This is the first of our new series, In My City. We go behind the scenes with our Featured Chefs to learn more about where they’re from by telling us about one of their favorite restaurants and recreating a signature dish at home.
When NoshOnIt asked me to recreate a dish from my favorite restaurant, I headed straight for Forage in the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Although I live on the opposite end of the city, I occasionally brave the traffic and make the trek east just to have lunch at this place. It’s hard to say whether Forage is my favorite restaurant in LA, but it is a place where I would be happy to eat on a daily basis.
I love walking in and seeing the day’s fare beautifully arranged behind the glass display case. As its name suggests, Forage proudly sources many of its ingredients from local foragers. The dishes are straightforward, highlighting the natural flavor of the ingredients, and each one is delicious. I mean “Wow, I never knew a salad could taste so good,” not “This is not bad…for a fig” delicious.
Last week, I tried the quinoa salad with navy beans, squash, and urfa biber vinaigrette. The squash had a natural, mellow sweetness, and the vinaigrette gave just the right amount of acidity to each bite. I liked the varied texture of the tiny spirals of quinoa and the tender navy beans, and the generous amount of parsley lightened the entire dish.
In my home rendition, I made a only few minor adjustments.
First, I replaced the urfa biber with ground ancho chile purchased from Spice Station, as urfa biber can be hard to find for home cooks.
I also added finely diced red onion and chopped cilantro for an extra layer of flavor.
The strength of this dish is its versatility and simplicity. If you’re short on time, use canned beans. If you hate cilantro, leave it out. Craving some cheese? Grate a little bit of pecorino or manchego over the top. There are no secret techniques required – just use the best ingredients you can find. You hear that advice all the time, but in a dish like this, it’s all about layering, not manipulating, flavors.
QUINOA SALAD WITH ROASTED SQUASH, BEANS, AND ANCHO CHILE VINAIGRETTE
Inspired by Forage
Serves 4-6 as a main dish
Tip: Try the salad for breakfast with a fried egg on top!
1/4-1/2 medium red onion, finely diced
1 cup cooked navy beans (about 1/2 cup dry beans)
3 cups cooked quinoa (about 1 cup uncooked quinoa)
2 cups cubed, roasted butternut squash (about 1/3-1/2 medium butternut squash)
1 cup packed fresh cilantro and flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
For the Vinaigrette:
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
About 1 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder
Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Sort through the navy beans and remove any discolored beans or stones. Rinse the beans in water. Add the beans to a large saucepan along with 2-3 cups of water. Bring the pot to a boil then lower to a vigorous simmer. Cook the beans for 1-2 hours until tender but not mushy. If the beans become exposed to the air, add more water. When the beans are done, add a few pinches of kosher salt and remove the pot from heat. Let the beans cool, then drain the liquid. Note: You can reuse the liquid when making soup! Also, although many people presoak their beans, I didn’t find this step necessary.
- While the beans are cooking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Slice the butternut squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Lay the squash on a baking sheet, cut side up, and season with salt and fat. I used a few pats of unsalted butter. Roast the squash for 25-40 minutes until a fork pierces the squash easily. Remove the squash from the oven and set aside to cool. Once the squash is cool enough to handle with your hands, cut off the skin using a paring knife and cut the squash into small cubes. The exact size is not important, but the pieces should be fairly small.
- While the squash is roasting, prepare the other salad components. In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, red wine vinegar, and ground ancho chile. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set the vinaigrette aside. Thoroughly wash and dry the cilantro and parsley. Remove the leaves from the stems and give them a rough chop. Finely dice the red onion and set that aside as well.
- Rinse the quinoa in a fine mesh sieve then add it to a pot with 1 1/2-2 cups of water. Bring the water to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the quinoa with the lid on for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit for another 10 minutes. Use a fork to break up the quinoa and let it cool a bit.
- To assemble the salad, add the beans, squash, cilantro, parsley, red onion, and quinoa to a large bowl. Drizzle about half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss. Taste and, if you want, add more vinaigrette and salt to taste. Finish with freshly ground black pepper and serve.