Jeweled Quinoa Timbale


What to bring to a dinner party of hungry, healthy, NYC dancers? This potluck dish was inspired by Suvir Saran's Chaat Salad of Chickpeas and Yogurt with Baby Spinach (recipe here), an elaborate, elegant salad that I will make someday when I have more time and have made a trip to Kalustayan's. This seems to me the ultimate salmagundi (defined by Simon Schama as a "thing of various tastes and textures") -- create very different sensations and toss them together at the last second for the greatest contrast. At the most basic, perhaps a granola with fresh fruit, yogurt and toasted nuts. At the other end, Suvir's dish.

In my version, I caramelized parsnips and red onions in olive oil and Baingan bharta masala (coriander, dry mango, cumin, red chili, pomegranate seends, musk melon, fenugreek, etc...). It's important to cook the vegetables separately from the quinoa, or else they will just boil and meld. Which is fine, but not salmagundi.

Then I added some parboiled quinoa and did a quick finishing simmer with an extra dose of chicken broth and apple cider vinegar for depth and brightness. Before serving, I added dried currants, arugula, inky olives and toasted cashews. I wanted to keep (respectively) their discrete chew, peppery freshness, brine and pops of salty nuttiness.

The shape was something of a mistake. I put the quinoa in a serving bowl, then realized I forgot the cashews. So I dumped the mixture back in the pan and saw a cool-looking dome that showed off all the tastes and textures. Voila!

The other potluck dishes were all very delicious. Ancient grains were definitely a theme, as were rolled doughs with cheese and tomato sauce (a lasagna and quesadillas), and salads studded generously with avocado. There were also some charming throwback additions, like chicken stewed with mushrooms, salmon rillette, deviled eggs, and glazed chocolate layer cake.