Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quinona, it rhymes with Winona


We've been both using things up from the freezer in anticipation of what Dad refers to as Mom's "Mother Hubbard" tendencies, as well as trying out a few new things. In the fall, Mom begins stocking up the cabinets, the stairway pantry and the freezers. Through winter, we are nearly always stocked for a blizzard. Anyone who doesn't know, living just a little south of Chicago, most winters, there is the very distinct possibility of being stuck for at least a day if God decides to bless us with some snow days. Now, of course, around here, it takes a heck of a lot more snow to constitute a "snow day" than some where like North Carolina, so if we get there, we do need to be prepared.


More often than not, however, the weather is burdensome in terms of going out shopping, but nothing more. That said, Mom still begins gathering nuts like a mother squirrel, stocking a tree for winter. In order for that to happen, we have to use up the old to rotate in the new.


One of the things in the freezer are packages of pork chops, which come from a farmer from whom Mom and Dad have bought 1/2 a pig each of the last few years. We had so much pork in the freezer we could have started a barbecue joint. For some reason, this year they seemed to eat less, so we are still working on it. Mom and Dad had pork chops tonight.


While they ate from the farm, I looked to the sea. A while back I was at Ultra Foods and found some individually wrapped salmon fillets. They were a reasonable portion at a great price so I put some away for easy lunches of dinners. I used the last one for my dinner.


I was thinking about making some tomato sauce the other day, so I was reading some tips for getting the best flavor. One of them mentioned cooking up a bit of tomato paste to add to the mix. The author said that by cooking the paste for a bit, letting it darken, you cook the sugars, sweetening and enriching the flavor. I am a big fan of sun dried tomato flavor, and I have learned that cooking tomato paste this way produces a similar flavor if you use a bit of olive oil. While perusing the freezer and discovering my last salmon fillet, I thought I might try this flavor with the fish.


I saute├ęd some tomato paste in a splash of olive oil until it turned from bright read to a deep burgundy, adding a bit of stevia and some crushed garlic. The sweet flavor and heavenly smell consumed my senses when I sampled a bit. I put most of it away, leaving only enough to have a bit of a tomato crust across the fish when I added it to the pan.


With the proteins taken care of, we turned to the sides. Mom and Dad picked up several new things last time they ventured out to Costco. I'm sure you've seen those microwavable bags of rice, 90 seconds in the microwave to steamed, sometimes flavored, rice. Almost all of the flavored varieties are off limits to me because they use some form of flour in the seasoning. The plain ones and the buttered flavored ones are okay, but plain brown rice can become boring if you have too much. While shopping, the parents discovered a similarly package product which is a mix of brown rice and quinoa, with garlic seasoning.


I read the label carefully and discovered, gleefully, that it does in fact appear to be gluten free*. This seemed like the perfect night to give it a try, alongside some steamed vegetables. This great product, Seeds of Change Unyuni Quisnoa and Whole Grain Brown Rice, did not fail to please. It still tickles me to hear Dad talking about eating quinoa. He still can't pronounce it (he calls it Quinona, it rhymes with Winona), but a year ago, I'm not sure he would even have tried it.


All in all, the meal was beautiful on the plate and on my tongue. The salmon, tender inside and slightly crisp with a tomato crust on the outside, had a sweet, smoky flavor of sun dried tomatoes gathered from a far off Italian vineyard. The rice was tender, the quinoa slightly firm, the combination accented by a wonderful garlic flavor cooked soaked into each grain. While I'm not giving them much column space, a dependable frozen vegetable medley, upped the nutritional content and had a slightly buttery flavor, cooked simply by steaming them in the microwave. Stay tuned to see what else finds its way to the table from the freezer.


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*On the website (linked above), it lists this food as Dairy Free, Vegetarian appropriate, and whole grain. It is NOT listed as Gluten free, and this is one of their labeling options. Perhaps they do not use a dedicated facility and do not want to risk labeling it as such. I based my decision to eat it on the ingredients listed on the package, and suffered no reaction. I have contacted the company to ask about the labeling and will update when I hear from them.

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