When you find yourself spending more time in Home Depot than the grocery store, and more time on the patio than in the kitchen, something major and constructive is likely in the works. Our patio currently looks like a construction site, saw dust dispersed amongst soil. It's wildly comforting in a messy kind of way. Brent has taken up woodworking as a hobby, and I am completely jealous. I also share a strong passion for this craft, but with my already lengthy list of hobbies, I'll let him have this one. He has just built a gorgeous planter box for the patio, roughly 5 x 2.5 x 2 feet - big enough for a good urban harvest. Last weekend we filled the box with soil and then I meticulously sowed each seed, in three solid rows. Each day brings more sun, more growth, and more happiness. I am waiting in anticipation like a kid on Christmas morning for the carrots and beets to pop their leaves out of the soil. My tomatoes are thriving, and so are my beans, with their slender stems climbing tall. My chard, which was planted in a separate pot adjacent to the planter, has not been blessed the the same fortune as the others. The leaves are infested with leaf miners, and while I've done my best to prevent their reoccurrence, it is proving to be a challenge. The experience has been trying.
Our next project is to construct a patio table from a few old boards that we picked up from the reuse store. We are still working on the design, trying to lock down a decision for the legs. I prefer a metal base, he prefers wooden legs. In the end we will come to some sort of agreement, and our creation will be brought to life. We will finally have an outside space to enjoy the bounty from our garden and drink way too many mojitos. I know it's not feasible with our west coast rainy weather, but I'd love to lay down beautiful rugs, deep and rich in color, on top of the cement tiles. I want to pile high as many pillows as will comfortably fit, and I want to live on the patio night and day. I hung up our hammock, and I've already spent way too many hours, avoiding the nuisances, swaying in the breeze. On those days, where the sun peeks out of the clouds and the breeze is light, I love to grab a blanket and a few pillows, cocoon myself in the hammock with a book and get lost for hours. It's my favorite time.
With this bright sun comes warmth and heat, and a rapid transformation of our living space from comfortable to greenhouse. Turning on the oven just accelerates the rate at which we both wilt. Salads have been making a frequent appearance on the menu, and when we are in need of something more substantial, we fire up the grill. Grilled corn is my newest obsession. I just can't get enough of it. All it takes is twenty minutes on the grill, and you are left with perfect juicy crunchy sweet bundles of glory. Black beans and quinoa, a staple in my diet, provide a nice base for this dish. I like to add avocado to most dishes for its beautiful color and creaminess. Lately, I've been experimenting with cilantro as a part of my plan to fall in love. Yes, I am one of those cilantro-haters, who thinks that it tastes mildly close to dish soap. I do however have a deep desire to be a cilantro lover, so I am always trying to work it into sauces or dressings, specifically for meals that contain either avocado, black beans, or tacos, because the flavors compliment each other so nicely.
Originally I had intended on calling this dish a 'quinoa and black bean bowl', and then I realized that it should probably be in a bowl to warrant that title. I flipped and flopped on a few ideas, and in the end I just wanted to call it 'a plate of awesome'. The more realistic side of me thought that I should be a little more descriptive, and then I found myself torn on the idea of 'grilled corn and poblano peppers, quinoa, back beans, avocado, and tomatoes with a cilantro lime dressing', and then I realized that I was just rhyming off a list of ingredients. In the end, I decided on 'we be grillin'. Sometimes it's best to not over complicate things.
GRILLED CORN, BLACK BEANS AND QUINOA WITH A CILANTRO LIME DRESSING
serves 6 as a main
1 cup dry blacks beans
2 corn cobs, grilled
1 tsp butter
2 poblano peppers, grilled
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups of vegetable stock
1 avocado, chopped
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 cup plain Greek yogurt or creme fraiche
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lime, squeezed
1 tsp honey
salt to taste
1 tsp Tabasco Green Pepper sauce or any hot sauce
salt and pepper
Soak the beans overnight in cold water, or in very warm water for 2 hours. Rinse the beans, and then bring them to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once the beans have begun to boil, reduce the heat to medium and boil for 1 hour. Drain and set to the side. If you want to save time, use canned black beans. Rinse and set to the side.
Shuck the corn, rub with butter, and then wrap in tin foil. Wash the poblano peppers. Turn the barbecue/grill to high. Place the corn on the grill and close the lid. Cook for 15 - 20 minutes. Remove a piece of corn and lift back the tin foil to check for black grill marks. If the corn looks sufficiently cooked, flip, and cook on the opposite side for 10 minutes.
A few minutes before you are ready to remove the corn, place the peppers directly on the grill. Grill until black, rotating every few minutes. Remove the corn and the peppers from the grill. Place the peppers into a plastic bag and seal. Once they have cooled, remove the skins, the center stem and the seeds. Chop the pepper and set to the side. Let the corn cool in the tin foil.
Rinse the quinoa a few times, thoroughly removing any of the bitter flavor. Place the quinoa and 2 cups of stock into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid and reduce the heat and simmer until all of the water has evaporated. Fluff with a fork.
While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the dressing by pureeing the chopped cilantro into a food processor with the yogurt, olive oil, lime juice, honey, salt, and Tabasco. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Remove the corn from the tin foil, and slice off the kernels.
In a large bowl, combine the black beans, corn, poblano peppers, quinoa, avocado and tomatoes and toss. Either add the dressing to the bowl, or plate and then drizzle the dressing on top. If you want to keep it in the fridge for leftovers, it is probably best to drizzle the dressing just before you are about to eat, otherwise it may get soggy. Add queso fresco, chopped cilantro, hot sauce, and lime juice as a garnish.