BLACK RICE WITH ROASTED CAULIFLOWER

Rice is hardly regarded as a special side dish, unless it gets fancied up as a risotto, joined to all sorts of goodies and a nice amount of butter. But, black rice, also known as Forbidden Rice, is another story. Dark, mysterious, with a heartier texture and more assertive flavor, it has the potential to make any meal special. I recently paired it with roasted cauliflower, and we were both very pleased with how it turned out.

BLACK RICE AND ROASTED CAULIFLOWER
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

1 cup black rice
1 + 3/4 cup water
salt to taste
1 head cauliflower
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (3 + 1)
juice of half lemon
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Soak the rice in plenty of cold water for 45 minutes. Drain, and rinse well. Add to a sauce pan with the water seasoned with salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer with a tight-fitting lid for about 35 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Leave in the pan undisturbed for five minutes before serving.

To roast the cauliflower, cut the florets in a way that they get a flat side. Mix them with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and place as a single layer in a baking sheet, covering tightly with aluminum foil. Roast at 450 F for 10 minutes, remove the foil, roast for 15 more minutes, flipping the pieces mid way through (or at least moving them around a little, so that new spots touch the bottom of the pan. Depending on how dark you like your cauliflower, let them roast longer.  Meanwhile, mix the remaining tablespoon of olive oil with the lemon juice and spices. When the cauliflower is ready, drizzle the spice mixture, toss gently.

Serve the cauliflower over the hot, steamy rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Black rice is very nutritious, high in iron and fiber, its purple color coming from anthocyanins. It is actually the food item with the highest content of this anti-oxidant. Not too shabby, right? If you’ve never tried it, the taste is similar to brown rice, and the texture might resemble a bit wild rice. All that to tell you, Forbidden Rice is not just a pretty face. However, it can be a bit tricky to cook it perfectly. After having a few lousy experiences with it, I have two pieces of advice: soak it for 45 minutes to 1 hour before cooking, rinse well.  And use 1 + 3/4 cup of water per cup of rice, not more. Recipes that tell you to use 2:1 will most certainly leave you with a soupy concoction, in which the nice bite of this grain will be compromised.

The cauliflower. I got inspiration from a Fine Cooking article on steam-roasted vegetables. I simplified considerably their take on steam-roasted cauliflower with Indian spices, and shared this stream-lined version with you.

As full-blown omnivores, we paired this side dish with very juicy and very delicious chicken thighs, my default recipe which is on our table every couple of weeks.Yes, it is a lot of chicken, but we got two full dinners out of it, and one lunch for yours truly.

For such a simple preparation with humble ingredients, we were quite amazed by how much we enjoyed it. Once the weather warms up (and I turn into a cheerful human being again instead of The Resident Curmudgeon)  I intend to make black rice salad, because it seems to me it might be a real winner also.

ONE YEAR AGO: La Couronne Bordelaise

TWO YEARS AGO: A Special Birthday Dinner

THREE YEARS AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

FOUR YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

SIX YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

SEVEN YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

NINE YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.finecooking.com/recipe/steam-roasted-indian-spiced-cauliflower

FREEKEH WITH ZUCCHINI AND ALMONDS

I tend to fall in love with things and get into an obsessive-compulsive mode about them. Right now freekeh is a good example. I’ve been making it regularly, so finding news ways to prepare it is always on my mind. If you have never tried this grain, I’d say it is a mixture of farro and barley. Hearty, tasty, and goes well with many main dishes. You can find two types of freekeh, whole grain and cracked. The main difference is the time it takes to cook them. If you go for whole grain, be prepared for 40 to 45 minutes cooking time, whereas the cracked form will be ready in 20, 25 minutes maximum. In our neck of the woods, it is easier to find cracked, so that’s what I normally go for.

FREEKEH WITH ZUCCHINI AND ALMONDS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

2 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch pieces
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
1 stalk celery, finely diced
salt and pepper
3/4 cup cracked freekeh
2 cups water
toasted slivered almonds to taste
fresh dill to taste
whole yogurt for serving (optional)

Sautee the zucchini. On a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil, add the zucchini pieces seasoned with salt and pepper and allow it to get golden brown before moving the pieces around. When it’s tender and fragrant, squeeze a little lemon juice and reserve.

