Glorious hippie food. No offense to any hippies out there! That's just what I call this kind of dish, when I throw together some components that don't really have any particular culinary heritage together, but they taste good in a healthy, satisfying way.
This dish is a prime example. Quinoa is from South America, tahina is from the Middle East, tofu is from Asia, and green beans are multi-culti. And yet somehow, they play together. I've always found quinoa to have an affinity for sesame. I'm not sure why, maybe it is because the flavors of both are mild and nutty, or because the quinoa grains are about the size of sesame seeds.
Bonus: Quinoa, tofu and sesame are all high protein, nutritionally dense foods. It might be just the power of suggestion, but I always feel good and strong after a meal like this.
If you haven't cooked quinoa before, I think you will really enjoy it as a change of pace from rice. There is one critical thing you must know: it needs to be rinsed a couple of times in cold water. The grain has a slightly bitter coating on it (saponins, if you must know). Some boxed quinoa might already have this removed, but I wouldn't count on it. Once you've done that, you can simply simmer it in a pot with a 2:1 ratio of water for about 15-18 minutes. You can also cook it in a rice cooker, again with a 2:1 ratio.
Tahina sauce is a classic combination of plain tahini with garlic and lemon juice. Once you see how easy it is to make, you'll want to use it as a dip for pita or vegetables or a condiment for falafel, roasted eggplant or just about any Middle Eastern dish.
Quinoa with Tahina Sauce, Tofu and Green Beans
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free (at least, most people seem to agree quinoa is gluten-free)
Serves 4 as a main dish
- 1.5 cups uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup sesame tahini (Joyva or Alwadi are good brands; failing that, any Middle Eastern brand; if you use a health-food / natural foods type brand, look for one that specifies toasted, not raw. Raw tahini is yucky IMHO).
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 pound green beans, trimmed and washed
- salt to taste
- optional: paprika or sumac (the dried spice, not the poison ivy like thing) for garnish
- Rinse the quinoa twice in cold water, draining in a fine-meshed strainer.
- In a pot or rice cooker, combine the quinoa with 3 cups water. If using a pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 15-18 minutes until the water is absorbed. If using a rice cooker, simply turn on for the regular white rice cycle.
- If the tahini is separated in the jar, stir it up. Combine the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and 1 teaspoon of salt in a mini-food processor or blender. Whiz on high speed until smooth. You will need to add some warm water to get it to sauce consistency, possibly quite a bit. Do not serve mortar paste! Taste and add more salt and lemon juice as needed. Hint: leave the sauce in the machine until serving time, as it has a tendency to thicken more. Give it one last spin and adjust at the last moment.
- Steam the green beans until crisp-tender, either in the microwave or a steaming basket. Or saute them if you'd rather.
- Saute the tofu cubes in the oil over high heat, flipping occasionally, until light browned. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt.
- When the quinoa is done, fluff it and let it rest about 5 minutes with the cover off to get rid of any excess steam.
- To serve, simply put 1 cup of quinoa on each plate, top with 1/4 of the tofu and 1/4 of the green beans and a healthy splash of the tahina. Garnish with the paprika or sumac for a little color and a hit of spice.