We needed something straight forward. Last week's attempt for a post of braised leeks and romesco sauce ended up looking overcooked and sloppy. We tried to plate it nicely, and Hugh dug around trying to find the perfect dish to distract from the mooshness, but it wasn't happening. We stared at it, eating the finished product while deliberating a nice presentation. Call it coincidence, but we'd eaten 'our post' just as we decided the mooshness did not have a place in the blogsphere. I was left no other option but to make something that would undoubtedly be nice and clean.
Simple as this is, I know there is a need for recipes that come together quickly, are nutritionally well rounded and require no fuss. This salad of sorts is gluten free, high in plant protiens and is just as good, if not better, the next day for lunch over some salad greens with another little squeeze of lemon. All these ingredients are pretty well received, so I think it would be a great make ahead dish for a luncheon, bridal shower or what not with all the pretty colors. There are circumstances where you don't want to take a risk, and this bowl is as reliable as they come.
MEDITERRANEAN QUINOA BOWL // Serves 2 big eaters, maybe 3 medium eaters
1 Cup Quinoa, dry
4 to 6 oz. Block of Feta Cheese, cut in cubes
1 Cup Roasted Red Peppers, cut in slivers (I use jarred in the off season)
1/4 Cup Capers, rinsed and drained
1 Cup Chickpeas, cooked
3 Tbsp. Flat Leaf Parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp. Dried Oregano
Generous pinch of Sea Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
1 Meyer Lemon
1 Tbsp. Good Quality Olive Oil
1. For the quinoa, typically, bring two cups water and one cup dry quinoa to a boil. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Place the broccolini right on top after ten minutes (who wants to dirty another pot?) and cover to finish the quinoa and the broccolini will steam on top. Remove the broccolini to a cutting board, and transfer the quinoa to a large bowl and fluff with a fork.
2. Toss the red pepper slivers, chickpeas, capers, dried oregano and salt and pepper to the quinoa and stir. Give the broccolini a rough chop and toss it in the bowl. Squeeze the juice of the entire meyer lemon (avoiding seeds) and the olive oil, stir again.
3. Lastly, cut the feta into small cubes (easiest if done straight from the fridge or even let it sit in the freezer for a few minutes). Add the cubes and the parsley to the quinoa and give it a gentle fold. At this point, it is probably a tad warmer than room temperature, which is great. If you'd rather it cold, let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to cool down.
I could have sworn up and down that I hated maple, until I met these mini muffins. I find that maple is one of those particular flavors that people love or hate. Like black licorice, grape candy, the consistency of cottage cheese or fennel. The fact that it's a natural sweetener, makes me feel like I should like it, but it's just not for me. Hugh is pro-maple so I figured if we made these and I hated them, at least someone would eat them. I hoarded a majority of them.
There is an entire cup of real maple syrup in the recipe, which sounds like a lot, but with all the dense flours, the strength of it dissipates. I used a pretty lengthy list of ingredients, but if you don't think you'll ever use a whole bag of buckwheat flour, try to find a store that sells flours/grains in bulk and you can buy just what you need by weight. Or, as I've suggested before, make extra and give some away. I mean, they taste pretty healthy for a muffin, but it's January, people are into that sort of thing.
MULTIGRAIN MAPLE MINI MUFFINS// Makes 12 or 24 Minis
1/2 Cup Buckwheat Flour
1/2 Cup Unbleached All Purpose Flour
1/2 Cup Wheat Bran
1/2 Cup Oatmeal (plus extra for garnish)
1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
1 Tsp. Fresh Grated Nutmeg (if you have it)
1 Tsp. Salt
1 Tbsp. Fresh Grated Ginger
1 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda
2 Large Eggs
1 Cup Real Maple Syrup
1 Cup Buttermilk
2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract
1/2 Cup Lowfat Cottage Cheese (I blended mine up a tad, but this is optional)
1 Cup Pecan Pieces, divided
Oven at 350'
1. In a large mixing bowl, sift all flours, the baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together. Grate the ginger right on top. Spray or butter your muffin tins and set aside.
2. In two other bowls, seperate the egg yolks from the whites. In the bowl with the yolks, add the maple, vanilla and buttermilk and whisk to combine. Beat or use an electric mixer to whip up the egg whites until they just start to hold shape.
3. Mix the wet into the dry ingredients until just combined. Add the cottage cheese and 1/2 cup of the pecan pieces and gently fold in. Lastly, just before you're ready to put batter into the tins, fold in the whipped egg whites. Because the dough is somewhat heavy, try to fold from the outside of the bowl in, to not deflate the egg whites.