Cook the freekeh. In a sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon (or a bit less) olive oil, add the celery seasoned with salt and pepper, and saute until fragrant. Add the freekeh, cook a minute or two, then add the water. Cover the pan and simmer until tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let it sit in the pan for five minutes with the heat off.

Add the freekeh to the skillet with the zucchini, warm everything together briefly, add toasted almonds, and fresh dill. Serve immediately with whole milk yogurt on the side, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I realize that I am asking you to use one large skillet and one sauce pan to make this recipe. In theory, you could saute the zucchini in the sauce pan, remove it, and proceed to cook the celery and freekeh in the same pan. However, I prefer a very large surface to get the zucchini perfectly cooked. And in case you don’t know, I love doing dishes, so one more pan to wash has never been a problem for me. I know… crazy, right?

This turned out very good, and almost a complete meal, actually. We enjoyed it with roast chicken, but next day my lunch was a nice serving of freekeh with a fried egg on top. Maybe not the most gorgeous picture in the blogosphere, but trust me, it was tasty…

If you never cooked freekeh, I urge you to give it a try. It is a nice alternative to rice, and you can also enjoy it cold in salads, or as addition to soups. Pretty versatile item.

ONE YEAR AGO: Salmon a la Wellington, re-visited

TWO YEARS AGO: The Unbearable Unfairness of Cake Baking

THREE YEARS AGO: Hermit Cookies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Cremini Mushroom Meatloaf

FIVE YEARS AGO: Ottolenghi & Tamimi’s Roast Chicken with Clementines

SIX YEARS AGO: Eight-Ball Zucchini: The Missing Files

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Grilling Ribbons

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Peppery Cashew Crunch

NINE YEARS AGO: Ossobuco Milanese: an Italian Classic

A SPECIAL BIRTHDAY DINNER

The planning of my beloved’s Birthday dinner went all backwards. First I settled on the dessert, covered in my previous two posts. You know, the dessert that almost killed me. Then, I chose the side dish. Rice. Rice for a Birthday dinner? Yes. But let me explain. Ever since I met Phil he talks about this Persian rice his roommate used to prepare when they lived in their communal house. I call those times his hippie-days, I’ve seen pictures, and can tell you he was almost as handsome then as he is today. Back to rice. It is very traditional in Persian cuisine, countless ways to make it, probably each family has its own way, like feijoada for Brazilians. The ultimate goal is to produce a golden crust at the bottom of the pan, which when the rice is served, ends up on top. You break that crust and enjoy it with the perfectly cooked and perfumed rice underneath it.  I don’t know why it took me so long to finally make it at home, but better late than never. And with the side dish decided, I picked a main dish to match:  chicken thighs braised in Middle-Eastern spices, cooked with dried apricots and prunes. Green beans tied it all together…

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So let’s start with the rice. The crust (tahdig)  in this case was a mixture of butter and grapeseed oil, which has a very mild taste, and helps prevent the butter from browning too much. That would make the rice bitter. Some recipes elaborate on this simple concept by making the crust with thin slices of pita bread, for instance. Or using yogurt, even potatoes. A nice culinary project to play with. I ended up using inspiration from several sources, but kept it simple, butter it was.

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CHELOW (PERSIAN RICE)
(adapted from several sources)

1 + ¾ cups Basmati rice
2 Tablespoons salt for cooking rice
A pinch of saffron strands
A pinch of sugar
A pinch of salt
2 tbsp very hot water
2 tbsp butter, divided
2 tbsp grapeseed oil

Rinse the rice in several changes of cold water until the water runs clear, then leave to soak in a large bowl of water for 20 to 30 minutes. Drain and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and add 2 tablespoons of salt. Add the rice and cook for 5 minutes. The grains should still be pretty firm at this point. Drain, rinse briefly with cold water to prevent it from cooking any further. Reserve.

