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07 April 2010

quinoa with spring vegetables and walnut-kale pesto

quinoa with asparagus, English peas, dandelion greens, and a kale-walnut pesto

Five days a week, just about 2 o'clock, Lu and I stand by the door for kisses. She waves her hand vigorously, then asks me to stand her up on the windowsill to wave and blow more kisses.

Danny's leaving for work. Within the hour, he'll be creating dishes like this.

Many of you write to me, asking if Danny's still cooking at Impromptu, the restaurant where he was the executive chef when we met, the restaurant I wrote about in my first book. No, he's not. (And those of you who have driven down to Madison Park, only to be greeted by a darkened storefront, know that the restaurant actually closed down the year after he left.) He left in October of 2008, a few months after Lu was born. He wanted to take some time off. We had this cookbook to write. We had this daughter who had been in the ICU, whose every healthy breath seemed like a dream. He didn't want to miss a bit of it.

And so, he took almost a year off from being a chef. Oh, he never stopped being a chef in his hands, in his movements, in the way he thinks about food. But he stopped working in a restaurant kitchen for the first time in his life since he was a teenager.

It was a great year. Lu grew and grew stronger. After her surgery was finally over, we let out our breath. (Even if she didn't sleep more than an hour at a time for four months after it.) Summer meant all the best food we could imagine, in picnics with friends and gatherings at the beach, and long breakfasts with just the three of us. We finished a cookbook, then edited it, most of the time not sleeping more than a few hours a night, but always grateful. And always with Danny creating new food.

When the fall began curling into the winter, I knew it was time for Danny to go back to work. It wasn't just that we were running out of money. It's that his beautiful breakfasts were becoming more and more elaborate, fascinating creations that meant empty plates until well after our hunger pangs had expanded into cries. (And if you have a baby, you know this isn't ideal.) He loves making food for people. It was time for him to feed more than just Lu and me.

The lovely magic that seems to happen when you find your home started working for us here on this island. A job appeared at The Hardware Store, a place for which he had good hopes. I have never seen him so happy as he is at this place. It's an island restaurant, not haute cuisine, unassuming, and good. On the nights that Danny works, he makes up fish specials and ravioli specials (the fish ones should be gluten-free). And every week, he thinks and deliberates over new produce on the market and how best to celebrate it.

Every Tuesday, he starts serving the new vegetarian special for the week.

"I think the veg specials are awesome. No one could have told me that I would get excited about making vegetarian meals. It's a new challenge, just the way that cooking gluten-free was a challenge for me that changed my food. We get good produce here. I like highlighting the vegetables."

It's ironic that Danny's in charge of the vegetarian specials. After all, we do write a blog all about pork. But we get most of our produce at farmstands on the island, where we put our cash into old coffee cans and go. Fruits and vegetables are about the only thing that change from week to week. I've learned this from Danny — plan meals around the produce first.

And now, it's spring.

">This is the start of the year in food. Winter was a long haul. There is nothing in February or March to get you excited to cook. Root vegetables are great, and they have their place, but I get tired of them after awhile."

Of course, it has been so unseasonably cold in this area that some of the seeds I planted in my zeal to start gardening have frozen in the ground. There's not much in the farmstands besides parsnips and kale, still.

"These vegetables came from California. I'd much rather use local, but California is close. It's not that far away. The produce company that we use for the restaurant has them in stock now, so it's spring at the restaurant."

Bring on the peas and beans.

"This dish screams spring to me. Green. It says, 'Hello. It's springtime.'"

All week long, I watch Danny deliberate about what to create next. He studies The Flavor Bible and what's at the farmstands, what's available from the produce company. He dabbles at home, then plays with flavor combinations for the fish specials over the weekend. Danny never stops thinking about food.

And so, this week: quinoa with spring vegetables and a walnut-kale pesto.

"I made this pesto and this dish because we have the start of some spring vegetables and the end run of some winter vegetables. So I had a fair amount of stuff to get rid of. I had to move some product, as we say. In other words, I had a shit ton of kale that we needed to get going. So I made a kale pesto. I thought it was f-ing amazing."

And why quinoa?

"Quinoa is a grain a little like couscous. But it tastes better than couscous in my opinion. I like the nuttiness of quinoa. You have to really, really toast couscous to get that nuttiness. We had a ton of quinoa left in the kitchen and I love it. Quinoa seems very light to me. It's a crowd pleaser with spring vegetables."

We are both grateful for spring. Fresh starts. New haircuts. Sunlight that seems like liquid when it finally appears.

