Tomato and Basil Quinoa

ImageAs mentioned in the last post, we are heading out of town and I am trying to use up all of the fresh veg before we go. Stupidly, on Tuesday, I bought a branch of tomatoes forgetting this fact. And the other day when I was going through the veg drawer? Four halves of yellow or white onions. No bueno. I also had a basil plant sitting on my sill that I know will go kaplewy with no water for eight days. Sounds like the perfect makings of a delicious pasta dish, no? Oh. Right. No pasta.

So let’s substitute in some quinoa, add in some fresh oregano from the garden, some chili flakes and some parm. And it was DELICIOUS! A bit onion-y…but I like onion-y.

Ingredients

  • five tomatoes chopped in medium chunks
  • one large bell pepper
  • three half onions ūüôā chopped medium/fine
  • two large stalks of fresh oregano
  • one cup of quinoa
  • two cups of chicken stock
  • one cup (before chopping) of basil, chopped
  • chili pepper flakes to taste
  • salt/pepper
  • balsamic vinegar
  • grated parmesan

ImageThe process on this one was fairly simple. Before I started, I went to the garden and grabbed two long stalks of oregano. I had too much in the end but I hate having to run back down. I measured out the quinoa and then chicken stock. Cleaned and chopped about two tablespoons of oregano (after chopping). Added some salt and pepper. Brought it to a boil. Stirred all of the ingredients. Brought the temperature down to a simmer and covered. I then let that sit for about 15 minutes.

ImageIn a large saute pan, I heated some olive oil and, when hot, added the chopped onion with a bit of salt. While that became soft (stirring occasionally), I chopped the tomatoes and then added them (and ALL of the juice I could keep) to the pan. While that began to cook, I chopped the bell pepper into small pieces and then added them to the pan. Next, I plucked all of the basil off of the plant and then chopped that into medium pieces, adding them to the pan. Then another two tablespoons of chopped fresh oregano. And then a dash of chili flakes. As the other flavors in this were relatively mild, I added more chili flakes then I normally would. A little bit of heat can be a great thing! After mixing it all up, it sat for a good ten minutes, melding all of the juices and softening the tomatoes and pepper. 

ImageWhen the quinoa was cooked, I turned it off and set it aside until the rest of the mixture was ready. When it was, I dumped the whole pot of quinoa into the saute pan so that it could soak up all of the yummy juices. Then came the balsamic. I would add, stir, then taste, repeating until it had the right amount of bite. At this point, the gas was on low/simmer. This is when you add the parm. Add as much as you want. It doesn’t hurt it. Hubs isn’t a HUGE cheese guy so I only added a bit, with more to add if anyone wanted some later.¬†

And that was it! A big hit in our house, too. It would have done well with spinach, too. Or even steamed broccoli.

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A veg-tastic dinner: Braised kale, leeks and chickpeas AND Mast-o-khiar with sauteed beets

We are heading to the east coast to visit my folks on Saturday so I am trying to clear out my fridge before we go, using up the fresh veg.

This recipe caught my eye when searching for kale and leek combos. I had three huge leeks in my fridge and had some kale left over from the farmer’s market from TWO weeks ago. I would hate for that deliciousness to go to waste. A variation, I knew, of this recipe would fit my needs perfectly…but would it need a protein? Would hubs eat chickpeas not mashed up like hummus? Would I need another side? It looked filling…but enough to be a whole meal?

Just in case it wasn’t, I added in what was planned to be roasted beets with maast-o-khiar (aka, cucumbers and dill in yoghurt). “Planned to be” because we had a slight mishap last night with the oven. Our truly lovely au pair was helping put away clean dishes the other night (love her) and put our plastic grilling prep pan in the oven thinking it was a roasting pan. I had no idea and preheated the oven. Et voila!

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Obviously no beets would be oven roasted last night. After opening up every window and door in the house to air out the noxious fumes, I continued on with my meal prep, changing direction on the secondary salad. 

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It was a bit chilly last night (by Northern California standards) so didn’t want to grill the beets…how else to use up this GORGEOUS, gorgeous veg?? SAUTE! I would slice them very thinly and salt and saute them. This was a super quick fix and I think that I may do these more often. They were sweet and crispy and would be a fantastic topping to a LOT of different dishes. Next time I did this though, I would probably get bigger beets (less to peel) and make them more like 1 inch strips…almost like an onion topper. OOOH! With crispy onions next time, too! THAT WOULD BE AWESOME! okay, onward.

Braised Kale, Leeks and Chickpeas

  • one bunch of kale (de-stemmed and chopped into bite size pieces)
  • one can of chickpeas (14 oz and drained)
  • 3 large leeks (the whites and light green parts, cut across the grain into rings and separated
  • 1/4 cup of chicken stock/broth
  • olive oil
  • pat of butter
  • salt/pepper
  • tablespoon of paprika
  • red bell pepper…fresh, cut into rings
  • feta

Sauteed Beets and Maast-o-Khiar

  • fresh, raw beets cut with the greens cut off, peeled and then thinly sliced (I used eight small beets but could have used at least four more)
  • one large cucumber, partially peeled
  • 1/2 cup of plain yoghurt
  • 1/4 cup of chopped dill
  • apple cider vinegar
  • salt/pepper

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In a dutch oven or heavy bottomed pan that can be covered, pour enough olive oil in to coat the bottom and about 2 mm of oil. Turn on the gas on medium heat. Add a pat of butter.

Once shimmering, add the sliced leeks and paprika and stir, coating them in the olive oil and slowly browning butter.

As they start to soften, add in the kale and chickpeas, coat the veg and then turn down the heat to simmer and, just before covering, add the sliced bell peppers. Stir every few minutes, adding stock if it starts to scorch on the bottom of the pan. It should finish cooking in about 15-20 minutes. Add salt towards the end with about half of a cup of feta.

