Give an ancient grain a new twist

It has been a while since my last recipe. I could say I’ve been on sabbatical, touring the country or the world, testing recipes with talented cooks and chefs and expanding my culinary horizons.

Except, well, no.

Everyday life just took over – work, commuting, errands, holidays, playing with friends, cleaning, reading, a new puppy and well, you know what it’s like with a new puppy.

So, onward. As usual, during the winter I ate out too much because all that comfort food called to me, and I answered. But letting other folks cook for me sometimes fed my imagination, as well as my belly.
For instance, I visited a Peruvian chicken restaurant, where the mouth-watering smell of rotisserie chickens swathed in mysterious spices almost drove me crazy. Of course, I ordered the chicken, but I was intrigued by another dish they offered – an avocado stuffed with quinoa.

I have two ingredients that are my go-to champions on balmier days – avocados and lemons. Yep, we eat a lot of guacamole around here, but an avocado stuffed with lemony quinoa sounded like a great alternative. I know, I know, quinoa is the trendy “it-girl”, and you can’t open a magazine without seeing it mentioned. But this stuff has been around forever, it cooks quickly, and like tofu, it will take on any flavor you throw at it.

As I pushed my cart through the grocery store (with an open People magazine in the baby seat), I thought about how to make the stuffing. Then I looked up from the photos of celebrities cavorting in the surf with their kids and saw dried cherries. Yep, a little sweet, a little sour and some shallots always make a great combo.

I usually suggest you substitute anything you like for ingredients, but in this case, I would suggest you stick with quinoa or another light grain like farro instead of using rice, which really bogs down this dish. Also, make the little extra effort to find shallots instead of using onions that can overpower the delicate flavors of this dish.

Quinoa-stuffed Avocados

Serves four

1 cup water

1 cup vegetable broth

1 cup quinoa

pinch of salt

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 shallots

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 cup dried tart cherries

2 Hass avocados

juice of one lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tbsp. green Tabasco

Bring the water, vegetable broth and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan, add the quinoa, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook about 15 minutes until quinoa is fluffy.

While the quinoa cooks, heat the olive oil over low heat in a medium saute pan. Peel and mince the shallots and add them to the pan.  Cook about 5 minutes, then stir in cumin and cherries and cook another 3-4 minutes. Stir in the cooked quinoa and remove from heat.

Halve the avocados, remove the pits and run a sharp knife around the edges to loosen and remove the flesh. Place the empty shells on each plate.

Coarsely chop the avocado,  and stir it gently into the quinoa mixture. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, combine the lemon juice, olive oil and Tabasco sauce. Shake vigorously.

Spoon the quinoa mixture into avocado shells and pour dressing over each.

 

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