Make the saffron infusion by using a pestle and mortar to grind the saffron strands with a pinch of sugar and salt, then dissolve it with the very hot water.   Leave to steep for a few minutes. To make a plain tahdig for this amount of rice, you need an 8-inch nonstick saucepan with a snug-fitting lid. Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter with the grapeseed oil over medium heat on an 8-inch nonstick pan.  Add 1 tablespoon of the saffron liquid. When the oil is hot, sprinkle a thin layer of rice over the bottom and firmly press it down, covering the bottom of the pan. Carefully lay the rest of the rice on top, allowing it to form a domed shape at the center. Using the handle of a wooden spoon, make a few holes in the rice, almost reaching the bottom of the pan.

Place the remaining tablespoon of butter, cut in little pieces, in the holes you formed.  Sprinkle the rest of the saffron liquid on top of the rice, then put either a tea towel or four layers of paper towels on the surface, tucking the edges in. Cook the rice on medium heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down, as low as your stove will go, and cook for 15 minutes longer.  Take it off the heat and allow it to sit for a few minutes, while you fill your sink with a couple of inches of very cold water.

Place the saucepan in the water. That will loosen the crust at the bottom, and should allow you to un-mold it nicely.  Take the lid off, put a large plate on top, and without hesitation, flip the pan over to release the rice on the plate. If all goes well, you’ll be rewarded with a beautiful rice “cake”, a nice crust on top of perfectly cooked Basmati rice.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I wanted to follow the recipe quite closely, so I was compelled to get a mortar and pestle for it. I know, life can be tough. But the Force was with me, because Marshalls had a few for sale – cannot beat their prices –  in fact they had two kinds, and I brought one home with me. The method of choice to deal with saffron in Middle Eastern cuisine is to crush it with a little sugar and a little salt. Water then is added to solubilize it as best as possible, and that beautiful golden liquid is used in the recipe.

compositerice
My heart was beating fast when I un-molded the pan, but it worked like a charm!  That crust is simply addictive. Even though Phil was the guest of honor for obvious reasons, I put up a mild fight for the real crusty bits, after all, I slaved away at the whole menu. Carioca Cake, remember? That should give me bids on 85% of the rice crust. But because I am of magnanimous nature, I settled for 60%.

Now let’s move to the main dish…

chicken

CHICKEN BRAISED WITH APRICOTS AND PRUNES
(adapted from The Saffron Tales, pressure cooker optional)

Grapeseed oil
2 shallots, finely chopped (or 1 large onion)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
6 chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
1 + 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper, ground
1 + 1/2 cups chicken stock (approximately)
12 dried apricots
12 prunes
good pinch of saffron
pinch of sugar and salt
2 tablespoons very hot water
lemon juice to taste (a tablespoon or so)

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan and fry the shallots over very low heat until golden brown, take your time and allow the deep flavors to develop. Season the chicken pieces all over with salt, add to the saute pan with the caramelized shallots, then add the cumin, coriander, cinnamon,  turmeric and black pepper.   Cook until the chicken is golden on all sides, then transfer to a pressure cooker. Add one cup of stock, if it almost cover the meat it will be enough, if not add another half a cup. Close the pressure cooker and once it reaches full pressure, cook for 18 minutes.  In the meantime, add boiling water to the apricots and prunes in a small bowl, and let them sit to soften slightly. At the end of 18 minutes, release the pressure running the pan under the faucet with cold water.

Grind the saffron with a pinch of sugar and salt in the pestle and mortar and then transfer to a cup and leave to steep in very hot water for 2 minutes.

When the chicken is ready, add the softened fruit, along with the lemon juice and the saffron liquid. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes with the lid off, until the sauce has thickened slightly. Adjust seasoning and serve over rice, or another side dish of your choice.

No pressure cooker? Use any heavy pan with a tight lid and cook the chicken for about 40 minutes, until very tender, then proceed with the addition of fruits and saffron liquid.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

sauteeing

Comments: Most important step of this recipe, taking your time to caramelize those shallots (or onions, if you prefer). I used the pressure cooker because I love the texture it gives to the meat, and also it speeds the preparation so much. But, you can definitely use a regular pan. This is a recipe that gets better next day, so you can make it in advance. I actually made it in the morning and we enjoyed it at dinner, when all I had to do was warm it up, and take care of the Persian rice and the green beans.  It was a delightful meal…

birthdaybw

One more Birthday celebration together!
Great food is mandatory, dressing up is optional… 

😉

a-special-persian-dinner-from-bewitching-kitchen

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ONE YEAR AGO: Duck Confit for a Special Occasion