English peas, fava beans, and asparagus. Oh my.

If you happen to be on our island, come on by The Hardware Store. Danny would love to feed you.

Quinoa with Spring Vegetables and Walnut-Kale Pesto

This recipe might look long. Please don't be intimidated. Something I've learned from Danny is how to set up a mise en place, all the necessary ingredients ready to just start cooking. If you want to make this, you can cook the quinoa ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator, blanch the vegetables while you are listening to your favorite food podcast, and make the pesto a day ahead. Pulling it all together will only take moments.

Every other week here, we want to offer a more complex recipe, something Danny has dreamt up, something that might seem easy for him as a chef, something a bit of a stretch for the rest of us. I'd like you to hear his voice more often. It's a good one.

(Also, I want you to know that I'm the one that plated up this dish. Danny would have done it differently, but he was at work, and I was home with Lu. She needed lunch. I needed this shot. Voila! And then it quickly became an empty plate.)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon diced shallots
1 ½ cup of quinoa
2 teaspoons of salt
3 cups of vegetable stock or water

1/2 cup shelled English peas
1/2 cup asparagus stems, woody bottoms removed and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup fava beans (outer pod removed, beans blanched)

1/2 cup walnuts, shells removed
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 large bunch kale, washed and chopped, stems removed
5 basil leaves, stems removed
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/8 cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons canola oil
2 large shallots, sliced thin
4 basil leaves, thinly sliced (chiffonade)

1/2 bunch dandelion greens, cleaned and bottom of stems removed
Cooking the quinoa. Set a saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil and butter and cook until the butter melts and begins to foam. Add the shallots and cook, stirring frequently, until they are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the quinoa to the pan and toast it, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the salt and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, pour the mixture evenly onto a cookie sheet, and allow it to cool. (You can also cook the quinoa the day before and refrigerate for up to one day.)

Cooking the vegetables. Set a large pot of salted water over high heat (the water should be as salty as the ocean). Have a large bowl full of ice cubes waiting in the sink. Bring the salted water to a boil. Add the peas and cook for until they begin to rise to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes. Using a strainer, remove the peas from the water and plunge the strainer into the ice bath. Allow the peas to remain on ice until they cool down, about 2 to 3 minutes. Put into a large bowl.

Bring the water back to a boil and add the asparagus pieces. Cook until they begin to rise to the surface, about 1 minute. (You want a crunch to these.) Using the same strainer, remove the asparagus from the boiling water and plunge the strainer into the ice bath. Allow the asparagus pieces to remain on ice until they cool, about 1 minute. Put into the bowl with the peas.

Bring the water back to a boil and add the fava beans. >When the first fava beans begin to rise to the surface, about 2 to 3 minutes, pluck one out of the water. Peel its shell away and look at the bean. It should be a nice bright green. If it's not, cook the beans for a minute longer. Using the strainer, remove the beans from the boiling water and plunge the strainer into the ice bath. Allow the fava beans to remain on ice until they cool, about 3 minutes. When the beans have cooled, peel away the remaining shells. Put the beans into the bowl with the the other vegetables.

Making the pesto. Put the walnuts and garlic into the robot coupe (that's the food processor for the rest of us who are not chefs). Buzz them into an almost paste. Add the kale and basil. Pulse until everything starts to get chopped up really fine. Drizzle in the olive oil, slowly, as the robot coupe is running. Stop the robot coupe and taste the pesto. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon juice and cheese and pulse the pesto until everything is combined. If the pesto feels thick, you can thin it out with a bit of water.

Finishing the dish. Set a large sauté pan over high heat. Add the olive oil. When the oil runs around the pan easily, add the shallots. Cook, stirring, until they are soft, about 3 minutes. Add the basil leaves and cook until they release their fragrance, about 1 minute. Put all the vegetables into the sauté pan and toss them around, cooking, until they are nice and toasty, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cooked quinoa. Toss it around on the burner until it is nice and hot, about 3 to 4 minutes. Taste. Season with salt and pepper.

Smear some pesto on each plate. Top it with the dandelion greens. Scoop some of the quinoa and vegetables onto the dandelion greens. Serve immediately.

Feeds 4.


At 11:34 PM, Blogger Gemma said...

This looks delicious, like something I would happily eat for a sunny weekend lunch. Looking forward to seeing more of Danny's recipes.

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous ControlCalorie said...

Wow, Thanks for the recipe. I love peas and beans and it compliments my diet. Thanks for sharing this one.

At 12:00 AM, Anonymous Diana said...

