Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Summer Pot Luck Dish: Quinoa Salad With No Kale Whatsoever

Apologies if I repeat myself, but I'm pretty fond of quinoa. When I first tried it, it was at a Trader Joe's and they were giving samples of it mixed with sun-dried tomatoes, feta, and basil and I loved the nutty tasty and pasta-like texture.

Today's recipe came out of my brain almost fully-formed. I've had characters come to me like then in writing the Bloody Murder Mysteries. Usually recipes take some more concentration to create.

You can make quinoa in a rice cooker, the ratio is the same. One part quinoa to two parts water. I don't have room in my kitchen for a rice cooker, so I make it on the stovetop.

  • 1 Cup quinoa. Measure it over the sink because the stuff can get everywhere if you're not careful.
  • 2 Cups water
  • 2 avocados, chopped. 
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped and rinsed (this keeps it from dominating the salad)
  • 4 green onions, green parts chopped
  • 1 14-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed. I recommend low-sodium.
  • 1 11-ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed if it's in liquid. I recommend something vacuum-packed
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 Cup of Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro 
  • 6-8 limes
The quinoa I buy usually cooks for 25 minutes, but follow your package directions. You should see a white outline around the edge to indicate it is done.. Make the quinoa first so it can cool while you finish the chopping.

To mix the dressing:

Thoroughly juice 5 of your limes into the olive oil Add the salt, pepper, and cilantro. Put in a sealed container. I used old glass iced tea bottles. Shake the living hell out of it. Set aside.

When the quinoa is cooled stir in your vegetables. I use a rubber scraper for this. Add your dressing and stir well. Squeeze more limes to taste, and serve with more lime wedges.

This went to a pot luck alongside some tacos and I got some compliments, which I was happy to hear. Even someone who normally doesn't eat quinoa tried some. I was nice and left some at home for Nexx who wasn't feeling well that day.

If you try this, please let me know if you make any variations. I'd love to here them. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

So There Was Cheese Left Over From the Polenta

The challenge: Use up the tomatoes and the Grana Padano from the polenta before they go bad. The dish must be significantly different, because I avoid being boring at all costs. Sometimes I manage to succeed, so people tell me.

So, I considered and came up with this:

  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil (divided)
  • 1 13-oz can of artichoke hearts in water
  • 6 oz mushrooms (I get whatever it is on sale)
  • 1.5 tomatoes. These fit in my hand, and were slightly smaller than a baseball. If you don't play baseball, figure your average orange. If you don't eat oranges, I'll get back to you.
  • Cheese--Parm will work here. A mix of Parm and Romano would probably be delicious too. I had the leftover Grana Padano (this worked out to about 3/4 of a cup, and could easily be adjusted to more next time I make this)
  • 4 shallots
  • 1 pound of linguine
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Add 1 T of the olive oil in a sauté pan. Mince the shallots into very tiny pieces and add them to the oil. Bring the oil to medium heat and stir frequently until the shallots are brown. I went all the way to crispy, but this isn't necessary if you're short on time.

In between the stirring, drain the artichokes, roughly chop them (I put them in about four pieces each), rinse them and drain. Also pat dry with paper towels.

Don't forget about the shallots, give them a stir. Rinse and chop your mushrooms. Do the same for your tomatoes. Zest the lemon.

When the shallots are done, take them out of the pan and drain on a paper towel. Add the other Tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and then add your chicken breasts. Turn the breasts over every 5 minutes or so, and take the temperature of each breast in its fattest part. Take them out of the pan when the temperature reaches between 160 and 165. The chicken will be starting to get brown at this point. 

Put the chicken on a plate, cover it with foil and start the pasta water. Have a glass of wine. Go wake up your significant other. Kill about five minutes so when you cut the chicken its juice doesn't go all over the place. Trust me. It's a bitch to clean up. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces.

Cook pasta according to package directions. Before you drain, set aside about 1/2 a cup of the pasta water. This will help saucify the dish. Is saucify a word? It is now. I'm suddenly reminded of a very young Laurence Fishburne in Apocalypse Now.

Lemon and Parmesan (and its relatives) sounds counter-intuitive, but it's a really neat combination.

Once the pasta is drained, put it back in the pot and put the heat to low. Add your vegetables, stir well, start gradually adding the cheese. Incorporate pasta water a little at a time (you may not use it all), until the sauce coats your pasta and vegetables. Finally add the chicken, lemon, and pepper. Serve immediately, with more red pepper to taste.

I was really pleased with how this came out, but it definitely needed more shallots. Nexx wanted a lower pasta-to-additions ratio, and I can see his point. I like pasta with additions. He prefers meat and vegetables with pasta.

I'm considering a few variations of this. I'd like to try adding basil. Another thought is bacon or pancetta. I can definitely do more vegetables.

If you try this, let me know!