My friend Ilana is quite possibly the world’s greatest expert on my food. She’s offered to marry my lemon bars. She’s eaten half a tart in a single sitting. And I make sure my jar of “trail mix” (in quotes because how often am I really hiking on a trail?) is full whenever she drops by.
A few weeks ago, she asked me to make a dish for a potluck. Here’s how the conversation went:
Ilana: I am in love with your quinoa salad with the avocado. I could eat that every day. (You can make whatever you want, is what I’m trying to say.)
Me: As for quinoa, I actually don’t have a recipe with avo.
Ilana: Wait, what is in that recipe with the black rice and the avocado? That isn’t quinoa? (If I had access here at work, I could obviously check that on your blog right now. Yay blogs!)
Me: I never posted it! And I’m not sure I have pix.
Ilana: Booooo that was so delicious.
I’m not surprised that she was right. Ilana knows me better than I know myself, and recipes are a big part of who I am.
She moved to New York just a few days ago. I was in town for the US Open and we were able to grab a welcome-to-the-city coffee (well, she drank tea) just a few blocks from her apartment. It already felt different.
Ilana will only be in New York for a year before returning to Boston (fingers crossed!), but Cambridge feels empty. I know we’ll still email every day and chat a few times a week, but who will watch Top Chef with me? Go to Russo’s with me? Eat pound after pound of roasted brussels sprouts, carrots, and chickpeas with me?
Now seems the right time to share the recipe she requested so long ago. If I make this quinoa dish, Ilana, can I tempt you back? I’ll even throw in a few lemon bars.
Cumin-scented quinoa with black rice and avocado
This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit and the picture hung on my refrigerator for six months before I remembered to pick up black rice at the grocery store. You can find black rice (and quinoa) at higher-end or natural food markets. I suspect that this would also be great (though less striking) with short grain brown rice. The original recipe calls for a single avocado, but Ilana is the Cookie Monster of avocados (“Me want avo! Me eat avo! “) so I opted for three.
- 1/2 C short-grain black rice
- 1 C quinoa
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/4 t kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 C chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 C chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 4 T olive oil, divided
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 3 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 t cumin powder
- 2 lemons for zest and juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2-3 avocados
Boil. Bring rice and 1 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed and rice is tender, 25–30 minutes. (Or just follow directions on the package.)
Boil again. Meanwhile, rinse the quinoa in a few changes of water. Then combine quinoa, bay leaf, salt, and 2 cups water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain and then return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. (Or just follow directions on the package.) Discard bay leaf, fluff quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.
Chop. While the rice and quinoa are cooking, prepare the rest of the vegetables. Finely chop cilantro and parsley. Finely chop the onion and mince the garlic.
Saute. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes – if it starts to brown, lower the heat. Add garlic and cumin and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes.
Mix. Add the vegetables to the quinoa. Add rice and mix well. Zest and juice the lemons over the bowl. Stir in remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the cilantro and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve. Pit and peel the avocado and slice into cubes right before you’re ready to eat. Spread them out on the salad and serve. Hide a few avocado pieces at the bottom of the bowl so that there are some left for the rest of us.