TWO YEARS AGO: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Sausage Skewers

THREE YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with Pork Tenderloin & Apples

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Wellington

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Green Chip Alternative

SIX YEARS AGO: Weekend Pita Project

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Let it snow, let it snow, eggs in snow

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: FALAFEL & A BONUS RECIPE

The Secret Recipe Club is an event that pairs two food bloggers in secret. Once we get our “assignment”, we have about 3 weeks to browse through the site, choose a recipe from it, cook and blog about it at midnight of Reveal Monday. I’ve been a member for a long time, but I still remember exactly how it felt when I joined. Those “newbie” feelings, never quite sure if your write-up, photos, chosen recipe were good enough. I got to know amazing food blogs through the SRC, and that is a bonus like no other. Long before I joined the club, I was a faithful follower of a very unique blog, called Chef in Disguise. At some point in the not too distant past, Sawsan, the hostess of that site, joined The Secret Recipe Club, and when I learned about that, my heart missed a beat, out of pure thrill. And then it missed another beat, from disappointment. Disappointment because she was not in my group. At that time there were four different groups. I was part of Group D, she was placed in Group A. Bummer. But it so happens that major changes took place, instead of four separate groups we now have three, bloggers moved around, and voilà: I found myself sitting in Group A.  But, what’s even better, today I have the greatest honor and pleasure of cooking from her site.  Those are incredibly big shoes to fill, Sawsan is an outstanding cook, photographer, and writer. But having interacted with her over many years through emails and comments I also know she is an amazing human being. Kind, generous, loving, devoted to her family, friends, profession, and culture. Through her blog, I learned so much more than cooking. Just to offer you a very small but representative example: in this post she explains Ramadan and does so in a beautiful, profound and touching way.  But that’s just one example. Sawsan’s mission is to open her kitchen and home to people all over the world. You’ll find stories of her family as she grew up, stories of her kids adventures in school or how they are all dealing with moving from Jordan to UAE.  You will also find recipes ranging from straightforward to incredibly sophisticated. There is simply nothing she won’t try and then excel at. You don’t believe me? Take a look at this cake she made for her son. Or this one for her daughter. And when she does this type of challenging projects, she makes sure that anyone can follow her steps, by writing very detailed tutorials.  These “how to” posts are amazing sources of information, a bit like having a teacher holding your hand.

As usual, I like to make a list of the recipes that I considered for this Reveal Day. From Chef in Disguise, my list was a mile long, but I will take a minimalist approach: Pão de Queijo (because I was thrilled to see her making a typical Brazilian concoction),  Date Bread Rings, Cheese and Anise Flat Bread,  Mille-feuille for home-made Napoleon, Braided Date Bread (almost made this one…), Lavender Chicken, Pavlova (always wanted to give this one a try), Kabsa (irresistible rice and meat concoction from the Arabian gulf).  But I also want to offer you four examples of tutorials that are a must-read: How to make Labneh Cheese How to make Feta Cheese…  How to make mozzarella and armenian string cheese… and another one very dear to my heart: Sourdough starter 101: how to create your sourdough starter from scratch.

So, what did I pick? For starters, Falafel. Not an easy choice, because a couple of years ago I had an epic disaster in the kitchen attempting to make them. Our dear friend Cindy had traveled all the way from Oklahoma to visit us and one of our goals was to make falafel together. Things seemed to be going well, but when we got to the part of frying them, they disintegrated in the oil, every single one of them!  It was a royal mess, we had to resort to a plan B for our dinner. I confess that when I have this type of problem with a recipe, I usually avoid attempting it again for a while (in Sally’s speak: for a while = forever).  But Sawsan’s post was my chance to do it right.  I was quite nervous about it, but here I am to report back: HUGE SUCCESS!  A personal culinary demon has been exorcised for good!

