My book club just finished John Steinbeck’s mighty tome The Grapes of Wrath, which chronicles the migration of poor middle-America tenant farmers driven by the Great Depression’s Dust Bowl, economic desperation and changes in agricultural industry to seek work in California. The book, published 75 years ago, won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize, was made into a movie in 1940, and was a reason Steinbeck won the Nobel Prize in 1962.
This phenomenally great work will stick with me, only one reason being this week’s report in The Wall Street Journal that the severe drought in California, now in its third year “with few signs of abating,” will boost produce prices. Agribusiness Professor Timothy Richards of Arizona State University’s W.P. Carey School of Business studied the drought’s effects to project these maximum price increases for fresh produce:
For Iowans like me, that may mean bypassing the flown-in, shipped-in produce, (very sadly) giving up guacamole and instead searching out produce from local farms and vendors at farmers’ markets (yes, I must believe spring will soon pop). Better yet, peruse the produce plant aisles at local greenhouses and find a bit of ground to cultivate. Even a potted tomato plant on the window sill, patio or porch could provide a tasty treat in a few months.
In the meantime, try this quinoa mix made mainly with store-shelf-available ingredients. Don’t skimp on the fresh cilantro or parsley, which with the lime juice make its flavors pop.
Quinoa with Latin flavors
- 1 cup quinoa, toasted in a dry pan and rinsed in a fine-mesh coffee-filter-lined strainer
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 14-ounce can of reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4-ounce can chopped green chilies, drained
- 3/4 cup finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley, or to taste
- 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 14-ounce can reduced sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
- Grape tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 cup toasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) or walnuts
- Small container of reduced fat or fat-free feta
In a large non-stick pan, brown the onion in 2 teaspoons of olive oil for approximately 5 minutes until translucent. Add the quinoa, broth, peppers and garlic. Cover and let gently simmer for 30 minutes, until the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa is soft.
In the meantime, mix the ingredients for the dressing; set aside.
When the quinoa is done, add the dressing and mix well. Fold in desired add-ins.