Set aside while preparing quinoa and the rest of the salad.
Cook quinoa according to package directions. Set aside to cool slightly. Tip into a large bowl. Add chickpeas and toss to combine. Add chopped parsley and cashews and toss again.
Make dressing by mixing tahini with olive oil. Add the pinches of red pepper flakes and dried thyme. Drain some (or all, depending on your preference) of the red wine vinegar off the slivered onions and whisk into dressing.
Add the quick-pickled onion to the salad, then toss with dressing. Adjust seasoning as needed, including olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serves 2-4