(Just when I finished editing and scheduling this post, Sawsan published a new article.
I won’t say a word about it. Because once again, she’s said it all).

served-3

 

FALAFEL
(slightly adapted from Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise)

This recipe makes 35 falafel patties

500 g soaked chickpeas (measured after soaking)
125 g soaked peeled fava beans (measured after soaking)
½ cup parsley leaves (remove stems)
½ cup cilantro leaves (remove stems)
1 medium shallot
¾ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoons ground cumin
¾ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon all spice
½ teaspoon black pepper

to add 10 minutes before cooking
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda

for the tahini sauce:
2 Tablespoons of yogurt
1 tablespoon Tahini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
a dash of salt

Prepare the Falafel Mix: Soak the fava beans and the chickpeas in water in separate containers overnight. The following day drain the fava beans and the chickpeas, rinse them with fresh water. You should weigh them after soaking, and place the required amount in the bowl of a food processor. Process the grains together until smooth, remove from the processor and add the shallot, parsley, cilantro, salt, peppers, and spices to the empty processor. Process until a paste forms, add the grains back and process everything together until very smooth.  Scrape the sides of the bowl a couple of times so that  you’ll end up without large chunks of grains.  You can freeze the mixture at this point or place it in the fridge for a few days.

Ten minutes before frying, sprinkle baking soda and baking powder on the falafel mix, knead and let rest.

When ready heat 1 inch deep of cooking oil in the frying pan on medium heat. Scoop the falafel by using a specialized Falafel scoop, an ice cream scoop, or by using 2 spoons whereby you scoop the falafel paste in one, and press the other spoon against it to compact it into an oval shape. You can also use your hands to roll the falafel into balls. Drop the falafel gently into the frying pan. no more than 4-5 because if you add too many the oil will cool down and the falafel will fall apart Fry for a few minutes until the falafel turns brownish, flipping it once to brown both sides.  Take the falafel out and place it on a paper towel to get rid of excess oil.

Make the sauce: mix the Tahini sauce ingredients in a small bowl until you get the right texture, you can add a bit more water or lemon juice if necessary. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve as a dip or spoon some over the falafel on your plate.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe click here 

falagelcomp

Comments: To make this wonderful recipe, you’ll need two special items. First dried, peeled fava beans (although you could use all garbanzo beans if you cannot find fava). I will add a little note here. Sawsan once offered to send me a bag of dried favas straight from Jordan, so that I could have the best possible product to make falafel from scratch!  Can you imagine? I told you she is very kind… So, for this recipe I searched for the very best product I could find through amazon.com as far as reviews from customers go.  The second item, which is not mandatory, is a falafel maker. You can see what it looks like in the photo below  I advise you to buy a large one, because some available are way too small. The one I got is this model. It is described as extra-large. Trust me, you don’t want anything smaller. Of course, you can make falafel shaped with spoons or your hands, but I wanted to make sure I did a good job. Remember, it’s Sawsan’s blog I am talking about…

gadget1
I made the falafel mixture two days before actually frying them.  Kept the bowl in the fridge, then kneaded the baking powder and baking soda right before cooking them, as instructed by Sawsan. To my amazement, not a single one dissolved in the oil, and the taste… out of this world delicious! I used a heavy hand with the herbs, so mine turned out a bit more green than Sawsan’s.

ontheplate

These tender, flavorful little morsels were perfect served with the tahini sauce…

Falafel, from Beiwtching Kitchen


BONUS RECIPE

And now that we got the Falafel talked about, I must share with you a bonus recipe. In part, I made it because I wanted to have a backup post in case the falafel turned into oily crumbs. But I am so glad I picked this salad, because it was one of the best things I cooked so far this year.  Grilled peaches ROCK!

Grilled Peach Salad with Lavender Dressing

GRILLED PEACH FETA SALAD WITH LAVENDER DRESSING
(slightly modified from Sawsan’s Chef in Disguise)

for the salad:
3 cups greens (I used a spring mix)
3 tablespoons of feta crumbled, or to taste
2 peaches cut into segments

for the lavender dressing:
4 tablespoons lemon juice
5 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
½ teaspoon dried lavender flowers
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (I used white balsamic)

Make the dressing: In a bowl add the lemon juice, salt, mustard ,lavender, and balsamic vinegar and whisk Slowly drizzle the olive oil while you continue whisking until you have added the entire amount.

Prepare the salad: On the grill or in a pan on the stove top, lightly grill the peach segments. In your serving plate, arrange the greens, topped with the grilled peach segments. Crumble the feta cheese on top.