I love quinoa. Much better than couscous in my opinion. :)
That meal looks delicious.

At 1:40 AM, Anonymous gih said...

Such a good taste food. I am always looking forward to that new recipe to eat.

At 3:41 AM, Blogger Pille said...

I cook quinoa a lot (blogged about quinoa and beet and fennel salad only this week :)), but I always simply rinse it and cook with some stock/water. How interesting to read that you sauté it first, and then add water. Need to try GFGC way next time :)

At 4:54 AM, Anonymous Sarah (GF vegan) said...

I'm so excited to try out this recipe. It looks and sounds as close to perfection as one can get. And quinoa and greens- love it. Thank you, both :)

At 5:34 AM, Anonymous Beth Hayden said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Shauna - looks delicious....and on a night that I'm feeling ambitious, I would love to try it. I've never tried quinoa but I've heard about its nutty flavor and I think I could become a fan in a hurry!

Also - I wanted to thank for you introducing me to the world of Orangette. I am almost finished with Molly's memoir, and it's a wonderful, luscious read. I discovered her through your blog, so thank you *ever so much* for making the introduction!

Hope you have a great day!

At 5:56 AM, Anonymous Betsy Metcalf said...

Amazing. Fresh asparagus will soon be ready in Atlanta and I can't wait to make this! I've been using spring onions and green garlic a lot recently so might try one of those instead of shallots...

At 6:47 AM, Anonymous Adriana said...

Wow, looks delicious and bright. Makes me want to fly all the way out to the island (from Chicago) to try some. And I do miss that gosh darn lovely island, since it's where half my family has lived for generations.

At 7:01 AM, Anonymous Sho said...


I had a quinoa pesto dish over the holiday. It is becoming so popular. People are talking about it...along with conversations about polenta. Across the nation people are waking up to alternative grains.

I am curious about something. Has tourism on your island increased since you moved there and starting blogging about it? I would not be at all surprised.

The grain I am also curious about it amaranth. I have read that it is like quinoa because it is really a seed. I really want to cook something with it, but it is so hard to find. I will have to order it.

Thank you for this blog and for the ripple effect it is having. America needs more alternative grains.

Have a nice weekend!

Take care,


At 8:15 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

I love quinoa and peas are one of my favorite pairings. Lovely recipe!

My parents ate at the Hardware Store a few weeks ago and loved it. I can't wait to visit Vashon this summer for my chance!

At 8:55 AM, Anonymous Kelley said...

I'm glad life is good for you and your family. =) Thanks for sharing the bounty.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Blair said...

Gathering ingredients, prep and cook, this looks like an afternoon well spent. Even better when your child gobbles it up!

I'll say something to Danny when we hit The Hardware Store this summer. It's a wonderful restaurant, the only one we've ever tried in your tranquil and kind part of the world. It's a topper after our annual visit for the Lavender Festival.

At 9:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh yum! Our Farmers' Market just restarted for the spring and summer season, and we are so having this dish after I visit the Market tomorrow!

At 10:43 AM, Blogger GFree_Miel said...

Mmmm! Looks good! I've never used quinoa before, so I'm eager to try it out now!

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Tara Barker said...

Oooh, I've never thought to cook quinoa like pilaf! Thank you, Shauna & Danny! The whole dish looks delicious - sometimes you just need a shot of GREEN, you know? (Although I did just write about my love of brown foods, still at this time of year I feel my body needing green like never before!)

At 10:07 PM, Anonymous excelsior said...

We eat a fair amount of quinoa in our house because we don't eat much rice (type 2 diabetes lives here also), and quinoa subs for rice well enough.

I make a quinoa "salad" with dice of red pepper and jicama (or cucumber), cherry tomatoes, and feta cheese crumbles, with a dressing of honey, oil, and lemon juice.

At 1:37 AM, Blogger Miss Anne said...

Let's talk kale (one of my favourite vegetables). The kale 'chips' - brilliant. But now, kale pesto? Wow. Do you blanch it first? I may experiment with roasted autumn vegetables and kale pesto ...

At 7:33 AM, Blogger Laura said...

This is a dish I could eat everyday. I will start working in a small restaurant in town and I wish they would serve more dished like this one, hearty and healthy. I have tons of kale in my garden that actually bloomed but maybe I can save come leaves for the pesto. It is such a beautiful plant, I can't get rid of it quite yet. Thanks for the inspiration, and yes, one day I will stop by the restaurant. My husband does some work traveling in the Seattle area and I know I will join him one day.

At 7:38 PM, Anonymous Cathy said...

