Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Lemon and Olive Quinoa Cakes

I am pretty deece at planning ahead and organizing my life.  But at the same time, I feel like I am always doing everything last minute.  Sometimes I wonder if I should just redefine what last minute is so that I am more satisfied with my preparation for things.  Maybe I should decide that "last minute" is literally a minute before something needs to be done.  That way when I am up until 3 am working on something, I can feel like I am doing things way ahead of time. 

What I am talking about:  Thanksgiving.  This is the first time I will be making the meal, at least, the whole meal.  And there is no doubt in my mind that I will be up until midnight on Wednesday night getting ready for Thanksgiving the next day.  I think I will do my family proud by keeping the essentials on the table, but also trying some new things.  Want to know my current menu?  Here is what I am doing:

-Alton Brown's Brined Turkey - I ordered a fresh turkey.  I will let you know if it was worth it.  This recipe is killer.  
-Gravy (just from the Turkey drippings and some homemade chicken stock) - my dad disagrees with my method, he likes to add milk.  
-Mashed Potatoes - I just do cream cheese, butter, cream, salt and pepper.  Just like my mom taught me.  
-Orange-Cranberry Sauce - a classic.  
-Smoked Chile Scalloped Sweet Potatoes - You know my sweet potato dilemma, I am going spicy.  
-Sausage and Kale Stuffing - I struggled with what kind of regular bread stuffing to make and went this which is full of veggies (kale and butternut squash) and other non-bread items like sausage.  
-Cornbread, Leek, Bacon, Apple, and Pecan Stuffing - Cornbread stuffing with apples and bacon is my favorite!
-Soft Knotted Rolls - these might not happen.

Dessert:  Pumpkin Pie from the Flour cookbook (here is close recipe) with whipped cream

Probably too much.  I mean, definitely too much.  But ya know.  

Have I ever told you the story of my sister and her pumpkin pie?  Several Thanksgivings ago, my sister made the pumpkin pie.  And it was a big deal because she made the pumpkin puree from scratch.  One day there was a little pumpkin on the counter.  The next day there was a pumpkin pie on the counter.  So...we all praised her from making her pie from scratch.  And we also all went on and on about how good it tasted.  Only to find out (I think, several years later), that the pumpkin puree didn't work out and she actually just made it from a can.  I have never been able to trust her since.  (For the record, she insists that what I have explained here isn't even what happened.  Don't listen to her.)

The bottom line is:  there is very little evidence that fresh pumpkin puree makes any difference.  However, I still made some to make my pie from (Aunt Linda always does it, so shall I).  Pumpkin pie is on my "Thanksgiving only" list, so I thought I should do it justice.

Anyways, as usual, this discussion has nothing to do with the recipe I am posting.  I have made quinoa cakes a few times before, but I always just make it up as I go, so I never have a recipe to share.  I enjoy throwing quinoa cakes into a weeknight meal mix.  They aren't that quick to make from the start, but once you have to mixture made, they make a really quick dinner.  And I LOVE them with a green salad and a delicious dijon based vinaigrette.  As with any veggie based cake, they can be a little finicky and fall apart easily.  For the last 500 cakes that this recipes makes, I ended up heating oil in a non-stick skillet and then just putting an thin, even layer of the quinoa mixture over the entire skillet.  I crisped up the first side and then just kind of broke it up to flip it in pieces.  It isn't pretty.  But just as good.  And I was hungry.  PS:  These do NOT taste half as good without the salad and vinaigrette.  Necessary.

Lemon and Olive Quinoa Cakes
adapted from Joy the Baker

1 1/2 cups raw quinoa
2 1/4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, beaten
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan or Gruyere cheese
1/3 cup coarsely chopped green olives
1/3 cup chopped parsley or green onions
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon water
olive oil

In a medium saucepan place quinoa, water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil. Cover, decrease the heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the quinoa is tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

In a small bowl, whisk eggs and set aside. In a large bowl, toss together onion, garlic, cheese, olives, parsley, lemon zest, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and cooled quinoa. Add beaten eggs and stir until all of the quinoa mixture is moistened.  Add water to thoroughly moisten mixture. Quinoa should be slightly wet so it doesn’t dry out during cooking.

Scoop out mixture by the 2 tablespoonful. Use clean, moist fingers to form into a patty. Create as many patties as you’d like.

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat olive oil. If you pan is large enough, add four to six patties to the hot pan. You’ll need a bit of room to successfully flip them.

Cook on each side until beautifully browned, about 4 to 5 minutes on each side. Low heat helps the quinoa cakes cook slowly. Brown on each side then remove to a paper towel lined plate.

Serve warm with a small spinach salad, or with scrambled eggs. Also, the quinoa mixture can be left, uncooked in the fridge for a few days. Cook as necessary.

(Servings: 6, Prep time: 45 min., Cook time: 30 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  8/10
Scot (taste):  8/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Green Israeli Couscous

Have I talked yet about feta?  Until a few years ago, I always bought pre crumbled feta.  It was just easier to sprinkle it in.  But also, I used to shop where there were just two options:  crumbled and not crumbled.  Same brand usually, just two options.  And whether IIII crumbed it myself or not, it always tasted the same.  

But please listen to me people: don't buy feta that way.  It is so dry.  So chalky.  And while that salty bite is nice, the real deal feta is 3000 times better.  

The real deal that I am talking about is the block of feta that sits in a liquid (like fresh mozzarella).  I wish I had a picture, but I am not that smart.  It is so soft, full of moisture, but still has the salty, tangy wonderfulness that we all need in our feta.  It is so good you would actually want to eat it by itself.  Go for it!  I promise you will be happy you did.  

Using a good feta is probably crucial to our 9 and 10 ratings.  The Israeli couscous is tossed with feta, peas, sauteed zucchini, pistachios, and some lemon zest and juice.  I used fresh English peas, but frozen wouldn't be detrimental to the dish.  I just think this mixture is perfect.  

