Monday, March 28, 2011

Saucy Pulled Pork

Few things in life can put a bigger smile on my face than pulled meat. Pulled pork, brisket, you name it, I love it all! You may have seen on my Twitter that last week I went to get my haircut, purely for the excuse to swing by a sandwich shop down the street from my salon that makes my favourite pulled meat sandwiches in all of Toronto. Now that's love! What I love even more is how insanely easy pulled meat is to make! Who would have thought that something so delicious, flavourful, tender, and abundant could be an absolute cinch to make? The trick here is to slow cook your meat.

Cooking your meat slowly in a flavourful braising liquid allows you to throw everything in a pot, and forget about it till dinner time! Amazing, no? Slow cooking your meat results in incredibly tender meat that you can literally shred apart with your fork, while intensifying all of the flavours from the braising liquid. As much as the slow cooking process makes the dish, it's really important to start with a really flavourful braising liquid.

This will be my family's third attempt at making pulled pork (the first two times my parents made it, this time me, with the help of my sous chefs mom and dad!), and there is no question this round was definitely the best! Through layering sweet and spicy ingredients, my pulled pork ended up having a really complex flavour that woke up everybody's taste buds! I also let the shredded meat cook in the sauce for an additional 1/2 hour (rather than serving the meat immediately after shredding) to reduce the sauce and allow the shredded meat to soak up all that moistness. So we have incredibly flavourful and easy, could it get any better? Oh yeah baby it sure does! For all of you out there on a budget, this is the perfect Sunday supper for you! Pork Shoulder is an inexpensive cut of meat, and because shredded pork is ideal on sandwiches, you're able to feed a family of four at dinner, and still have leftovers for lunch the next day. I also like to toss in some potatoes and carrots, which are also inexpensive, to extend this meal even further. I serve up half sandwiches the first night with the veggies, then full sandwiches the next day. This is one dish I promise you you will go bananas over!

Tip: Have a party coming up? Why not serve up little pulled pork sliders! Perfect for entertaining, pulled pork allows you to spend time with your guests rather than over the stove.
Note: If you don't have a slow cooker, you may use a dutch oven, just make sure to check up on your pork throughout the day.

2 pounds pork shoulder, silver skin removed
salt and pepper to season
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 bay leaves
3 tbsp chili powder, separated
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chili sauce
1 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 can coca cola
1 (12 oz) bottle barbeque sauce
3-4 large carrots, peeled and cut in half widthwise (optional)
4-5 small potatoes, quartered (optional)
soft white buns for serving (optional)

1. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper. In a large pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add pork to pot and brown on all sides. Transfer to slow cooker.

2. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, and 1 tbsp of chili powder to the large pot or dutch oven. Fry, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened. Add the red wine vinegar and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon. Add the chili sauce, worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and the remaining chili powder. Stir to combine.

3. Pour the can of Coca Cola over the pork in the slow cooker. Pour in the barbeque sauce. Add the contents of the pot and stir to combine. Add the carrots and potatoes (if using) and push down so they are enveloped in the sauce.

4. Cook on low for 6 hours. Remove pork from slow cooker and set on a baking sheet (to catch any liquids) and, using two forks, shred the pork. Add the pork back into the slow cooker and cook on high for another 30 minutes. Discard the bay leaves and serve pork with vegetables and soft white buns for pulled pork sandwiches.

Click here to download the whole The Weeknd mixtape House of Balloons.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


Purim, a holiday that, to be completely honest with you, I don't know much about. I can only recall celebrating the Jewish holiday Purim a handful of times, yet it is one that I look forward to every year. Come to think of it, the reason why I like any holiday doesn't have anything to do with the holiday itself, but more about celebrating and spending time with my family. Although I do remember enjoying all of the fun activities that came along Purim (winning costume contests, playing all different types of games, and making new friends), it was making Hamantaschen with my Baba (what I call my Jewish Grandmother) that really stands out in my mind.

