Last week I was invited to House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year cooking demo at the San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Each year, the decorator showcase selects a home in SF and gives it an insane makeover, assigning a different room to a different local designer to transform. This year’s home was a historic 1907 beauty in Presidio Heights, valued at oh, you know, just a cool $18 million.
Needless to say, I was all about the kitchen. The swoon-worthy kitchen was created by Steven Miller Design Studio and outfitted in Whirlpool‘s sleek Black Ice Collection. The kitchen featured the coolest textured wall paper I’ve ever seen (gun metal grey “fish scales” that caught the light just so), and whoa, can we talk about that gorg herringbone tile backsplash? Also, Miller’s vision was to bring some of the vibrant greenery from the gardens into the kitchen, so there are some living accents…like an indoor fig tree! Ridiculous.
I managed to stop pawing the fig tree for a brief moment to direct my attention to the cooking demo at hand. Robin Song of Hog & Rocks showed us how to make a lovely Quinoa Salad. It’s not every day I get excited over a quinoa salad, but this one is really worth sharing. It’s full of spring goodies like asparagus, fava beans, and snap peas, and has a great balance of flavors and textures, but the game changer for me was his treatment of the lemon in it.
Chef Song not only uses some lemon juice in the dressing, he actually segments the lemon, and then gently breaks it up into little pieces to mix into the quinoa salad. That way, as you’re eating the salad, you get these little unexpected bursts of fruity acidity here and there. Genius.
Song was full of great tips and tricks. Here the top 5 things I learned:
- When you’re blanching and shocking those veggies, SALT YOUR ICE WATER! I already knew about salting your blanching water, but salting your shocking water? So smart. It’s another layer of seasoning you can introduce to the vegetable, and by salting the ice water you’re not just washing away all the salt from the blanching.
- STEAM YOUR QUINOA for a fluffier consistency.
- To keep asparagus fresher longer, STORE IT UPRIGHT (like a bouquet of flowers) in a container that has a paper towel and a bit of water at the bottom.
- For a fancy pants presentation, use a mandolin to SHAVE THE ASPARAGUS INTO THIN RIBBONS. The shaved asparagus can be kept in ice water for 4-5 days, and they’ll curl up all pretty like.
- SAVE THOSE VEGGIE SCRAPS (like the tough ends of asparagus, outer pods of English peas, even those fibrous strings that you remove from snap peas). These odds and ends are still full of nutrients and good-for-you fiber. Toss them in a green smoothie or juice them for a sauce or soup.
After the demo we got nosey and poked around the fridge. Whirlpool has got fridge design down (hello, 4-door feature). We stood in front of it for too long and stared blankly inside (just like at home).
Even the fridge in this house was well-curated.
I’m always fascinated by what’s in people’s fridge. It’s like looking through someone’s purse. Whirlpool asked me to take a selfie of my fridge – or a “fridgie” if you will – and I’ll admit, I was tempted to clean it up a bit before sharing it with the world, but I resisted. Here it is in all its cramped and cluttered glory.
Why yes, that is a bag of spinach and kale crammed in behind the OJ because my crisper drawer can’t handle capacity beyond a bunch of herbs and a few carrots. The crisper is also apparently a black hole that erases your memory of what’s in there as soon as it’s been placed inside. (RIP ginger nub circa 2 months ago.)
Also, yes, my dim sum leftovers come in a “kari out” container.
And, what you don’t see smushed way in the back on the bottom shelf are the various random dried Chinese ingredients that have been there for literally at least a year, likely longer. I keep meaning to make healing soups with them like a good Asian wife. Sorry, husband.
I asked Chef Song about his fridge, and well, he’s busy running a restaurant and is never at home so he’s lucky if there is a bottle of Sriracha, eggs, and beer in there.
What’s your fridgie confession?
This versatile salad can be made year-round based on what is available at the farmers market. Serve it hot or cold, mix ahead for a dinner party, or plate as a complete dish by adding a protein of your choice.
- 1 cup dry quinoa
- 2 cups water, vegetable, or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ lb sugar snap peas
- 1 lb English peas or ½ cup shelled peas
- 1 lb jumbo asparagus
- ½ cup toasted almond
- 1 lemon
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 4 sprigs of mint
- Kosher salt
- Cook the quinoa by bringing the cooking liquid to a rapid boil with a bit of salt and then adding in the dry quinoa. Cover the pot and turn the heat off. Let stand for 30 minutes and do not remove the lid. Also can be made in a rice cooker
- While the quinoa cooks, bring another pot of water to a boil. Season with a hefty amount of salt, creating the flavor of sea water. Set out a bowl of salted ice water prior to blanching vegetables. Quickly blanch vegetables in boiling water until crisp tender. Cooking time will vary based on size of vegetables: English peas will be seconds, snap peas about 20 seconds, jumbo asparagus about 30 seconds.
- Peel and segment the lemon, removing the membrane. Reserve all the juices as you break apart the segments with your fingers to small pieces, about ¼ inches or so. Rough chop almonds. Set aside. Tear mint and set aside.
- Once the asparagus is cooled there are options: you can roast them in a sauté pan with a little oil, grill them, or use them as is. Cut the snap peas into bite size pieces.
- To assemble, in a large bowl toss together the quinoa, blanched vegetables, lemon segments and juice, vinegar, torn mint, almonds, olive oil. Taste for salt and acidity. If you are mixing the salad earlier in the day you might consider leaving out the nuts and mint until it is served.
Recipe courtesy of Robin Song of Hog & Rocks.
Recipe Source: LickMySpoon.com.
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