Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Last Night's Dinner: Bread and Tomato Salad with Quinoa and Crispy Shallots

While in Portland, I made my yearly visit to Rabelais, a bookstore specializing in cookbooks, with a stock of imports that are unavailable anywhere else in the U.S. I was thrilled to pay a premium for a new cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi, whose Guardian column, The The New Vegetarian, I had been following since my visit to London last summer. I marked a dozen recipes of interest with post-its, including a bread salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, and a quantity of quinoa to give the dish a protein component. What a great idea! The house was so hot when we returned from Maine on Sunday afternoon that we switched on the air conditioning and headed straight for the beach. On the way home a few hours later, I saw baskets of big, beautiful tomatoes at one of the smaller farm stands on the east side of Sagg Road. Since only the most naive shoppers these days believe that every fruit and vegetable sold at a farm stand is grown right there behind the barn, I demanded to know if the tomatoes were local. The polite young man in charge admitted that they were from New Jersey. Since I am originally from New Jersey, and was raised to believe that tomatoes grown in New Jersey are the world's best, I didn't turn on my heel as he clearly expected me to, but immediatey forked over the asking price of $5 and sped home to my kitchen. The next night I made a bread salad inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi's, with garlic croutons (made with a few slices of leftover Blue Duck sourdough country bread), quinoa, tomatoes, and a mustard seed vinaigrette. I thought the dish needed something crunchy and salty, so I sprinkled some crispy fried shallots on top just before serving. Here is the recipe:

Bread and Tomato Salad with Quinoa and Crispy Shallots
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
14 tablespoons (1 cup minus 2 tablespoons) water
3 slices sourdough country bread
1 garlic clove, peeled
3 large ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs (I used basil, parsley, mint, and oregano)
2 teaspoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
Ground black pepper

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle with salt.
2. Add the quinoa to the pan and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the water and 1/4 teaspoon salt, bring to a boil, cover, turn the heat to low, and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let stand, covered, for another 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the bread with 1 tablespoon olive oil, place on a baking sheet, and toast until just beginning to turn golden, about 12 minutes. Rub each toasted slice with the garlic clove and set aside to cool. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes.
4. Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, mustard seeds, and remaining tablespoon olive oil. Add the bread, tomatoes, herbs, and mustard mixture to the bowl with the quinoa an toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and let 15 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the tomato juices. Top with the crispy shallots and serve.

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