Drizzle the dressing on the salad right before serving.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

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Comments: What a wonderful salad this was!  I made the dressing one hour before dinner, because I wanted to make sure the lavender taste would sip through the dressing, and I think that was a good move… I coated the grill pan very lightly with a coconut oil spray, and the peaches were done in a couple of minutes, beautiful marks all around. I allowed the slices to come to room temperature before assembling the salad. A winner, all the way!  I am definitely incorporating grilled peaches in our diet, and might even be daring and grill some fresh apricots next time, use a mixture of the two fruits…


Grilled Peach Salad, from Bewitching Kitchen

Sawsan, I cannot tell you how happy I was to get your blog to cook from! Having been a reader for so long, your place feels like home in the blogosphere…  I hope you also enjoyed your assignment this month!  Happy Reveal Day!

I invite my readers to click on the blue frog. She will take you to the collection of recipes my virtual friends prepared this month. And of course, I wish everyone in the USA a Happy 4th of July!

 

ONE YEAR AGO: In My Kitchen, July 2015

TWO YEARS AGO: Sous-vide Pork Chops with Roasted Poblano Butter

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Strawberry Buttermilk Sherbet

FOUR YEARS AGO: Amazing Ribs for the 4th of July!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Baby Back Ribs on the 4th of July

SIX YEARS AGO: Blueberry Muffins

SEVEN YEARS AGO: A Pie for your 4th of July

QUINOA SALAD WITH RED GRAPES AND AVOCADO

This salad was based on a recipe by Katie Lee featured on the FoodTV show The Kitchen. It was originally made with green grapes, avocados, cucumbers, and a lime dressing. Obviously,  the idea was to have a sort of monochromatic green salad with bright and sharp flavors.  I changed things around by using red grapes instead. Red grapes are quite a bit sweeter, and added a contrast of color I found particularly pleasing. But, let me tell you, no matter what you decide to add to your quinoa salad, please try the cooking method I describe after the recipe.  It is nothing short of life-changing.  Yeah, you read me correctly. Life-changing. For better.

Quinoa SaladQUINOA SALAD WITH RED GRAPES AND AVOCADO 
(adapted from Food TV Network)

(as written, it makes a lot of salad, I more or less halved this recipe, eyeballing most ingredients. I kept the amount of dressing unchanged)

Zest and juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
4 cups cooked quinoa, cooled
2 cups green grapes, halved
1 1/2 cups diced cucumbers
fresh parsley, roughly chopped (or fresh cilantro)
1 avocado, diced

In a large bowl, whisk together lime zest, lime juice and olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Toss the quinoa, grapes, cucumbers, parsley, and avocados together with the dressing. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Now, take a moment to look at the beauty of this  perfectly cooked quinoa.

cooked Quinoa
It is really too bad you cannot taste it through the screen, because the texture turned out sublime. The secret? Cooking the seeds in less water than most recipes recommend, and simmering them for only 6 minutes.  I cannot take credit for it, so here is the link to Elaine’s blog, where I found it.

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And here is what I did…

For each cup of quinoa, add 1 + 1/3 cup lightly salted water

Bring to a boil in a saucepan…

Reduce heat, simmer for exactly 6 minutes. That is 360 seconds. Do not open the pan. DO NOT. (I will slap your hand if you try to open it… )

Turn the heat off.  Wait 20 minutes with the pan covered. DO NOT PEEK. DO NOT.

Open the pan (finally!), be mesmerized, amazed, awed by the beauty of the perfectly cooked quinoa, fluff the seeds gently with a fork and use them in any preparation you like.

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For the salad, I simply allowed the cooked quinoa to cool to room temperature, and added all the ingredients plus the simple dressing. The salad keeps well in the fridge for several days and is a great option for a light lunch, if you so desire. Another tip I’d like to share with you: make sure the avocado has a firm texture and only add the pieces when you are about to serve the quinoa.  I did not care for the mushy texture of overly ripe avocados I used the first time I made this dish.  On my second time around, I also added sliced celery.  Turned out delicious, very refreshing. But, you know by now how much we love our celery…

Elaine, thanks so much for sharing your method for perfectly cooked quinoa!  
I won’t be cooking it any other way from now on…  
My life is changed. For better.