For years it was solely my Baba that would take on the big task of making an abundance of these sweet and healthy little triangles, but after breaking her hip several years ago, it became much more difficult for Baba to get around. Although Hamantaschen are very easy to make, they can be quite time consuming when made by yourself. The process goes much faster and smoothly if you have one person rolling and cutting dough, and someone else doing the filling. I knew Baba could use an extra hand, so I offered to help her out, setting up a little Hamantaschen production line for us to work on. Although it was a couple years ago that we had our Hamantaschen-making day, I still vividly remember how special that day was for the both of us. We spent our time assembling the Hamantaschen swapping stories about celebrating Purim and other Jewish holidays in the past, and Baba's old house and the games she used to play with us in it. By the time all of the Hamantaschen were assembled and baked, we had perma-smiles on our faces, having had such a great time together and proud of the big plate of tasty cookies we had made so lovingly.

So by now I guess wondering, what the heck is Hamantaschen? Well...Hamantaschen are little triangle-shaped cookies filled with different types of fillings like poppy seeds (traditionally used...although not my cup of tea), dried fruit, fruit preserves, chocolate, cheese, and more! I grew up eating prune Hamantaschen, which no, does not sound very appetizing, but when combined with sweet golden raisins, fresh and juicy orange, and nutty and satisfying walnuts is actually quite tasty! Because Hamantaschen are not too sweet, it's easy to clean off a whole plate of them in no time at all...and still consider having more!

Recipe by The Pleasures of Your Processor
Prune Filling
1 medium seedless orange
12 oz. package pitted prunes
1 1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 tbsp sugar
1 medium seedless orange
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp baking powder
2 3/4 cup flour

Prune Filling
1. Cut orange in quarters but do not peel. Process half of the orange until fine. Add half of the remaining ingredients and process until fine. Transfer processed filling to a bowl and repeat with remaining ingredients. Store in fridge until ready to use.

1. Cut the orange in quarters but do not peel. Place in the bowl of a food processor and process until fine. Add the eggs, sugar, and oil and process for 10 seconds. Add baking powder and flour and process with several on/off turns, just until flour is blended into dough. Do not overprocess. Dough should be very sticky

1. Prepare the filling and dough as directed.

2. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and flour each piece lightly. Roll out the dough, one piece at a time, on a well-floured surface to 1/4-inch thickness.

3. Using a circle-cutter or the rim of a glass, cut the dough into 3-inch circles. Place a small spoonful of filling in the middle of each circle. Bring up the sides of the dough to meet. Pinch the ends together to form a triangle. Place on a greased cookie sheet and bake at 400º for about 15 minutes or until golden.

Click here to download the whole The Weeknd mixtape House of Balloons.
If people are giggling at the juxtaposition of certain songs with my content, I feel you! I just select whichever song I've been listening to the most lately, or at times what I was listening to while making the dish.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Perfect Baked Potato

If you've read my last few entries, you will know that I am currently on a bit of a mission, trying to push my boundaries and take chances in the kitchen as frequently as I possibly can. I've already had a few ups and downs in the process, but the more I cook and push myself, the more I learn how to avoid those "downs". So far from what I've learned, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to start with the basics and build from there. Look at a recipe that you may find intimidating and break it down into parts. Take it each part of the recipe and learn to execute it in the most simple and effective way. Once you've done that, I promise you your confidence will skyrocket, and you'll feel ready to take that recipe further and begin experimenting on your own.

To help you get to that skyrocketing confidence, I'm starting a series on Ginger Rose on kitchen basics. I want to feature basic recipes and techniques that I think are essential for any cook to know, and break them down to show you the simplest and most effective way to execute it. From here I'll provide tips and tricks to help you take that basic recipe and begin experimenting on your own!

To begin the series, I want us to focus our attention on one of the tastiest and definitely most comforting vegetables, the potato. I've been baking, frying, and boiling potatoes for years, but in all those years I had never bothered to research the absolute best way to make the perfect baked potato. So here you have it, a step-by-step guide on how to make the perfect baked potato!

