Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, right?
Not if you are Rob and me.
We finally picked our vacation destination for the year: Colombia, here we come! (Well in a few weeks…)
Hearing my cousin’s stories about the lovely beaches, vibrant (shifty?) street-life, fabulous hiking and river cruises in the Amazon, we are excited to check out such a diverse country.
One thing Rob and I are planning to do is trek to Ciudad Perdida, Colombia’s Lost City (aka Colombia’s Machu Picchu). It is a stunningly beautiful but grueling 6-day hike through hot and humid conditions. My cousin had tons of stories from his trip – having to stop hiking around noon because it was so hot (over 32C with high humidity) but then swimming all day in the waterfalls, visiting a cocaine farm, stunning vistas, but also being infested by tics, another girl attacked by fire ants and not being able to walk the day following the hike. Hopefully Rob and I are up for the challenge! I think this will be harder than our 2-day 360km bike ride to Kingston last year, but totally worth it. I love this description from Trip Advisor: To enjoy the trek you will need to be relatively fit, not afraid of heights, be sure of foot, not mind cold showers, not mind being dirty, have the ability to fall asleep in a hammock and enjoy mucking in.
I say: BRING IT ON! :D
While we are still working on our trip itinerary, I love taking cooking classes when I travel. I am scheduling a cooking class in Bogota that promises a trip to the market AND all meals to be vegan. Rob is quite concerned about the availability of vegan options outside Bogota, but I am hopeful things will work out. For the hike, the tour group promises meals filled with beans, lentils and brown rice for me. I hear the fruits and potatoes are to die-for, though, so I will not pass up the opportunity to sample those. If I bring quinoa, I can teach them how to cook it for me, too.
Legend has it that the Inca army subsisted partially on quinoa, and I see no better way to trek through the Colombian jungles. It is no secret that it is one of my favourite (pseudo)grains.
In honour of quinoa, here is a simple yet delicious salad. I honestly wasn’t expecting much from such a humble set of ingredients, but they worked so well together. Zucchini and thinly sliced onions are slowly pan-fried with thyme to create a lovely caramelized duo. The zucchini impedes full caramelization of the onions, but it is a much simpler way to create the salad. The purists may want to caramelize the onions solo for 45 minutes and roast the zucchini on a grill for even more flavour! Regardless, my way is great, too. The veggies are then tossed with the quinoa, lemon and parsley. I don’t use parsley much, but its slight (but not overpowering) flavour was quite refreshing here. Top with some toasted pine nuts, and you have a filling dish. I could definitely eat this every day while hiking.
But please help me: Any tips for travelling in Colombia? For trekking in the humid jungle? (help on the last one, please!)
Any favourite travel snacks that can withstand high temperatures?
Quinoa with Caramelized Onions and Zucchini
Adapted from River Cottage Veg Every Day!
2 small onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 lb zucchini (3 small zucchinis), cut into 1/2-cm slices
1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
1/2 cup dry quinoa, rinsed well
3/4 to 1 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp chopped parsley
juice from half a lemon (2-3 tbsp – I used a Meyer lemon)
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted (or almonds)
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. In a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat, saute the onions. Sprinkle with some salt to allow them to release their juices. Meanwhile, cut your zucchini and add it to the skillet along with the thyme and some more salt and fresh pepper. Saute over medium-low heat for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is soft and golden. (If you prefer bona fide caramelized onions, saute your zucchini slices separately). Add the garlic, turn the heat up to medium and fry for an additional minute.
2. Meanwhile, prepare your quinoa: Bring vegetable broth to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, add quinoa. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until all of the liquid is absorbed, about 15-20 minutes. Keep covered for an additional 5 minutes to steam. Set aside.
3. Sprinkle lemon juice overtop the zucchini mixture and stir to deglaze the pan. Add quinoa and parsley and stir over medium heat for 1 minute more. Turn off heat, season to your tastes. Just prior to serving, top with toasted pine nuts.
Serves 2 (or 4 as a side).