🙂

ONE YEAR AGO: Strawberry Coffee Cake

TWO YEARS AGO: Lemon-Poppy Seed Muffins

THREE YEARS AGO: Mascarpone Brownies

FOUR YEARS AGO: Salmon Tacos

FIVE YEARS AGOCinnamon Turban Bread

SIX YEARS AGO: Summertime Gratin

SECRET RECIPE CLUB: GREEN RICE

THREE YEARS AS A MEMBER OF THE SECRET RECIPE CLUB!

Last Monday of the month. You probably expect me to whine about the cold, but guess what?  As you read this post, I should  be far, far away in Brazil, enjoying balmy temperatures, wearing shorts, t-shirts, and recharging my batteries to face the frigid months ahead.  But the last Monday means fun, because it’s Reveal Day for The Secret Recipe Club! I was paired with the blog “A Day in the Life on the Farm“, hosted by Wendy. Her story is fascinating: she and her husband were police officers in a large city (which of course meant a ton of trouble in their hands…), but when they retired they moved to a tiny little town of 4,000 people, and bought a house on 12 acres of land.  They raise meat chickens, turkeys, and pigs, and Wendy – to fight her empty nest syndrome  –  decided to host foreign students in their place.  Now she works part-time for the World Heritage, placing students into homes for a year of schooling here in the US.  Being in academia and therefore often exposed to the troubles that foreign students face (plus, I was one myself), I know how important this type of work can be.  Please, stop by her about page and read more about their life on the farm, and how on top of everything she also takes care of her Mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s. She actually devotes a section in her blog to talk about it, under Life with Mom. Beautiful, touching, and at times funny.

We had so much going on this past month, that I needed to jump on my assignment right away.  The recipe I set my eyes on was a drool-inducing dessert, a Caramelized Almond Apple Upside Down Cake. But, I decided against it.  Why? With Thanksgiving saying hello, then the holidays, a lot of heavy food will be popping everywhere.  I did not want to start early with the excesses, so this cake shall wait. Sorry, folks, but better safe than sorry.  Then, I almost went with her cute Pretzel Dogs. Finally it was a tough decision between Zucchini Enchiladas, or Green Rice.  As you can see, I went green.  Green is good for you, and this was one of the most flavorful rice dishes I’ve made.

Green Rice

GREEN RICE
(very slightly modified from A Day in the Life on the Farm)

2 poblano chile peppers
1 green pepper (I used half a Serrano)
1 cup long grain rice
1 large bunch of cilantro
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley
2 cups chicken stock
1/2  teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons olive oil (I used grapeseed)
1 small shallot, minced
Dry roast the peppers in a griddle pan (or on a grill), turning frequently so the skins blacken but the flesh doesn’t burn.  Place in a strong plastic bag, seal and set aside for 20 minutes
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Put the rice in a heat proof bowl, pour in boiling water to cover and let stand 20 minutes.
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Drain the rice, rinse well under cold water and drain again.  Remove the peppers from the bag and peel off the skins.  Remove any stems, then slit the peppers and scrape out seeds with a sharp knife.
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Put the peppers in a food processor, strip the leaves from the cilantro and parsley and add to peppers.  Pour in half the chicken stock and process until smooth.  Add remaining stock and puree again.
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Heat oil in a saucepan, add the rice and minced shallot and fry for 5 minutes over med heat until the rice is golden and the shallot is translucent.  Add the salt, stir in the green puree, lower heat, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed  and the rice is just tender. Taste and adjust seasoning, if needed.
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ENJOY!
to print the recipe, click here
 
Comments:  Lately I’ve been quite smitten with poblano peppers.  Very little heat, but so much flavor! Our stove did a great job charring them, I don’t think I was ever able to get such a beautiful blackened skin with almost no effort.   Using a paper towel to remove the charred skin was also a great move, a tip I got from watching Marcela Valladolid in her show Mexican Made Easy.  I never liked the idea of rinsing the peppers because there’s quite a bit of flavor loss if you do that.  The paper towels removed just the skin and I could leave little bits here and there for an extra smoky flavor.   Aren’t they cute?

compositePeppers

Adding boiling water to the rice and waiting for 20 minutes was also something I had never done, and I liked the texture of the finished product.  If you are a cilantro-hater, this rice is not for you, its flavor is obviously very prominent.  You could substitute spinach.

