From the start, I promised myself that I wasn’t going to make Happyolks an extended dissertation on current events, politics, or world affairs. My studies in international affairs keep me on the treadmill circuit of strategy, policy, issues, institutions, outcomes (you get the idea), and this blog is sort of a refuge from the demanding and complex focus of my school days. If you’re a visitor to this site, it’s likely that you are searching for yummy recipes and pretty pictures as a form of escapism too. The hour we spend researching, planning, and preparing a meal can be incredibly meditative and rejuvenating after the over-stimulation of our busy days. Careful mincing, flash searing, and watching the broiler are all tasks that require our full presence and attention. Subsequently, our brain sends out “hold the phone” signals to our endlessly swirling thoughts and emotions about the events of the day. Shaun is often bewildered that the first thing I want to do after a twelve hour day on campus is to break out the peeler and knives. He will ask, “don’t you want to relax for a minute?” Like any woman on a mission I respond, “nope, I just need to chop.” Ahh… Exhale. I hope you can relate to this feeling, because creating a nourishing meal should never be stressful.
I run into a problem with this promise though. No, I don’t want to discuss politics. But when I read things about the international system and food supply that have direct implications for our foreign brothers and sisters that are imposed by health food consumers like you and me, I can’t hold my tongue.
Recently in the New York Times there was an article published on how quinoa’s global success has created negative consequences on the grain’s indigenous cultivators in Latin America, particularly Bolivia.
Quinoa, a plant related to beets and spinach, is a nutritional powerhouse known for its ideal amino acid profile and anti-inflammatory benefits. It’s one of the few plant foods that provide a complete protein making it an ideal grain for vegetarians, athletes, and the rest of us for that matter. The demand for the crop has grown exponentially and at first, the surge raised the incomes of the producers in the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Great right? Well, not really. An increase in demand has destined Incan quinoa harvests to go straight to the global free market for export, not local consumption. The price of local quinoa for Bolivians and other Latin American citizens is now too costly to consume, and malnutrition in these areas is on the rise as locals turn to packaged and processed foods that they can purchase within their tight budgets.
The Bolivian government claims to be in the process of legislating domestic policy to increase the affordability of local quinoa, but it’s on us too as health-conscious consumers, to limit our consumption and only purchase products that are produced sustainably and fair trade certified. If we can’t afford the fair value price of the grain, then we shouldn’t consume it. Tough love, I know. But you vote with your wallet. Food policy around the globe is tragic, truly it is, and Bolivia isn’t the only country that bears the cost of our unprecedented standard of living. Bananas in Nicaragua? Hello. For Latin America and beyond, If we all take small individual steps, we can reverse these exploitative and unbalanced patterns of the world economic system — and really, they’re easy to take in the kitchen. Idealistic? Sure. But it matters.
So, quinoa lovers out there… here is a recipe that honors this beautiful “lost Incan” grain and the hard work it took to produce it. Please be a conscious consumer and use fair trade, certified organic products!
Baby Artichokes and Hearty Veggie Quinoa
- 1 package of fair trade certified organic quinoa, I recommend Alter Eco Products
- 1 basket of Baby Artichokes (if you’ve never seen ’em, then go with the canned version, the hearts taste better anyway!)
- 1 basket cherry tomatoes
- 1 ½ – 2 cups fingerling potatoes, halved
- 3 small shallots, chopped roughly
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup of pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- Large handful of Italian parsley, chopped
- Zest of ½ a lemon
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar for roasting the artichokes
- Salt and pepper to taste
If you find baby artichokes at your local farmers market or Whole Foods, chop off the ends and about ½ inch off the top and peel away a few of the outside leaves. Cut in half, and toss into a pot with a steaming crate. Steam for 12 minutes until nice and soft. If you don’t have baby artichokes (and unless you live in San Diego, that’s probably the majority of you) break open a can of artichoke hearts and rinse. With your prepared artichoke variety, toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and set aside. Turn oven on to a high broil setting.
In a small pot, prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. Like rice, it’s a 2:1 ratio, grain to water or vegetable broth. Bring water and grain to a boil, then reduce heat and cover for 12 minutes. Remove from heat when finished.
Meanwhile, using the same pot that you steamed the chokes in, refill with a bit of water and steam the potatoes until tender. Set aside. In a sauté pan, over medium heat, sauté the shallots and garlic in some olive oil until golden (3-5 minutes). Add the potatoes, cherry tomatoes, olives, and parsley and stir over low heat. Add a little lemon zest and a bit of the olive liquid from the jar if you feel the mixture is too dry. The oven should be ready for the chokes, so send em in for about 5 minutes or until they are lightly browned on the edges. Add chokes and olive oil liquid to the sauté pan, removed from the heat source, and stir. Finally, add the quinoa, a few sprinkles of salt and pepper and garnish with a few sliced almonds.