Choose Potato
  • In order to make the perfect baked potato, you must choose the perfect baking potato. You are looking for a white and starchy potato here, you may either use the ones in the grocery store specifically marked as "baking potatoes" or look for any type of Russet Potato
  • Inspect your potatoes and pick ones that are firm and free of sprouts
  • Choose medium-large potatoes, depending on how big your meal is
  • Make sure all your potatoes are all the same size so they all bake at the same speed
Prep Potato
  • Wash and scrub your potatoes to remove any excess dirt
  • Using a fork, poke holes in your potatoes, about every inch or so, to allow steam to vent. DO NOT FORGET THIS STEP or else you will have a potato explosion
  • Using clean hands, rub your potatoes with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt. This will help to create a tasty and tender skin. This is important because most of the potatoes nutrients lies just below the skin, so you want to encourage your diners to eat it!

Bake Potato
  • Preheat oven to 325º
  • Place prepped potatoes directly on oven rack
  • Bake for about 90 minutes, or until potato is tender
  • To check for doneness, pierce potato with a knife, if there is little resistance and potato feels soft, it is done
  • Remove potatoes from oven, and serve!

Top Potato
There are many different toppings and mix-ins that are fantastic to add to a baked potato and can easily turn your simple side dish into something really special! You can even set up a potato topping bar at your next dinner party! Here are some suggestions:
  • butter
  • salt & pepper
  • sour cream
  • cheese (grate hard cheeses and cut soft cheeses into little bits to allow to melt on top)
  • bacon
  • fresh herbs (chives, mint, basil, parsley, lemon balm, rosemary)
  • chili
  • salsa
  • guacamole
  • black beans
  • cream cheese or mascarpone cheese
  • caramelized onions
  • green onions
  • steamed broccoli
  • green peas
  • sauteed mushrooms
Listening To:
Jimi Hendrix - Foxey Lady

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Fried Zucchini & Prosciutto Spaghetti

I seem to be starting a new little monthly tradition. Each month when I receive the new Food & Wine Magazine in the mail, I go through the whole magazine with wide and eager eyes, looking through the mag like a vivid picture book. I then go through it once more, but this time with a ballpoint pen, putting stars next to recipes I want to try, and jotting notes on my own suggestions or ideas for the dish. Then, as I have for the past three months now, I pick a recipe that I must make that week. For this first recipe, I look for interesting flavours and/or execution, and I aim for something that is well suited for the workweek. It's usually that very week that the magazine arrives that I find myself bored with our usual weeknight dishes, after going through a bit of a rotation with them throughout the month, and desperate for something new!

This month the dish that caught my eye was Gwyneth Paltrow's Fried-Zucchini Spaghetti. With so much buzz about Paltrow's side project, the popular site GOOP, and her upcoming cookbook, I was curious to try out one of her recipes. Of course her Fried-Zucchini Spaghetti sounded and looked delicious with it's bright, fresh flavours, and striking green colour, but it was really her anecdote about eating fried zucchini with her family growing up that moved me to make the dish. Her story reminded me of my own childhood, sneaking fried zucchini rounds, fresh off the stove, in my Oma's old kitchen. That was it, I had found my recipe! Because I was so eager to get home the next day and make the dish, I completely forgot to hop into the market to pick up some fresh basil, an essential part of the dish considering how few ingredients there were. Instead of letting out a great big groan and start complaining about how I had ruined dinner, I looked at it in a positive light, and saw this as an opportunity to build on Paltrow's dish, adding my own flavour through the help of the notes I had jotted down next to the recipe.

