Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange, dried apricots and pistachios

Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange, dried apricots and pistachios

Being Italian, I am probably expected to eat more pasta than I actually do. In fact, like it's true that pasta is the most universally renowned Italian food (only pizza is maybe as popular as pasta), so it is also true that the average lunch of the average Italian family usually includes a plate of pasta. 
This being the reality, I have to admit that I am quite peculiar to be Italian as I actually don't eat pasta so often. But don't get me wrong! I do like pasta very much, and I think it is a really wonderful creation of the Italian cuisine: it's so versatile that it can be transformed into a last minute dinner as well as into a sophisticated dish, resulting always tasty and satisfying. The fact is that I get bored: even changing the shape and / or the sauce, to me pasta is pasta (like it would be rice or fish or meat or chicken or anything else eaten every day). I enjoy it much more if I have once in a while (let's say once a week, maybe twice, three times start to be too much). I eat pasta more often - that means almost every day, with few exceptions - only when I visit my family, or my husband's, and have my meals at home with them. And then I usually get bored of pasta ...
What I like to do at home is on one side making always different and new recipes, on the other having different types of dishes during the week, especially at dinner (for lunch I am fine with a salad): this way we have something different every day and always prepared using different ingredients and recipes. It's funny but, excluding some recipes that I particularly love or that I make particularly well, as a result of this habit of mine there are some recipes that I made only once - that is actually a shame for certain lovely dishes, which would deserve to be made again! Also I have to admit to be lucky as my husband is very open to try anything new and different and appreciate my love for experimenting in the kitchen (even if he probably would appreciate more experiments on pasta...); and also never complains when something doesn't come out so appetizing as I wished. 
All this confession of mine is a justification - mostly to myself - for not sharing (yet) a recipe for pasta but for an alternative to pasta, a really good one though: a combination of red rice and quinoa, mixed with caramelized onions, dried apricots, toasted pistachios, rocket and orange zest, in a olive oil, orange and lemon juice dressing.
Really nice combination, that I enjoyed much more than I expected when I decided to make it (and is also much more good then pretty). The idea comes from a recipe by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi (I confess I am trying so many recipes from their book "Ottolenghi - The Cookbook" lately) that attracted my attention for the use of many sweet ingredients - dried apricots, orange, caramelized onion - in a savory dish; and I have to say that the result is really well balanced and absolutely delicious. The first time I made it using the original quantities (200 g, before cooking, of each type of grain) I was scared of how much of this salad I had made, not even knowing whether it was good or not. But after trying I was glad for making so much and also for having leftovers for the following day. And in fact the day after, or at least few hours after making, this salad is even better than freshly prepared because all flavors have the time to amalgamate: a perfect make-ahead dish and also an idea for a picnic basket or for your lunch box.
Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange, dried apricots and pistachios

Camargue red rice and quinoa with orange, dried apricots and pistachios
adapted from "Ottolenghi- The cookbook"
serves 4 to 6 as a main dish (6 to 8 as a starter)
60 g shelled pistachio nuts
200 g quinoa (I used white)
200 g Camargue red rice
1 medium onion, sliced
150 ml olive oil
grated zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, crushed
(I used whole and removed before serving)
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
100 g dried apricots, roughly chopped
40 g rocket
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 170°C (325° F). Spread the pistachios out on a baking tray and toast for about 8 minutes, until lightly colored. Remove from the oven, allow to cool slightly and then chop roughly. Set aside.
Fill two saucepans with salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer the quinoa in one for 12 - 14 minutes and the rice in the other for 20 minutes. Both should be tender but still have a bite (also refer to cooking instruction on the packets). Drain in a sieve and spread out the two grains separately on flat trays to hasten the cooling down.
While the grains are cooking, sautée the onion, over a medium heat,  in 4 tablespoons of the olive oil until golden brown. Leave to cool completely.
In a large mixing bowl combine the rice, quinoa, cooked onion and the remaining oil. Add all the rest of the ingredients, the taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve at room temperature.

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