One thing I’ve been really proud of in my cooking of late is that I’m relying less and less on recipes. In the past, I very rarely strayed from a recipe, and I know that many other people cooking at home feel the same fear of improvisation. However, as I continue to develop my palate and learn my way around the kitchen, I find that tweaking what is written is often the best part, especially if it’s a dish you’re making for the second or third time.
The first time I heavily adapted a recipe, it was facilitated by my friend Rachel
who was a bit ahead of me in the school of the improvisational kitchen. She found a recipe on Epicurious, read all the reviews, followed the advice of doubling the spices, and then decided on a whim that the dish should contain roasted sweet potatoes as well as zucchini. Okay, so I guess when I say that I heavily adapted my first recipe, what I mean is, I opened and measured the spices as Rachel dictated her adaptations. I may have also squeezed a lemon.
The final result was great. I think that if we’d made the dish to the recipe’s specifications, it probably wouldn’t have been one that we would have considered a keeper. But this one is definitely a keeper. Since then, I’ve made it again and again, and I usually can’t help myself from standing by the fridge, eating leftovers straight out of the tupperware container.
If you haven’t started experimenting in your kitchen, I highly suggest you do so. Reading other cooks’ reviews on sites like Epicurious is a good way to get your feet wet if you’re a little worried about going too crazy. Often there are great suggestions on how to adapt a dish.
As I said in my last post, I’m not an expert at pulling meals together from scratch, but I’ve found that by developing my improvisational cooking skills, I’m getting better all the time. It’s really cool when you realize that you’ve used a recipe for inspiration, rather than following it to the letter. But of course, I still do that to. Some recipes just don’t need tweaking.
Spiced Quinoa with Chickpeas and Roasted Zucchini and Sweet Potatoes
1 15-oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4 tsp cumin seeds
2 1/2 tsp turmeric, divided
2 1/2 tsp paprika (used smoked paprika if you have it, but if not, regular will work fine), divided
1 tsp chile powder
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces)
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 pounds medium zucchini (about 5), trimmed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 tbsp ground cumin
4 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Combine garbanzo beans and lemon juice in large bowl. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil; press in garlic and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 30 minutes while you prepare the rest. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds, 1 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 1/2 tsp paprika; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add 2 cups of water, quinoa, and coarse salt; bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place zucchini and sweet potato on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with ground cumin, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp paprika, and 1 tsp chile powder. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to coat evenly. Roast until tender enough to pierce with a fork, about 10 minutes. Add zucchini, sweet potatoes, green onions, and parsley, then garbanzo bean mixture to quinoa. Toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.