With or without basil, I felt that the recipe could use another bright and fresh flavour like lemon. In my family we are really into our sauces, so in order to make my fam happy, I knew I had to develop the recipe's pasta-water "sauce" a little bit more. The addition of lemon juice and zest really woke up the dish, adding a ton of flavour and even a bit of texture. Although the crispy zucchini rounds were slightly salty, I wanted to add an additional ingredient to add a hint more saltiness to each bite. With an open package of prosciutto in the fridge, I didn't have to look any further. As I made the dish, I continued adding my own little touches here and there, amping up the seasonings and spices, until I was happy with end result. My Fried Zucchini Spaghetti was awesome! The dish was easy and actually very enjoyable to make, and all of those zesty fresh flavours, reminding me of Spring, tasted fantastic! This is definitely a dish that will be going into our monthly rotation of weeknight suppers. I can't wait to experiment with other herbs and vegetables as the seasons go on!

Note: Although I didn't have any on hand when making the spaghetti this week, cherry tomatoes are just begging to be tossed into this dish. A sweet burst of moisture is just what this dish needs to take it to the top!

1 large zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch thick disks
5-6 slices of prosciutto, torn into strips
juice from 1/2 - 3/4 of a lemon
zest from 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, or 2 tsp dried
about 1/4 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3/4 pound spaghetti
1 cup parmesan cheese + more for serving, shredded
salt and freshly ground pepper to season
about 3-4 tbsp olive oil + more for frying
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
lemon wedges, for serving

1. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini disks with the flour until coated. In a very large skillet or griddle set to high heat, add a generous layer of olive oil. When oil is heated, work in batches and add the zucchini disks, making sure not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until browned and crisp on both sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried zucchini to a paper towel-lined wire rack and season immediately with salt and pepper. Repeat process with remaining zucchini.

2. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of well-salted water until al dente. Before draining pasta, reserve a few cups of the cooking water and set aside.

3. When pasta is cooked and drained, add it back to the pot and add the cheese, olive oil (enough so that the noodles are just coated), lemon juice, lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and dried basil (if using). Toss together. Add the reserved cooking water a little at a time, stirring to coat until it has reached the desired consistency. The cooking water, cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice should begin to form a very light and thin sauce.

4. Transfer the pasta to a serving dish and top with the crispy zucchini, prosciutto, fresh basil (if using), and cherry tomatoes (optional). Season with salt and pepper and top with additional shredded parmesan cheese. Serve with lemon wedges.

Listening To:
Santigold - L.E.S. Artistes

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Be sure to check out my recipe for Fried Zucchini!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Scallops with Bacon in a White Wine Sauce

If you read my previous post you'll understand a bit about where my heads been at lately. I apologize if I seem to post these "I'm in a weird funk" kind of posts fairly often, but in all honesty, this is more than just a food blog to me, but a form of expression, almost like a cryptic little diary that I can use to vent about whatever is on my mind. If you know me personally, you may know that I have gotten in a little bit of trouble in the past venting about my personal triumphs or woes in public on the internet, a mistake that I do not wish to repeat. So I now choose to play it safe and express myself through cooking, baking, photography, graphic editing, and creative writing. Although no, I'm not always directly stating what's on my mind, but my blog allows for me to express just enough to get it off my chest and feel relief, while still respecting my privacy. I have had a number of readers express to me that they would like to learn more about who I am outside of Ginger Rose, and although I may be timid to do so at first, little by little I want to start letting you in more. Although yes, I will be injecting my entries with a bit more about me, including more photos and personal stories, there are still many things that I feel the need to express, yet I don't believe my blog is the appropriate place. I recently started a Tumblr account called Ginger Rose Expressions to use as another avenue for expression. With photos, audio, and video that I find inspirational or reflect what I'm feeling as well as my personal experiments in photography, editing, and maybe even creative writing in the future, my Tumblr page will go beyond food to take you a bit deeper into my world. If you're interested in learning more about me, I welcome you to check out my Tumblr Ginger Rose Expressions, where I will be posting daily.

