Monday, November 16, 2009

Celebration in Oaktown: Quinoa, Wild Shrimp & Roasted Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

During our recent trip out to the Bay, we were graciously welcomed by our friends, Amy and Chris. We spent a few days with them in Oakland, along with a fun-filled excursion to Napa. The four of us decided to venture to an area of wine country that was previously unexplored to us all – northern Napa county. We did the drive north past Napa and Oakville, and found ourselves driving through the rolling hills of northern Napa county and quaint towns of St. Helena and Calistoga. St. Helena had buildings with Victorian charm, while Calistoga reminded us of the wild west. The first stop on our wine tour took us to Chateau Montelena Winery, where we marveled at the stone castle, as well as their orange and lemon trees (the wines were good too, particularly their Riesling).

We next ventured to Sterling Vineyards, where a aerial tram takes visitors up to the winery and tasting rooms at the top of the hill.

Our last stop was Cuvaison Estate, where we had a sample of a special Cab, and the sommelier tried to show my husband a thing or two with our camera. After a wonderful meal at Tra Vigne, Chris and Amy gave us a lift to the airport, and we barely made our red-eye flight back home.

Earlier that week, Amy had been scheduled to take a graduate exam that she had long been studying for. While she was off at her exam, I went into San Francisco in search of the Painted Ladies. After an uncalculated walk through the Tenderloin, I finally found the famous row houses and had enough time to snap some pictures before heading back to Oakland to meet Amy.

She had aced the exam and a celebration was in order. Amy, Chris, and I went to a celebratory lunch at Bocanova in Jack London Square. After debating over several options on the menu, Amy and I both ordered the Quinoa, Wild Shrimp & Roasted Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette. It was delicious - so refreshing, light, and flavorful! As a fellow cook and foodie, Amy and I spent most of the meal trying to determine how it was prepared.

With the sun shining and a pleasant breeze blowing, Amy and I continued the celebration with a little wine tasting. And on this day, we did not have to hop in a car and drive north of the city to get to wine country. We instead only had to walk a few blocks to get to a couple of Oakland’s wineries. The tasting rooms of JC Cellars and Dashe Cellars are both in Oakland, and share the same location. You can taste flights of wine from each winery for $5, respectively (much cheaper than wineries in wine country!). Amy and I spent the afternoon sampling wines from JC and Dashe, and it was the perfect afternoon to follow up our delectable lunch.

I couldn’t get that quinoa out of my mind, and once I returned home and had a chance to spend time in the kitchen, I made an attempt to recreate our lunch (less the wine tasting). I was pleased that my version was pretty comparable to the dish that we had! I was only able to find a purple beet at my grocery store, but I recommend using a golden beet if you can find it. (The purple beet will color the whole dish, and if you are using one, I recommend adding it at the last minute to try to avoid coloring the rest of the ingredients purple.) You can omit the shrimp for a vegetarian version. Amy and I were contemplating adding some crumbled feta, which I did try, but found it to be too much. This is good as it is, and a lunch that I’ll forever remember!

Kate's Quinoa, Wild Shrimp & Roasted Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
1 medium-size golden beet
1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup carrots, shredded
10 oz. cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 orange, segmented
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 tbsp. watercress or microgreens, for garnish

Wisk together olive oil, orange juice, mustard, champagne vinegar, and a dash of salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400 °F. Cut off beet greens, wash beets, and gently scrub to remove any dirt. Wrap beet in aluminum foil and place in the middle rack of the oven. Bake until beet is thoroughly cooked (approximately 1 hour). Unwrap beet and allow to cool. Using a paper towel, rub off the beet’s skin. Cut beet into small cubes.

Place quinoa and vegetable broth in a 1 ½ quart saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover and cook until all broth is absorbed (10-15 minutes). Allow quinoa to cool.

In a large bowl, combine quinoa, shrimp, orange segments, carrots, cilantro, beets, and salt and pepper. Toss with vinaigrette mixture until lightly coated (you may not use all of the vinaigrette). Top with watercress or microgreens to garnish and serve.

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