The Buddha and me: Buddha bowl with quinoa

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When I took a Comparative Religions class in college, I realized that there were alternatives to the dour message offered by our Presbyterian minister back home. Among the religions discussed in the class, Buddhism was my favorite: no wars had been fought in the name of the Buddha, one of the the basic tenets was to be kind and compassionate, and then there were those beautiful artistic representations. I found my first Buddha among the salt and pepper shakers in the window of a thrift store on Hollywood Boulevard, while picking up Susan Feniger’s laundry. He was six inches tall, made of Bakelite, and had such a sweet face—a must for inclusion in my family of Buddhas. 

I have over thirty representations, including a white Laughing Buddha from L.A.’s Chinatown, a two-foot tall, concrete Thai Buddha who has moved with us since 1989, a spare, wooden Japanese Buddha from the de Young Museum in San Francisco, an imitation jade Sitting Buddha my mom brought me from Finland, two small rubber Buddhas from Amsterdam—one writing on a computer and one talking on a mobile phone, a solar-powered, glow-in-the-dark Buddha who keeps watch every night after the lights are turned off, a clear, bright blue Buddha, mounted on my car’s dashboard, a tiny metal Buddha from India who sits on our bedroom dresser, and my favorite quilt, “One Hundred and One Buddhas.” I haven’t the discipline required to be a practicing Buddhist, but there’s so much to like: their history of non-violence, the intelligent grace of the Dalai Lama, Richard Gere…

Anyways, when we travel I seek out exhibitions of the Buddha, so the Santa Barbara Museum of Arts’ current presentation, “Puja and Piety: Hindu and Buddhist Art from the Indian Subcontinent” became a must-see. Upon entry into the museum’s lobby, Lewis Desoto’s “Paranirvana (Self Portrait)”, a large reclining, blow-up Buddha based on a 12th century Sri Lankan figure, sets the tone. Activated by a low-noise industrial fan, the 26-foot long, 6-foot tall figure inflates (exhales) when switched on in the morning and deflates (exhales) when switched off at night “alluding to the spiritual breath, or prana, in Hindu philosophy.”

Santa Barbara Museum of Art


Paranirvana, Lewis deSoto

Installed in the museum’s Park Entrance ceiling, is Martin Kersels’ “Charms: (Black Cloud, Green Dog, Little, Little Boy, Red Chair, White House, Silver Clouds)” a collection of charms dangling from a large ring, including a representative figure of Little Boy, the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. 

Buddha Shakyamuni, 2nd-3rd Century Pakistan

After so much beauty, I was starving and walked over to The Finch and Fork for lunch.

Finch and Fork lunch menu

Each table was set with a Mason jar of pickled vegetables—a great idea but a not-so-great execution.

I ordered a tuna Bahn mi with a house salad—pricey at $16, but tasty.


Buddha Bowl with Quinoa

  • 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 pound broccoli florets 
  • 1/2 pound cauliflower florets 
  • 1/2 medium red onion, fine dice
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for cooking the quinoa
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 (12 to 14-ounce) block extra firm tofu, pressed dry
  • 1 small, ripe Hass avocado, diced
  • Optional garnishes: Sliced cucumbers, radishes, diced tomatoes, mangos, fresh figs, garbanzo beans, cooked green beans, fried or hard-boiled eggs, toasted almonds or pistachios, fresh chopped mint, cilantro, or parsley 

Tahini dressing:

  • 1/2 cup tahini, well stirred
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 large lemons)
  • 1 1/2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 

Preheat oven to 400° 

Press tofu between paper or kitchen towel for 30 minutes to remove excess water, then dice into 1/2 inch cubes. 

Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and the quinoa. Return to boil, cover, then reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat, fluff with a fork, then recover and let stand for 15 minutes. 

Place the diced tofu, broccoli, cauliflower, and onion in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and black pepper, toss to coat, then spread into an even layer on one or two, if necessary, baking sheets.

Bake the tofu and the vegetables until caramelized and tender, about 25 minutes. Set aside.

Place dressing ingredients—tahini, lemon juice, mint, parsley, salt, and pepper—in blender and add 1/2 cup water. Blend until smooth.

Cool tofu and vegetables slightly, place in a bowl with 1/4 cup of the dressing and toss to coat. Taste and season, if necessary.

To assemble the bowls, scoop quinoa into a bowl, then top with the roasted vegetables, dressed tofu, and avocado. Garnish with cucumber, almonds, and additional fresh mint and/or parsley as desired. Serve remaining dressing on the side and use as a dip or spoon over the top as desired.


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1 Response to The Buddha and me: Buddha bowl with quinoa

  1. Jenni says:

    Wonderful as always. What’s better than a day of art and food?! Thanks for this one.

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