In my previous entry I also stated that I want to start cooking and baking more, and begin taking more risks with my cooking. Until know, other than the occasional burst of confidence, I have been pretty safe with my cooking, because, quite frankly, I was still new to it. Although I've had a food blog for two years now (Monday will be my two-year blogiversary!) I have to admit that I don't think I took in as much as I could have in those two years. I was certainly not cooking as much as I should have been, which meant that I didn't learn near as much as I believe I should have. Always timid and a bit scared of the unfamiliar, you may notice that I often stayed away from cooking many meats and seafood. The new me, isn't timid and afraid. The new me realizes that the only way I can move forward is to push my boundaries, take chances, and learn from my mistakes. So the other night when my mom suggested for me to make scallops, I swallowed my fear, took a deep breath, did a bit of research and threw myself in!

I found a delicious-sounding recipe for Seared Scallops with Bacon from Martha Stewart, that sounded simple, easy to execute and, even better, we had all the ingredients! I was most nervous about the the final texture of my scallops, as overcooked scallops can result in hard, rubbery, and dry scallops...not exactly what I was looking for. So instead of slicing the scallops in half as the recipe suggested, I left the scallops whole so that I they would cook a little slower, and I would have a bit more control. The final product turned out great! My scallops were perfectly cooked, light and tender and full of so much flavour from the smokey bacon, sweet yet mild shallots, and white wine. With its beautiful presentation, this recipe would be a great show-stopper to serve to company or even to your own family during the week!

4-6 slices bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 pound large sea scallops, cleaned with tough white muscle removed
2 shallots, minced
1 cup white wine
salt and pepper to season

1. In a large saute pan set at medium-low heat, add the bacon. Cook slowly, stirring frequently, until brown and crisp, about 8 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon, and transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

2. Drain excess fat, leaving a thin coat on the bottom of the pan. Increase heat to medium, add scallops to pan, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cook until golden brown and opaque, about 2 minutes per side.

3. Transfer scallops to the serving dish, drain any excess liquid, leaving a small layer in the pan, and add shallots to pan. When shallots are translucent, add white wine; scrape browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until liquid is reduced by half, 3-4 minutes. Stir in butter, and pour over scallops. Top with reserved bacon. Serve alongside my Balsamic-Glazed Green Beens and Shallots.

Listening To:
The Knife - Pass This On (Original Mix)

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans and Shallots

Every year right around this time, no matter how hard I try and fight it, it sneaks up on me. You know what I'm talking about, because I know a lot of you are right where I am too. I'm talking about the Winter Blues. I don't know if it's the weather or something in the stars, but every year as February comes to a close I find myself in a weird funk, constantly feeling anxious, dissatisfied, and quite frankly a little lost. After weeks of contemplation and wallowing, I decided that I had to take action to shake this. I refused to take one more day of the Winter Blues. I made a list of things that make me feel the most positive and motivated, and made a list of goals to set for myself for the rest of the week and goals for the month. One of the goals I set for myself is to cook more and to take more chances with my cooking. I want to start making every part of the meal something special, and take every opportunity to experiment with food so that I can continue to learn and grow.

Yesterday, being day one of my kick to the Winter Blues, I offered to make dinner for my parents. At the grocery store my mom saw some beautiful fresh scallops and suggested I make something with them. Normally scallops would be something I would feel a little shy about attempting to make, but not the new me, no way jose! I found a great sounding recipe for scallops that I was really excited about making, so excited that I didn't want to stop there. I wanted to think up a killer side dish to go with my scallops. With extra shallots left over from the scallops, and fresh green beens in the fridge, it was easy to come up with my Balsamic-Glazed Green Beans and Shallots. Tender and crisp green beans are lightly coated in a sweet and balsamic glaze, and topped with sticky caramelized shallots, an outstanding side dish that is big on flavour and short on time!

1 pound green beans, de-stemmed
generous pinch of salt kosher salt
3-4 shallots, sliced thin
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper

1. Bring a small saucepan filled halfway with water to a boil. While water is boiling, fill a medium-sized bowl with very cold water. Add a large handful of ice cubes. When water on stove is boiling, add the green beans and cook for for about 1 minute, or until bright green. Remove beans using tons, and immediately transfer into the bowl of ice water. Leave in water for about 3 minutes. Remove, dry, and set aside.