Also, pistachios are close to my heart.  I have fond memories sitting around the table with my family, and especially with my grandma, shelling and eating pistachios.  I remember one particular time when my grandma and I were eating them and talking about how good they were and my grandma told me they were bad for us or had a lot of fat in them, something like that.  And I asked her why.  She goes, "anything that tastes this good, can't be good for you."  Amen.  But, then again, when I was really young I asked my grandma if there was fat in water and she goes, "Honey, there is fat is grandma's water."

Green Israeli Couscous
based off of Joy the Baker

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups dry Israeli Couscous
generous pinch of salt
1 zucchini, diced
2 cups fresh English peas, boiled in salted water for about 5 minutes and drained
4-5 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2-1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup roasted and salted pistachios
salt and coarsely ground black pepper to taste
about 3 tablespoons olive oil
about 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a medium saucepan, bring three cups of water to a boil. Add a generous pinch of salt, followed by Israeli couscous. Stir and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until couscous is just tender, with a slight bite, about 10 to 13 minutes. Drain into a fine mesh strainer and set aside.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, sauté the zucchini in a little bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes. Add cooked couscous and cooked peas. Toss with the rest of the ingredients, taste and add more salt and pepper as necessary.

(Servings: 4, Prep time: 20 min., Cook time 30 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  10/10
Effort:  2/5
Dishwashing Effort:  2/5

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

I am really into Indian food right now.  I have always liked it, but there is an Indian restaurant that I have gone to for lunch several times in the past month and I am now hooked.  There are two things that draw me to Indian food:

1.  I love the ginger, garlic, yogurt, and other fresh flavors paired with all the warm spices like cloves, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, etc.  

2.  It is so vegetarian.  And healthy!

This is my most Indian dish I have ever made.  And upon some Wiki research, I learned that this dish isn't really all that Indian.  It is British?  And the most popular British dish at that.  I have never been to the UK, so I guess I will need to verify that at some point in my life.  But it definitely has some Indian connections.  

And you know, I should have known this dish was not super authentic since it has chicken and cream in it.  Not vegetarian and not overly healthy like most of the dishes I have had are.  BUT, it is delicious and has the warmth that I like so much about Indian food.  And I think this would be perfectly delicious if you just substituted a couple of cans of chickpeas for the chicken.  

I was recently having dinner with some new friends and this is an exact quote from our wonderful conversation:

"A turkey club is too ethnic for my mom."

If you are like my new friend's mom...that is, a little hesitant to trying ethnic food, this is the perfect Indian dish to start with.  It has enough familiar flavors and ingredients like tomatoes, chicken and cream that it is very comforting.  And with the wonderful combination of wintery spices, fresh ginger, garlic, it will knock your socks off.  Lastly,  go for the naan.  If you buy it from the bakery, make sure to grill it in some garlicy olive oil.

PS:  I added a new tab up there.  A little guide to weeknight meals.  Check it out!  

Chicken Tikka Masala
recipe courtesy Aarti Sequeira via Food Network

For the Marinade:
1 cup plain yogurt, whisked until smooth
3 tablespoons Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows (or 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger and 3 cloves garlic put through a garlic press or finely minced)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, poked with a fork, and cut into large
bite-sized chunks

For the Sauce:
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup Ginger-Garlic Paste, recipe follows (or 6 cloves garlic and 2-inch thumb ginger minced)
2 serrano peppers, minced (seeds removed if you don't want it spicy)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons paprika
8 Roma tomatoes, diced (I used a 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 to 2 cups water
Oil, for grilling
1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves (optional)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Minced fresh cilantro, for garnish
Cooked rice, naan, or crusty piece of bread, for serving

For the marinade: In a large bowl, mix together the marinade ingredients. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Marinate at least 30 minutes, or in the refrigerator up to overnight.

For the sauce: When you're ready to make the curry, place a large skillet over medium heat and add the olive oil and butter. When the butter has melted, add the Ginger-Garlic Paste and serrano peppers. Saute until lightly browned around the edges. Add the tomato paste and cook until the tomato has darkened in color, about 3 minutes. Add the garam masala and the paprika and saute for about 1 minute to draw out their flavors.

Add the tomatoes, salt, and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook until thickened, about 20 minutes. You may need more water depending on how much liquid the tomatoes give off.

Meanwhile, fire up your grill. When it is nice and hot, lightly brush it with oil. Place the chicken on the grill, shaking off some of the excess marinade. Cook until it's charred, about 2 minutes on each side. (Don't worry that the chicken will still be a little uncooked, it finishes cooking in the sauce).

Pour the sauce into a blender or food processor, or use an immersion blender, and process until smooth. Pour back into the skillet and bring back up to a boil. Add the chicken and fenugreek leaves, if using. Take the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Add the cream and stir through. Garnish with minced fresh cilantro, and serve over rice, with naan, or a crusty piece of bread!

Ginger-Garlic Paste

1/2 cup cloves garlic, whole
1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/4 cup canola oil

Throw the garlic, ginger, and canola oil in a mini-food processor and let it go until it forms a semi-smooth paste. There will still be tiny little pieces in there, but overall, it should resemble a paste.

Save what you don't use in a small glass jar. It should last in the fridge for 2 to 3 weeks. It's a delicious addition to marinades, pasta sauces, stir fry sauces, slowcooker recipes, gravy etc. We always had a jar of this stuff in our fridge growing up.

(Servings: 4-6, Prep time: 1 hr., Cook time: 30 min., Difficulty: Easy)

foodforscot Ratings:  

Shanon (taste):  9/10
Scot (taste):  9/10
Effort:  3/5
Dishwashing Effort:  3/5