I decided to cook this recipe tonight, but had to sub some different ingredients, and it still came out great. I used cilantro and pecans instead of basil and walnuts.

Thanks for writing this wonderful blog--I find your cooking inspiring!

At 6:14 PM, Blogger Leigh @ Toasted said...

If you're ever looking for ideas to make your blog even better (!) I'd love to be able to look up recipes based on season. I'm from Australia and I just get sad when i see all your lovely recipes that I can't get the ingredients for!

At 3:59 AM, Anonymous Brett Sutcliffe said...

Love your recipe but more over like your words. Really jealous your parter and I like cooking as well. But we never really got that time. sigh..

At 4:05 AM, Anonymous ControlCalorie said...

Thanks for posting this recipe. this dish really looks good! Thanks1

At 7:58 AM, Anonymous steff! (steff says) said...

oooh, i get so bored of my normal quinoa recipes. this one look great though and i've got to try it out!

At 3:03 PM, Blogger Damselfly said...

Thanks for this recipe. As a vegetarian who can't eat gluten or soy, I often struggle for meal ideas. And my quinoa is usually plain and boring. I am hoping to make this recipe tomorrow night for dinner. It will be delish I am sure!

At 8:33 AM, Blogger L Vanel said...

It sure looks good. We'll do this one for sure.

At 5:46 PM, Blogger Chef Dennis Littley said...

This looks sooo good...I am always looking for something new to do to Quinoa.


At 9:18 AM, Blogger magpie said...

We had this dish last night and it was fabulous!

I made a slight adjustment with the pesto. Half my of my bunch of kale was looking sad, so I just used more basil, which turned out great. I love the idea of adding the kale to pesto, I never would have thought of that on my own. I also didn't have dandelion greens, but the mixed greens we had in the fridge worked just as well.

Also, can I just say how amazing this dish smells right after you add the blanched veggies to the skillet? I think it's the sweet shallot mixed with the pungent basil and the general fresh smell that comes from young green things... I couldn't keep my nose out of the pan!

The best part was that there was plenty to share with our neighbor who was hanging at our place.

Thanks Shauna and Danny! I can't wait for the next one.

At 9:36 AM, Blogger Damselfly said...

I made this recipe last night and have leftovers for tonight. It was delish! However, it took me the better part of an hour to prepare it so don't undertake this recipe if you are pressed for time. I saved some time by using frozen peas, microwaved my asparagus and skipped the fava beans because I couldn't find any. I would make this for guests as it seems so elegant and special. Non-vegetarians could easily add grilled salmon or chicken if they felt the need for meat.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Tasty Eats At Home said...

I am in love with this dish. Quinoa is so wonderfully nutty and the texture is so interesting, it keeps my tastebuds happy. With the spring peas and the pesto? Amazing. Yum!

At 5:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Being a person who suffers with food allergies myself, I can relate with wanting (or needing) to change your diet in the healthiest way possible! I currently work for a company called Casa Oliver (, that sells many gluten-free, natural and organic foods... specializing in those from Spain. And they are wonderful!!! We recently began carrying a line of Peruvian, gluten-free flours, which come in several unique flavors (including Quinoa!), and what a difference in my baking! You should really check them out... Reasonably priced, healthy, and truly gourmet!

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Blynnk said...

Hi Shauna,
This recipe looked so tempting. I went out and gathered all the ingredients (except the dandelions and the fava beans) and put it all together. My husband said that the quinoa was delicious and cooked to perfection. i was happy with my efforts. Your blog has helped me to develop more of an interest in cooking. Thankyou! and congratulations on your new book!
Your blog is one of the few that I regularly read. I enjoy reading about how you (and your family) are living your dreams. It is wonderfully inspiring.

At 5:34 PM, Blogger Jennywenny said...

Mmm, I agree with the quinoa being more tasty, and so much more healthy with the extra protein and fibre!

I love it with roasted veggies and chunks of cheese. I need to get my hands on some halloumi because I think chunks of fried or roasted halloumi or maybe paneer would be fantastic with this!

At 7:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I just had this dish for the second time. Last time we served it with tuna, this time with pan seared salmon. Both times it has been amazingly fresh and delicious, and it is now one of my go-to side options. We have ours with edamame instead of fava beans, and arugula replaces the dandelion greens, but it is so fresh and feels so good for us that it must makes me glow all over. Tonight my husband helped me by reading me the procedure steps and the ingredient amounts from my laptop while I stood at the counter - more involvement in cooking "with" me than he has done in a long time. Thank you so much for that gift, as well as the amazing recipe.


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