2. In a medium fry pan set at low heat, add the butter. When butter is melted and hot, add the shallots. Cooking, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the shallots have turned a medium-brown colour, about 15 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the vinegar has reduced and the onions are sticky and have a generous coating of the balsamic glaze.

3. Add the green beans, stir to coat in glaze, and cook for another 1 minute. Transfer to serving dish, season with pepper and serve!

Listening To:
People Are Strange - The Doors

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Asparagus & Green Pea Quinoa

March is here, and that means Spring is just around the corner...which also mean I have to stop coming up with excuses as to why I have been devouring so much unhealthy garbage (who orders poutine at 9:30 PM after downing a massive meal at home? This girl! Gross!). I'v been stuffing my face for the past few months, justifying each bite by telling myself that it's to put meat on my bones to stay warm, or to get my curves back...well the curves are back, but they don't exactly want to fit back into my jeans...great. With only a part-time job and a blog that ain't making this gal any dough (I love puns: insert laughter here), I can't afford to buy new pants to fit new curves, so I had to brainstorm to come up with a list of healthy, yet delicious and satisfying dishes that will keep me away from poutine...and chips and dip...and desserts...I could keep going! Immediately I turned to quinoa.

As I mentioned in a previous post on my Butternut Squash and Cranberry Quinoa Salad, quinoa is a super grain that is packed with protein, essential amino-acids, fiber, magnesium, and iron. Don't walk away after reading how healthy quinoa is because it is also delicious! Quinoa has a fantastic nutty flavour and texture that will keep you coming back for more! My Asparagus and Green Pea Quinoa is the perfect dish to get you pumped for Spring. Asparagus and sweet green peas add a crispy texture to each bite, as well as injecting the dish with familiar Spring and Summer flavours. The lemon vinaigrette ties the dish all together with it's zesty and fresh punch of flavour. Because my herb garden still has a ways to go before any basil can get growing, I used dried basil, but fresh basil or even mint would take this dish to new heights! This is also a great dish for Spring entertaining. Perfect for all vegetarians, celiac, and even vegans this dish could make its way onto your party table more than once! Quick and easy to prepare, with the option of preparing in advance, this beautiful dish with its hints of bright green will make a wonderful addition to your next party spread.

1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cups cold waterJustify Full
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, chopped fine
1 pound asparagus, chopped
salt and freshly cracked pepper
4 fresh basil leaves (or fresh mint leaves), chopped fine (or 2 tsp dried basil)
1 cup frozen green peas

Lemon Vinaigrette
about 1/2 cup olive oil
zest from 1/2 of a lemon
1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and freshly cracked pepper

1. Pour quinoa into a fine sieve resting in a large bowl. Fill bowl with cold water so that it covers the quinoa. Soak for 15 minutes. Using your hands, swish the quinoa around in the water. Strain and pour into a medium-sized pot. Add the water and 1/2 tsp salt.

2. Bring to a boil, cover with a tight fitting lid, and turn heat down to simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn the heat off and, with the lid still on, let rest for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork

3. While the quinoa is cooking, prepare the vegetables. In a skillet heat the 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the onions and saute at medium-high heat, stirring often, until translucent.

4. Add the asparagus, salt and pepper, and basil (if using dried basil) and saute, stirring often, for 4-5 minutes, or until asparagus is tender but still crisp. Add the green peas 2 minutes into the asparagus cooking. Remove from heat. Add to fluffed quinoa. Pour the lemon vinaigrette on top and stir to combine. If using fresh basil or mint, stir in now. Serve warm, cold, or at room temperature as a side dish with your next meal or on its own as a snack!

Lemon Vinaigrette
1. In a small bowl whisk together the lemon juice, zest, and red wine vinegar. While continuing to whisk with one hand, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Whisk until mixture is well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Stir into quinoa mixture.

Listening To:
The Black Keys - Everlasting Light

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