mediterranean quinoa​ everything-but-the-sink salad + spicy lemon sage baked chicken

Hooray, a food post! If you'll remember in my last edible entry, I lamented the fact that there wasn't bountiful, swirling snow on the ground to accompany my day of cooking. Well, jokes on me, right? After being comfortably aware of impending spring (read: dying for sunlight and dresses and flowers etc.etc.etc.), the first thing I saw this morning was snow caking the skylight above my bed. Womp-womp.

snow, slush, sleet.

I suppose I should do a quick recap of the past few weeks, in that I've done lots of fun stuff. The three most notable of these are that I 1.) got a super hipsteryawesome haircut, 2.) visited Savannah, Georgia for the debaucherously green holiday of Saint Patrick's Day, and 3.) took an overnight trip down the Eastern Shore purely for the sake of exploring via cameras.

Savannah was, as always, full of welcoming arms, familiar faces, and bottomless cups. It was in the mid-70s every day, and the azaleas and other flowers threw splashes of riotous color everywhere. It was a pleasure to be barefoot by the ocean, even if it was too cold to jump in, and to be in the company of people who make me laugh until my head hurts. A mark of true friendship is the ability to consume Waffle House at 4 a.m. and make conscious menu choices based on sharing one bathroom between seven people. 

azaleas! | photo-booth adventures | Tybee Island, Georgia

I spent two whole days at my desk job before taking off for the overnight adventure with my fellow photographer and adventure buddy, Mike. We'd talked multiple times in the past about the urge to stop and take photographs while travelling, but how this generally tends to irk travel companions. The other issue with just stopping to photograph whatever catches your eye is that you can come up with a million reasons why you shouldn't do so. Spending two beautiful (but cold) days doing nothing but photographing whatever caught our fancy was not only incredibly rewarding, but it also helped to revive inspiration and confidence in my shooting style. I really enjoyed the challenge of shooting landscapes (and eating chicken & waffles for the first time, ever!) I am so excited to see the 4x5 and 35mm work that Mike shot, and to share what I captured once I'm finished the post work on it.

one of the many barren corn fields in Delaware | Mike tinkering with the 4x5 camera | somewhere outside of Easton, Maryland

So, about that food post, huh? (Sorry, I was just excited to share my cool adventures!) Almost two weeks worth of food on the road coupled with the vastly contrasting scenery has had me absolutely d.y.i.n.g. for some veggies. My chilly booty decided to cook up some of the super-grain quinoa, and clean out the fridge to add accompanying veggies for a "everything-but-the-sink" salad. Lemon sage (dried and from our garden) is a rare find for most pantries, but it's worth the hunt to acquire--it smells potently of citrus, but adds a delicate and non-acidic lemon flavor to whatever dish it is used in.

Whoa. Wait! Quinwhat? If you've never heard of it before, here's a quick few facts (if you've been enlightened, then feel free to skip over this little section). Quinoa is a seed that is considered a super-food; it is a chenopod, which means it is in the same sub-family as spinach and beets. It was domesticated and considered the "Mother of Grains" by ancient Incans (think: ~3000 years old!), but has only recently become a more globally-available good. But Mary, that's only mildly interesting. Why should I care about this little seed? Okay, I'll get to the point! 1.) 14% protein by volume AND is a complete protein (meaning it contains all nine essential aminos that your body so loves) 2.) It's a great source of fiber, and is packed with phosphorus, iron and calcium 3.) it's gluten-free, and 4.) it is prepared exactly like rice, and you can do so in a rice-cooker, if you are so equipped. If you're not sold yet, get outta my blog! If you are, head over here for some more info on Quinoa, and keep reading for a tasty, healthy, and super simple recipe. 

mediterranean quinoa everything-but-the-sink salad + spicy lemon sage baked chicken

salad ingredients

  • 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa.
  • 0.5 cup of Balsamic vinegar.
  • 2-3 red, yellow or orange peppers, diced.
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, diced.
  • 1 medium broccoli floret, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 medium cauliflower floret, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 block of feta, crumbled/chopped.
  • 1 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted and diced.  
  • 0.5 tablespoon of garlic powder.
  • 0.5 tablespoon of mustard powder.
  • salt + pepper, to taste.

note: as this is a clean-out-the-fridge recipe, any variety of veggies would work well here. spinach, cucumbers, onions, asparagus, tomatoes, etc. go crazy, get creative! 

chicken ingredients:

  • 1.5 pounds of chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon of dried lemon sage
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon of dried garlic
  • 0.5 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
  • 0.5 teaspoon of Italian seasoning
  • 0.5 teaspoon of dried cilantro
  • 0.5 teaspoon of oregano
  • 0.75 tablespoon of sea salt
  • 0.5 tablespoon of coarse ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of honey

Italian seasoning, ground Mustard, crushed Red Pepper, Cilantro, Oregano, Garlic powder.

Prepare your quinoa (1.5 cu) as noted by the harvesters--some quinoa requires soaking beforehand. Generally, quinoa takes about as long as rice to cook, and will need about 30-40 minutes of regular stirring to cool to room temperature, so you can use that space of time to marinate your 'shroooms, and to prep your chicken and get the dry-rub going.

When your quinoa is done cooking (it should be soft, but still a little firm and chewy), transfer it to a large bowl and fluff/stir frequently to help cool.

herb-rubbed chicken | itty, bitty beautiful lemon sage leaves

Mix all dry ingredients for chicken thoroughly (lemon sage, mint, garlic, red pepper, Italian seasoning, cilantro, sea salt, pepper), then rub in to thighs. Drizzle olive oil (1 tsp) and honey (1 tsp) on to chicken, and mix thoroughly again. Set aside to soak up all the herby-oily-honey goodness for 10-15 minutes. Pre-heat oven to 400º and get to chopping your veggies.

marinating mushrooms | pretty peppers

Dice mushrooms (1 cu), then place in a wide, shallow bowl or high-walled plate, and pour Balsamic vinegar (.5 cu) on. Add garlic powder (.5 tbsp), mustard powder (.5 tbsp), and salt and pepper; stir and set aside. Dice/chop other vegetables, and olives + feta and set aside.

kalamata olives + feta | broccoli + cauliflower

Once you've reached your allotted marinade time, place chicken in 9x12 glass dish, tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25-30 minutes. Your quinoa should be warm to the touch at this point, so go ahead and mix in all of your diced/chopped veggies and cheeses. There should be a bit of balsamic vinegar that the mushrooms did not absorb, but if not, pour another 0.5 cup in to the quinoa mixture. Mix well, and voila! Eat it up.

The quinoa salad is a tasty as a warm accompaniment to the chicken, but it can absolutely stand alone as a filling main-plate. It's also great as a cold leftover (guess what I'm having for lunch tomorrow!?), and as it's a "grain" and raw vegetables, it will keep well for several days. If you've never had quinoa before, I do hope you'll give it a whirl. It's incredibly good for you, and very versatile--I do have a recipe for quinoa pancakes if you ask nicely. 

Cheers to you, dear reader, and to reluctant as it is to get here! -Mary

p.s. there is exactly two weeks between these two photographs...what a chilly contrast. can I be back on the beach, please!? no? okay. I'll just cry in to my quinoa...