4. The mini tins hold about two spoonfuls of mix, if using larger tins, fill them about 3/4 full. Sprinkle the top with a few chopped pecans and a few oat flakes. Bake on the middle rack for 20-23 minutes (cooking times may vary depending on tin). Remove and cool. I recommend a little spread of plain greek yogurt.
I don't want to forget how I felt on my beach walk a few days ago. The tide was unusually low, making a good stretch of hard sand for optimum speed walking conditions. Apparently, I missed the memo that there was going to be a gorgeous sunset, because so many people were out. Most of which were just watching; standing alone, saluting the sun and being still. It wasn't necessarily a moment of quiet, but there was no room for wanting, rushing or worrying. It even seemed that the dolphins, which is a site I am jaded to at this point, were just bobbing in the water, watching the sky with everyone else. With this view, there is no way you couldn't believe in something bigger than yourself, than all of us. Pictures of sunsets don't do them justice, you need to be there and live them as they make you feel at rest. I wish you were there, because feeling rest, even if it's for a brief moment, is quite gratifying.
All the holiday weeks have passed, and I am ready to sit down and have a nice healthy dinner. It's time for a complete meal composed of more than one food group and a pretty plate. There were too many moments where I was eating trail mix or baggies of cereal from my glove compartment these past two weeks (yes, I keep emergency snacks in my car and no, I don't have children). This meal is packed with 'superfood' ingredients, lots of protien and is unique enough to feel like a special dinner. At least for me, but maybe I'm the only one who eats from their glove compartment.
WALNUT CRUSTED WILD SALMON & EDAMAME MASH // Serves 4
Atlantic Salmon is far more likely to be farmed than Pacific salmon. You want to choose a wild variety, more often found at a fish market or Whole Foods than your local grocery store. There are a number of varieties, all quite rich, so you only need a small portion. If Salmon isn't your thing, you actually could crust any fish, but vary the cooking time for thinner or less fatty varieties. Also, I suggest reading through the entire recipe before you start. It's pretty easy if you get the jist of the entire process first.
Four 4 oz. Wild Pacific Salmon Filets
1 Cup Walnuts, Very Finely Chopped
1/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour (or any gluten free option will work too)
1 Egg White
1 Tbsp. Water
1 Tsp. Dried Basil
1 Tbsp. Oil (anything neutral tasting)
3 1/2 Cups Edamame Beans (organic very important with soy. I used frozen, shelled beans)
2 Tbsp. Rice Vinegar
2 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp. Toasted Sesame Oil
3 Tbsp. Fresh Chives, Chopped
3 Tbsp. Fresh Mint, Chopped
Fresh Ginger, optional
Fresh Basil for Garnish
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Oven to 400'
1. Steam or boil edamame beans for about 8 minutes (longer if you're using fresh). Transfer drained beans to a blender or food processor. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, rice vinegar, lemon juice and sesame oil. Pulse to puree the beans.Pulse until chunky, you want a smooth but slightly chunky consistency, add broth or water if you need to loosen it. Tranfer to a mixing bowl, add the fresh mint and chives and stir. Salt and pepper to taste, add ground ginger or red pepper if you want a kick.
2. Put the egg white and water in a bowl and give it a whisk. Use three seperate shallow plates, put the flour on one, the egg whites mixture in the second, and the crushed walnuts, pinch of salt and herbs in the last bowl.
3. Heat pan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. of a neutral oil. With one salmon filet at a time and working with ONE side, dip on the flour, then the egg, then the walnuts (which should be pulverized enough to adhere). Add nut side down gently into the pan and sear for about 3 minutes, flip and sear the other side. Tranfer fish onto a baking dish large enough to hold all four filets, walnut side up. Repeat the searing with all four filets, then pop them in the oven to cook through to desired doneness, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness. I like to keep it just barely rare on the inside.
4. Warm the edamame mash. On each place, put a generous dollop of mash and the warm salmon on top. Garnish with some fresh basil.
Just when I said all I can eat this month are desserts, I can safely say that I now want nothing to do with them. The excitement for all things cookie, toffee, gingerbread or peppermint has waned. The pine is dried to a crisp, and people will take their lights down this weekend after making goals for 2010. It is the week when we go from overdosing on sweets, to proposing a regimented health plan for the new year in a matter of days. I'm now craving the deep greens that are in season, warm root vegetables or anything kissed with fresh citrus. Hugh suprised me with a sweet Schwinn bicycle tied with a big red bow for Christmas, now if I can only figure out how to stop successfully and put my helmet on the correct direction, I may be on to a new hobby.
