In English, the French culinary term “mise en place” roughly translates as “put into place.” Read your recipe thoroughly. Gather your ingredients. Chop, dice, organize, and prepare. To put it another way – “get your shit together.”
I raise my hand and hold my head in shame and admit that I often completely ignore the wisdom this endlessly useful concept. Sometimes outside of the kitchen, too, so let’s please not talk about my junk drawer at work.
A familiar scene around dinner time is as follows: me, part way through a recipe with a vague plan for changes and substitutions, pots boiling, and timers reminding me that very soon I’ll have charcoal briquettes instead of roasted this or that. [side note: vegetable ash. why?] Some ingredients are chopped while others are still waiting to be washed, opened, or even acknowledged, really. I know it’s bad when the Kitchen Assistants start to circle my feet like carrion birds, scooping up any morsel hastily flung overboard by my uncoordinated and sporadic activities up top.
Listen, I won’t cop to being totally disorganized, but I will say that there is a positive correlation between the amount of pleasure I take in the end result of whatever the endeavor and the level of sanity I arrive with at the end. Cooking included.
Enter this lovely recipe for a zippy spring Greek-style quinoa. A dish greater than the sum of it’s pieces and parts where there is no glory to be had for any single one on it’s own, because it is simply a dish of great combination. And it is even better the next day. Warm quinoa soaks up a tangy lemon and oregano vinaigrette and is tossed with garbanzos, zucchini, summer squash, greek olives, marinated artichoke hearts, feta, and bright springtime happiness.
If you can mise en place your life the night before and put this together for lunch the next day, I bet you’ll start looking at that junk drawer and wondering how life would be if *maybe* you just threw out all the pens that no longer work. Make this on a Sunday night and Monday just might treat you just a little better than you expect!
If you can REALLY get your shit together and do the light chopping, measuring, organizing, and thinking this recipe requires before you even begin, well, then I think we might just be on to something here.
Recipe for Spring Quinoa with Artichokes, Olives, and Feta
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 tbsp good olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, smashed
1 small yellow summer squash, diced
1 medium zucchini, diced
1 15 oz. can garbanzo beans
1 12 oz. jar marinated artichokes, drained + quartered
3/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled and divided (or more to taste)
1/2 – 1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and quartered (use amount to taste)
2 tsp lemon zest (reserved from lemons below)
1 tbsp fresh greek oregano, chopped
handful fresh parsley, chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
salt + pepper to taste
1/4 cup lemon juice (about two very juicy lemons)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp fresh greek oregano, minced
1 tbsp red onion, minced
Notes: This dish can be served room temperature or warm and makes for some pretty killer lunch leftovers. If you prefer it warm, cook the quinoa in a larger pot and complete the last steps there.
1) Make the dressing. Combine all ingredients in a small Mason jar or other sealable container. Shake like crazy until the lemon and olive oil have emulsified. Set aside. Pro-tip: let the minced onions hang out in the lemon juice for about 10 minutes before combining with the rest of the ingredients. This will help take the edge off of a super strong onion.
2) Cook the quinoa according to package directions. Or, combine 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and cut the heat to very low for about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
3) In a nonstick pan, heat the olive oil over medium high. Be careful not to let the oil smoke. Add the smashed garlic cloves and red pepper flakes. Fry the garlic for about five minutes, until it is just starting to turn golden brown. It helps to tip the pan to submerge the garlic, but this should be done VERY carefully – don’t tip too far! You do not need a grease fire in your life. Remove set these tasty nuggets aside. After they’ve cooled, mince.
4) Add the summer squash and zucchini and cook for about five to six minutes. Season with just a bit of salt and some pepper. Add garbanzos and cook until warmed through. Squash and beans should begin to have a bit of color, but should still be firm.
5) In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked quinoa, and the squash and garbanzo mixture. Add the artichoke hearts, olives, most of the feta cheese, the fried garlic, and the lemon zest. Add up to a cup of the dressing. Start with a half a cup, and add more to your liking. Toss gently together. Toss, not mash. (You can do it, Hulk!)
6) Top generously with more feta, the minced oregano and parsley.