Roasted Chicken and Quinoa Salad with Ras El Hanout

Roast chicken, tabouleh, hummus, and tzatziki arranged in serving dishes on a bright purple tablecloth

I’m on a train tonight, speeding to Seattle through the blinding radiance of sun and sky and orange sleepy light. Sometimes we’re next to the ocean, where gold skitters across the surface of the water and sometimes we’re in the woods, where the gold is interrupted by the softest of pine shapes. I’m listening to Amen Dune and my heart is hurting, how do you even start to think of all the shattering of hearts and spirits in Orlando right now? It feels too abstract when it’s so far away, thinking about it is like laying in bed at night trying to get a sense of how large the universe is. I’m trying to concentrate on chasing the sun in this train, about seeing my family in Seattle, about how lucky I am in one million ways, and about this past year’s events – both good and bad. I love my family, I love my friends, I’m trying to think of you all right now and just send rays of kindness in your direction; I hope you can feel it. I have a private blog of my favourite poems and quotations and right now I keep falling back to this one from Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past:

“When nothing else subsists from the past, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered· the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls· bearing resiliently, on tiny and almost impalpable drops of their essence, the immense edifice of memory.”

Be with the people who you love as much as you can. Forgive petty indifferences as they come, and seek to connect hearts as much as possible. Make a nice meal for the people you love, or better yet, make it together. This meal was made for my friends with ingredients from Morocco brought to me by other dear friends. Lie under the dense canopy of gentle goodness whenever you can, be better through the gold light in your life.

roasted chicken:

1 roasting chicken

Olive oil

Ras El Hanout

1 yellow onion, roughly chopped into large pieces

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked pepper

Fleur de sel (optional)

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Rub the chicken skin with the Ras El Hanout until covered. Place the chicken breast up in a small roasting pan on top of the chopped onion. Drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil and season with kosher salt and pepper.
  3. Roast the bird for 15 minutes at high heat. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees and roast for about another 45 minutes (times will vary depending on the size of the chicken, but you’re aiming for an internal temperature of 165 degrees).
  4. Tent the chicken with aluminum foil once it’s out of the oven, give it about 15-20 minutes to rest if you’re eating it right away. Carve the meat and arrange on a big serving platter; add a small sprinkling of fleur de sel if you have it.

quinoa salad:

1 cup of quinoa

1 English cucumber, cut into thin quarter moons

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch of scallions, green parts sliced thinly

1 bunch parsley, roughly chopped

1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped

Juice and zest of 1 lemon

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. Ras El Hanout

1/4 cup olive oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly cracked pepper

  1. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Fluff with a fork and move it to the fridge to cool.
  2. Add the cucumber, tomatoes, scallions, parsley, and mint to a large salad bowl. Add the quinoa and gently toss to combine.
  3. Whisk together the lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Ras El Hanout, olive, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust if needed.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to coat. Allow to sit for at least half an hour, giving it some extra freshly cracked pepper before serving for good measure. This salad keeps for about 3 days in the fridge and makes a perfect portable lunch.

Amen Dunes – Splits Are Parted

Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables and a Creamy Greek Yogurt and Orange Dressing

White dish full of quinoa and roasted vegetable salad beside a glass container containing creamy orange salad dressing.

This recipe is a testament to the infinite usefulness of leftovers; cold cooked quinoa and roasted vegetables from last night’s dinner form the framework for this hearty grain salad. I can’t think of a single vegetable that wouldn’t be a delicious addition, and for this particular version I used red onions, sweet peppers, fennel, carrots, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms that had been roasted for 45 minutes at 375 degrees the previous evening (a massive plate of roasted vegetables on a rainy Friday night is my idea of heaven). The black sesame seeds and hemp hearts add a nutty flavour and extra texture, both could be substituted with other seeds or nuts or even omitted entirely. There’s something about the taste of fresh citrus on grain salads that I love, especially during December when all of the lovely oranges are beginning to appear at produce stands in Vancouver. I used a Cara Cara orange for this salad because I love their bitter and only slightly sweet flavour but any type would work well, including my two other favourites, clementines and blood oranges. Serve this salad at room temperature either as is, or with avocado and orange slices gently stirred in on a bed of mixed baby greens. This quinoa salad will keep in the fridge for several days and therefore makes a great portable lunch or reliable dinner at the end of a long day.

quinoa salad with roasted vegetables:

2 cups of cooked quinoa

About 2 generous cups worth of cold, leftover roasted vegetables

1 leek, the white part only cut into very thin half moons

1/2-3/4 cup of Italian parsley, finely shredded

1/4 cup of dried cranberries or cherries, minced

2 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

2 Tbsp. hemp hearts

creamy greek yogurt and orange salad dressing:

Juice and zest of 1 orange

2 Tbsp. Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. sherry vinegar

1/2 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. kosher salt

Generous pinch of freshly cracked pepper

  1. In a large salad bowl combine the quinoa, roasted vegetables, chopped leek, parsley, dried fruit, sesame seeds, and hemp hearts.
  2. Shake all of the salad dressing ingredients together in a glass jar and pour over the quinoa and roasted vegetable mixture stirring gently to cover.
  3. Allow the salad to sit for at least 15 minutes, serving at room temperature as is, garnished with orange and avocado slices, or on a large bed of mixed greens.

Hexagonal dish of quinoa salad with Christmas lights off to the side.

Of course I’m listening to A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack, good grief.