This is a perfect gluten free side dish, that can easily be made in to an entree with some grilled fish, chicken or tofu. The lime makes it taste fresh but the warm squash keeps it comforting enough for the colder weather. We ended up adding some black beans after the pictures, which made it quite filling. The leftovers were even better as all the flavors blended. Queso Fresco is Spanish/Mexican cheese that isn't aged, so it's fairly mild. If you have feta on hand, it works just as well if not better if you like more of a tang.
MEXI SQUASH // Serves 4 as a side
2 to 3 lb. Spaghetti Squash
3/4-1 Cup Queso Fresco/ Feta Cheese
Half Red Onion, Finely Diced
1/3 Cup Cilantro, Chopped
Juice of Two Limes (about 1/4 Cup)
2 Tbsp. Agave Nectar
3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1/2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Coriander Seeds
Salt to Taste
Oven at 375'
1. Cut squash in half length wise, scoop out seeds and place cut side down on a rim baking pan. Fill the bottom for about a half inch of water. Bake on the middle rack for about 50 minutes. You know it is done when the flesh is tender enough to shred easily.
2. While the squash is baking, dice the red onion and chop your cilantro.
3. Make the dressing: start with the red pepper, fresh garlic, coriander and cumin and grind together with a spice grinder, pestel or back of a wooden spoon. Add the lime juice and agave and whisk together. Drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil and whisk again. Add a generous pinch of salt, you can add more at the end.
4. Remove the squash and let it cool enough to handle. With a fork, scrape the inside of the squash into a large bowl, it will look like spaghetti, hence the name. Add the onion and dressing and toss to coat while still warm so it softens the onion and garlic flavors. Test for salt and pepper. Add in the cilantro and half of the cheese, toss again. Serve with fresh cilantro and cheese on top.
Besides the hearty soup and well balance bowl we've had the past two posts, it seems my diet lately has consisted of more treats than usual. I feel so cliche even saying that, as I would love to tell you I prefer carrot sticks to cookies, but I do not, especially in December. Likely story, I know. I have tried pickles, coffee, brushing my teeth, desperate seances and what not, but sometimes the need for something sweet comes with a fury. By fury, I mean a need for baby chocolate peppermint molten cakes. They are so much easier to make than I expected, and a personal dessert makes a guest, and you, feel special. I am catering a dinner party for twenty this Friday, and after testing these for four, it will be just as easy to do for twenty. Borrowing 16 additonal ramekins is the difficult part. If I am going to make a decadent dessert, it will be worth it. By using organic eggs and butter, and the best quality chocolate you can find, your end result tastes as wonderful as the ingredients you used.
Hugh and I watched Food Inc. last week and I thought it was very well done. I tend to take everything I hear on the subject of the corporate food industry for face value, so am glad I had Hugh to remind me of the art of persuasion. Sure, it is a movie made by one side of the issue, but the material encourages the viewer to buy locally, visit farmers markets, cook at home, plant a small garden and stay away from processed foods. I don't care how literally you take it, but the call to action is unanimously postive. I wish my garden grew molten cakes, then everyone would be happy.
CHOCOLATE PEPPERMINT MOLTEN CAKES
1/2 Cup Unsalted Butter
5 oz. High Quality Bittersweet Chocolate (Valrhona or Scharfenberger)
2 Large Eggs
2 Egg Yolks
1/4 Cup Natural Cane Sugar
2 tsp. Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 tsp. Peppermint Extract
Pinch of Salt
Candy Cane for Garnish
Oven at 450'
1. Set a glass bowl over a pot of gently boiling water (double broiler). Break up the the chocolate, and add it and the butter into the glass bowl. While the mixture is melting, whisk the eggs, egg yolks and sugar together in another bowl until light and thick.
2. When chocolate is almost completly melted remove from the heat, stir to release some heat as it should be quite warm. Slowly pour in the eggs, peppermint extract, pinch of salt and then quickly beat in the flour until just combined.
3. Butter and flour four 4-ounce ramekins, tap out excess flour. Pour the chocolate mix evenly amongst the ramekins. At this point, you can keep them in the fridge for several hours, and simply bring them to room temperature before baking. Otherwise, bake them on a baking sheet for 6 to 7 minutes MAX, centers will be soft. Allow to sit for 3 minutes.
4. Invert the ramekin onto a plate, let them sit about 10 seconds and give the bottom a little tap, then lift. Sprinkle with candy cane, serve immediately. Accompany with unsweetened whipped cream or ice cream if desired.