For the second year in a row I got to be a judge at the Good Food Awards in the Chocolate Category. David Salowich, who led our Chocolate Intensive workshop at Reverie back in June, has been the Chair of the Chocolate Committee for the past five years and graciously included me as one of the judges. This year I was in the same judging pod as Alice Medrich, who has written countless books on chocolate as well as other dessert books, including an upcoming cookbook I have on pre-order that I’m really excited about: Flavor Flours: A New Way to Bake with Teff, Buckwheat, Sorghum, Other Whole & Ancient Grains, Nuts & Non-Wheat Flours. Last year I was in a pod with Tara Duggan, who writes for the SF Chronicle Food section. Other categories this year had people like Nell Newman (Newman Organics), Alice Waters, and Sam Mogannon (BiRite) as judges. So you know, it’s a pretty big deal. At least in the food world.
Now you might think the idea of eating chocolate all day sounds like heaven. And I’m sure it would be heaven for some people. But I keep my processed sugar intake to a minimum, and as a judge you probably eat at least a full bar of chocolate throughout the day, if not more. We tasted 18 chocolate contenders in the morning and 13 finalists in the afternoon (I think there were something like 97 entries in total), and while I tried to take as small a bite as possible while still getting the full flavor profile, sometimes I couldn’t quite get it on the first pass. And then when we discussed the characteristics of the chocolates as a group, I would often have to take another (small) bite to tease out more flavors and nuances.
So anyway, it was a lot of chocolate. Too much, really. I think I might have had a reaction to so much theobromine, or maybe it was just the sugar. But it was so fun to be around people who are creating food businesses and following their passion. Genuinely inspiring for me on so many levels!
So in closing, I thought I would give you the recipe for the Spicy Black Bean and Quinoa salad we served for lunch during the Chocolate Intensive at Reverie. The menu that day incorporated chocolate elements, of course, but I also featured ingredients that were indigenous to the Americas as much as possible. Several guests requested this recipe that I adapted from Cooking Light magazine, April 2014. Hope you enjoy!
Spicy Bean and Quinoa Salad with Cacao Vinaigrette
Serves 4 to 6 people
- 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
- 3/4 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon adobo sauce from canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 cups cooked quinoa, at room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 Fresno chile or jalapeño pepper, very thinly sliced
- 2 cups cooked black beans
- 4 cups baby spinach leaves
- 1/2 cup unsalted pumpkinseed kernels (pepitas), toasted
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Combine first 7 ingredients in a small bowl; gradually add oil, stirring well with a whisk.
- Combine quinoa and next 6 ingredients (through beans) in a large bowl. Add vinaigrette, reserving some for the spinach; toss to coat. Toss spinach with the vinaigrette, lay spinach as a base on the plate and top with quinoa mixture. Sprinkle with pepitas and cilantro.