Skating – Vince Guaraldi Trio


Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad

Ease of transportation: the deciding factor in my culinary choices lately. I can truthfully testify that this salad is good on a sandy Lake Huron beach with pane glass water and a sunset, on the couch watching The West Wing with your best friend, at the break table on your lunch on a Wednesday at work, and under a tree at Kits Beach reading a Sherlock Holmes anthology. The original recipe was posted on the Vancouver based blog Sweet on Veg, I have since made a few alterations but this is always the case with anything I’m cooking. I have added grape tomatoes, a jalapeño pepper, lime juice, and some fresh parsley; this is a very forgiving recipe and I’ve seen recipes where people add cumin, fresh ginger, and orange juice so I would encourage further experimentation after you make it for the first time.  I like it cold but it’s also excellent at room temperature; either way, the quinoa needs to be cooled down completely and fluffed with a fork before adding the rest of the ingredients or the dressing won’t absorb properly. In addition, the mango used shouldn’t be so extremely ripe that it’s hard to cut into a somewhat fine dice. Mango and Black Bean Quinoa Salad is especially delicious when served with Spicy Tomato Soup, I make the recipe as instructed but I don’t strain it and I serve it chilled with pieces of cucumber as a garnish.

mango and black bean quinoa salad:

1 cup of quinoa

1 not-too-ripe mango, diced into small pieces

1 1/2 cups of cooked black beans (or other small bean)

1 red pepper, diced

About a half a cup of grape tomatoes, halved

1 bunch of scallions, both the white and green part

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced finely

About a cup of cilantro, cut or snipped into small pieces

About a half a cup of flat-leaf parsley, cut or snipped into small pieces

2 Tbsp. of vegetable oil

3-4 Tbsp. of red wine vinegar

The juice of 1 lime

Salt, to taste

1. In a lidded pot bring 2 cups of water to boil, add the quinoa and bring the heat down to low, cover and let steam for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for another 15 minutes, then take off the lid and fluff with a fork. Allow to cool completely. (I sometimes make the quinoa the night before or in the morning and then use it for the salad at dinner time.)

2. Combine all of the fruits and vegetables in a large salad bowl and add the cooled quinoa, vegetable oil, red wine vinegar, lime juice, and salt to taste. Stir gently and serve for any portable lunches you plan on consuming in the next week.

This is one magical song performed by one magical band. I know the word magical is funny as a descriptor but I honestly believe that Sigur Rós deserves the title. This song makes me want to go to the Yukon and see the Northern Lights, it makes me think of cobalt 5:30 AM snow, and of driving to the airport watching the neon sun rise over a grey horizon. I’ve been feeling so inspired and happy this past month and thus my music choices have taken on corresponding sentiments.

Sigur Rós – Myrkur

Sunny Quinoa Pilaf

With this pilaf I am offering food that is reminescent of the sudden and mood-altering appearance of consistent warmth in Vancouver – energy inducing, sunnny hued, and completely satisfying. As a native Ontarian I have grown up enduring the harsh cold of London winters, and while my first winter in Vancouver was completed without the donning of winter coats I found the absence of light good company for depression at best and oppressive at worst. At least in the midst of freezing temperatures their were days so bright it was hard to know where to look as I watched the light bouncing off of the snow and the frozen tree branches. Despite the consistency of green here I have missed the sunshine dearly and thankfully over the past few weeks the weather has shifted to something kinder. This pilaf is entirely condusive to outdoor activities, eat it warm or bring it on a picnic (the day of or for several days following.) This makes a really simple and light dinner paired with some roasted asparagus or some form of protein, such as trout grilled with orange sllices, and some cut-up fruit for dessert. Alternately, you can mix in some chickpeas and toasted pumpkin seeds for a filling vegetarian dinner all by itself. Quinoa (and any other grain) is the one product that I like buying from Costco, I’ve had a gigantic bag sitting in my cupboard for eight months and it’s nowhere near being finished.

sunny quinoa pilaf:

1 1/2 cups of quinoa
1 cup of orange juice + 2 cups of water or vegetable stock
A pinch of turmeric
1/2 tsp. of curry powder
1 cup of diced orange, yellow, and red sweet peppers (or just pick one colour)
1 big bunch of Italian parsley
About 2 oz. of mild feta, crumbled
Zest of one orange
1/2 cup of chopped, dried fruit (or you can just use Craisins, like I have here)

1. Rinse your quinoa if you feel up to it, I never do this step and have yet to bite into bitter quinoa. In a large pot with a well-fitting lid dry toast the quinoa for a few minutes over medium-high heat (and by this I mean place the quinoa directly into the dry pot and stir until lightly toasted.) Add the orange juice, stock, turmeric, and curry powder.

2. Allow the liquids to come to a boil; put the lid on the pot and turn the heat down to low. Qunioa can sometimes be fussy about the time it takes to cook, start peeking after ten minutes and once all the liquid has been absorbed take off the heat and remove the lid.

3. In a large serving bowl combine the remaining ingredients, folding in the still-warm quinoa so that the feta melts slightly into the pilaf. Serve warm or cold, leftovers of this dish always appreciate a flavour boost using the juice of half of an orange.

I feel like when summer hits my musical tastes expand from fuzzy, depressing, and distorted to slightly easier music – music that doesn’t necessarily involve a singer who is suicidal and makes you feel like you’re swimming through black soup. Anyway, I  have always had a love-love relationship with Janet Jackson – “The Velvet Rope” is one of my all-time favourite pop albums (not only for the Joni Mitchell sampling.) It’s perfect music to make dinner preparation leisurely, to have a glass of wine while you’re getting everything ready, and then finally to sit on your balcony and eat with your feet propped up on the railings.

Janet Jackson –  Go Deep