Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Orange quinoa and salmon with kohlrabi

Have you been wondering to yourself whether there is a grain out there that is more nutritious than brown rice? Have you? Well, there is! In fact, there are probably several. But if you would simply like to try something new, I suggest quinoa. I can't remember if I have posted about it before or not. It is really interesting--an ancient grain that was first cultivated by the Incas and is distantly related to spinach, not that you can tell by looking at it. It is highly nutritious because it contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans. It is delicious because it is nutty and flavorful and really easy to cook. I made it yesterday to go with some gorgeous salmon that I bought at the DeKalb market--oh my god, it was this perfect reddish color. I couldn't remember what type of salmon was OK to eat, whether it should be farmed or wild, so I pulled out my little wallet guide to ethical fish consumption and consulted it while standing in front of the fishmonger. Turns out that we should all be eating wild alaska salmon, which fortunately was sitting right there in the case, looking amazing. So I bought it and cooked all this:

Rinsed 1 1/2 cups of quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer through several changes of cold, running water. One of the interesting things about quinoa is that the grains are coated in a natural, bitter-tasting chemical called saponin. Most saponin is removed during the processing of the grain but you will still want to rinse it a bit to make sure there is not any left on it. Covered the rinsed quinoa in 2 cups of chicken stock and put up to cook on the rice cooker. Took one orange, washed it really well and zested it, stirring the zest into the quinoa. Juiced the orange and poured a teensy bit into the quinoa (maybe one teaspoon), but set aside most of the juice for cooking the salmon. When all the liquid was absorbed (about 20 minutes), stirred the cooked grains to make them fluffy, then set aside until everything else was done. If you have no rice cooker, you can make it on the stovetop: just stick the quinoa and liquid in a pot, bring it to a boil, then cover and turn down to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed.

Mixed the set-aside orange juice with 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Put the lovely piece of salmon in a pan over medium heat and covered it with the orange-soy mixture. Turned the salmon over once after 2 minutes of cooking and spooned the sauce over the top of it as it cooked. Turned it back over again after 2 more minutes, spooned over some more of the sauce, then covered the top of the fish with sesame seeds. Let cook for another 3-4 minutes, then cut into it to see if it was getting close to done. You might have a thinner or thicker piece of fish so it may not take the same amount of time to cook. Took the fish off the heat and reduced the remaining sauce down over high heat for 1 minute to make a glaze to pour over the top of the salmon.

I also made some kohlrabi, which is a particularly delicious vegetable. You can usually find it in the market with the greens attached to the top--it's a funny looking, roundish, pale green root. Like a turnip from outer space. Cut off the green tops and peel the roots. They are thick peels and fiborous, so be sure to get it all off. That is the annoying part of kohlrabi--all the peeling that you have to do. After that, it is simple: cut the peeled root into cubes or slices of about 1/2" thick, then steam or boil them until soft--about 15 minutes. I steamed the ones I made yesterday over the quinoa as it cooked--yet another wonderful aspect of my rice cooker. But, again, if you have not a rice cooker, simply put a little bit of water (no more than 1/2 cup) in the bottom of a pot and bring to a boil. Put the cut up kohlrabi in the pot and cover it. They will steam happily that way as well. When they are soft, drain and toss them in a bowl with butter, salt and pepper. You win.

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