ImageWhile the kale is cooking down, start on the sauteed beets. Heat some olive oil in a saute pan. You should already have peeled the beets. Thinly slice them (aren’t they gorgeous) and add a little bit of salt.

When the oil is hot, add the beets, flipping in the oil to coat them. Cook them for about four or five minutes and then flip them so both sides get cooked.

Pour in a bit of chicken broth to release the yummy goodness on the bottom and cover for five more minutes. Some of the smaller pieces might become crispy before the others. Set them aside on some paper towels to drain.¬†Continue on with the bigger pieces until they are soft and then drain those as well. They will be served cold so don’t worry about keeping them warm.

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Maast-o-khiar can be made a thousand different way (pureed, chopped, sliced, etc). For last night, I went with sliced. And I wanted them extra thin so I pulled out my mandolin. 

I sliced one large cucumber this way…but probably could have used another cucumber to really feed three adults. (I also would have added in more beets…lesson learned)

After slicing the cucumbers, I put them in a bowl with apple cider vinegar and some salt. You can use sherry or red wine vinegar, as well. Balsamic is too sweet for this recipe. Leave them in there for 20-30 minutes. I was pressed for time after dealing with the oven debacle, so they only got about 10 minutes this go round. It was still delicious.

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After 10 minutes, I drained the vinegar and added in the yoghurt and the finely chopped dill (having removed from the pile any major stems). Don’t mix this up too quickly. Let the yoghurt come to room temperature (or close to it) and THEN mix it up. Once mixed, add in the beets so that they are distributed evenly throughout.

We served the two dishes side by side on the plate. I probably needed a bit more of both salads for three people as they are both incredibly light. Both are probably best served as the side for a protein. It would probably pair really well with the ginger chicken or the chicken sumac. The feta definitely was needed, in my opinion, on the kale and leek recipe. It made the meal. Hubs added some extra heat to the kale and leeks via sriracha but I think I agree and will next time add in some chili flakes. And next time? A LOT more of those amazing beets. 

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Easy grillin’ sides and a leftover lunch

On Saturday we had a going away party for our German au pair whose one year stint is over and heads home this coming Sunday. We had her invite her best au pair friends over and had a traditional all-american bbq with burgers and brats, a few bottles of napa wine, some american beer, corn hole and boy bands on the sonos.  Knowing that Anne is one the no-carb bandwagon with us, we also wanted to add in some yummy and healthy sides.

The first dish was a good ol’ plain salad: spring lettuce mix, chopped carrots, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes with M’s favorite homemade dressing (olive oil, balsamic, mustard, plain yogurt, salt/pepper and a squeeze of lemon).¬†

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I then grilled up some sliced cremini mushrooms on our indoor grill pan. I used the indoor grill pan as opposed to the grill outside that we would be using later because mushrooms are small, yo. I wanted the grill marks but not for them to be inside the grill. I heated up the grill pan, placed the mushrooms flat on the pan without overlapping, drizzled some good olive oil over the top and some salt and pepper and let them brown. Once they started to get grill marks, I flipped them over and let them cook for a bit more. Once they were softening, I put them into a pile in the middle and squeezed on some of my favorite reduced balsamic glaze and then coated them evenly. I kept on repeating this process, transferring the cooked mushrooms into a bowl, until I had cooked enough for 15 people (which ended up being about 25 mushrooms). 

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My favorite dish of the bunch, though, was my corn salad. I made a variation of this for Thanksgiving last year and it was a hit. And it is SOOOO easy. Once again I used my favorite roasted TJ’s frozen corn. Poured a bag of it into a deep saute pan and let it defrost for a bit. While that was cooking down a bit, I ran down to my herb garden and grabbed a bunch of basil and oregano. I cleaned those bad boys up, dried them a bit and chopped them finely (a basic chiffonade is fine for both). The corn was getting warm so I added some salt and pepper, threw in a pint of cherry tomatoes, 3/4 cup of feta (reserving the last 1/4 cup until serving), a dash of red pepper flakes and the chopped herbs and cooked them down, stirring frequently as the feta can melt and burn if it isn’t being watched/stirred. At the very end, just before serving, add the rest of the feta.¬†

ImageA variation on this that is a bit more indulgent and that I will be making next week for a Cinco De Mayo party is what I call Mexi-corn. I use queso fresca in addition to the feta, a sh*t ton of cilantro, a bit of cumin (maybe a teaspoon), 2 tablespoons of cream cheese, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt and I up the red pepper flakes a teeny bit. 

I’ve also make it in a savory version as well that has browned yellow onions, is cooked in a half cup of white wine, uses marjoram and thyme and cuts the tomatoes so that the juices meld into the flavor of the mash.¬†

Overall, the sides were well received and the night was a success! I recommend a rose to go with the summery corn dish, too. Holy yum.

Not all of the salad was eaten that night…and as I had people dress their salads on their plates, I was able to save what was left for lunch for the next day. To give the greens and veggies some heft, I heated up some delicious chicken sausage, cut into disks, and cooked them with sliced red onion.¬†

ImageI topped the lettuce and random veg with this tasty concoction and sprinkled them with hulled sunflower seeds. ¬†I didn’t cook the sausage or onion with any oil so I used the fond on the bottom of the pan to make a fantastic dressing. I tossed some of that leftover rose into the pan, loosened up the fond, added a splash of olive oil, a splash of regular balsamic, a bit of salt and pepper, a tablespoon of plain yogurt and a tablespoon of spicy, horseradish mustard. Mixed it all up with a whisk and spooned it over the salad. It was awesome.

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