GreenRiceServed
This was a delicious dinner!  Green rice, simple roasted carrots, and for our protein a few slices of center-cut pork chops, cooked sous-vide, and finished off on the grill.   Life is good!

Wendy, I hope you had a great time this month with your assignment!  It was wonderful to browse through your site, I read all your posts about your Mom, and am still in awe of your ability to do so much Everyday in your Life on the Farm… 

For my readers: if you want to see what my fellow Secret Friends cooked up this month, give a little click on the blue frog at the end of this post.   Normally Groups C and D would take a break in the month of December, but apparently me and Dorothy from Shockingly Delicious whined so much about withdrawal syndrome, that The Secret Recipe Club will have a little surprise reserved for both groups.  It will be awesome, so stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: Potato-Crusted Italian Mini-Quiches

TWO YEARS AGO: Beetroot Sourdough for the Holidays

THREE YEARS AGO: Cod Filet with Mustard Tarragon Crust

FOUR YEARS AGO: Soba Noodles: Light and Healthy

FIVE YEARS AGO: Potato-Rosemary Bread

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS

Saw this recipe in Bon Appetit.  Made it that same evening for dinner. Lightning speed. Not that usual for me, but I had all the ingredients and was also anxious to cook millet for the first time. One of our grocery stores carries a very nice assortment of grains, seeds & flours in bulk. It is quite convenient when I feel like baking a special bread but do not want to carry home 1kg of oat flour or some other exotic being.  Millet was one of the goodies I brought home from a recent visit.   This recipe, a perfect way to welcome it in our kitchen.

MilletCouscous3

 

MILLET COUSCOUS WITH ROASTED CARROTS
(from Bon Appetit)

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided (I used a bit less)
1 cup millet
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
2 + ¼ cups chicken broth
6 medium carrots, peeled, cut into 1” pieces
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
¼ cup roasted almonds, chopped
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems (I omitted, did not have any around)

Heat oven to 400°. Toss carrots with 2 Tbsp. oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until tender and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add millet and cumin seeds and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until millet is tender, 25–35 minutes (it took me closer to 35 minutes).

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil (I used about 1 teaspoon instead) in a small skillet over low heat; cook almonds and cayenne, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Serve millet topped with carrots, cilantro, and almond mixture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

comosite
When I told Phil we were not having “real couscous”, he was a bit surprised. It looks almost exactly the same as semolina couscous. It takes longer to cook, though, and has a firmer texture. The flavor is slightly more “nutty”, but still quite mild.  I imagine most people will love it, there’s really nothing not to like about it. Plus, like your regular couscous, it will absorb the flavors of everything else you cook with it. Use  a flavorful chicken or veggie stock if you have it around.  The roasted carrots and sautéed almonds turn it into almost a complete meal.  Of course, we enjoyed it with a nice roast chicken, just because… Full disclosure: the roast chicken was prepared at the grocery store.  And I am not even slightly ashamed to admit it.

On a slight tangent,  a couple of years ago I read a pretty good article written by one of the popular celebrity chefs, I don’t remember who it was,  it was not Thomas Keller, but some other star almost as bright.  Anyway, he went on and on about never buying a roast chicken from a rotisserie. That he could have a much better dinner by buying the chicken (organic, of course), sticking it in the oven with just a sprinkle of salt, pepper, a lemon or two quickly placed inside the bird.  I am all for cooking from scratch, but I must say a chicken ready for me on my way home from work is very handy. It makes life so much easier! I don’t have to deal with the raw chicken, I don’t have to wait for my oven to warm up to temperature (it does take a while with our potent Supernova), and I can concentrate on making a quick and easy side dish such as couscous, or from now on, millet…   So, yes, 8 times out of 10, I reach for a rotisserie chicken.  And 6 times out of 10, I resort to cheese pre-shredded, from a bag.

Confession: good for the food blogger 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Mozarella-Stuffed Turkey Burger

TWO YEARS AGO: Happy Halloween!

THREE YEARS AGO: Clay Pot Roast Pork

FOUR YEARS AGO: Panmarino

FIVE YEARS AGO:  A Classic Roast Chicken