Lemon Herb Quinoa

Today I have a super versatile side dish for you.  It’s quick and easy and can be eaten hot or cold.  How’s that for a staple?  I had a scoop of this quinoa while it was still warm for lunch on Sunday, served it hot as a side on Monday and ate the rest over a salad later in the week.  I’ve indicated here enough quantity to last several meals as long as you don’t make it your main course, so you might consider whipping up a batch on a weekend  and eating it over the course of the week.  And of course, it would easily double if you need to feed more people or if you go through grain salads quicker than I do.  Enjoy!

Lemon Herb Quinoa

1 cup dried quinoa (or substitute brown rice, millet, or another small grain)
2 cups water
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 scant teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
freshly ground pepper to taste

  • Combine quinoa and water in a pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 25 minutes (or otherwise according to the directions on your particular package of quinoa).
  • When quinoa has absorbed all its cooking water, fluff with a fork.  Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine well.  Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary.
  • Serve hot, warm, or cold.

Source: Covered In Flour

Carrot-Mint Juice

Confession time: I don’t like orange juice.  I’ll drink it on a very infrequent basis, when I’m really in the mood, but I am not the one throwing back a glass of Tropicana every morning.  For a long time, I was a “don’t drink your calories” person.  I stuck to water and tea (unsweetened) as my beverages on a daily basis, and wine for a treat.  I still don’t believe in drinking calories in the form of sugary soda, calorie-laden “coffee drinks,” cocktails (okay, I bend this rule occasionally) or sugar-bomb “juices.”

However… I have come to realize that there is a place for getting nutrients through liquids.  I’m talking about healthy whole-fruit smoothies (especially green smoothies) and fresh juices.  I recently got a VitaMix (cue angels singing) and I’ve been blending and juicing my veg-loving heart out.  Here is one of my first creations: a minty fresh carrot juice that’s full of fiber and Vitamin A goodness.  This is nothing but fruits and veggies, mint, and water.  No added sugar, nothing fake.  Just pure carroty goodness.

Carrot-Mint Juice

1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup mint leaves, lightly packed
1 apple (such as Golden Delicious), quartered and cored
2-3 medium carrots, chopped into thirds
1 cup ice

  • Place all ingredients in VitaMix in the order they appear in ingredient list.  Start VitaMix on variable speed 1, raise quickly to 10, and then to high.  Blend on high for one minute or until desired consistency is reached.  Makes 3 cups.

Source: Adapted from VitaMix

Lemon Chicken Soup

Ahhhh, leftovers.  Who here loves leftovers?  I’ll say that I do, but when I think of leftovers, I’m usually thinking of Thanksgiving leftovers.  Or those fantastic days when we had risotto the night before and there’s just enough left for my lunch the next day.  But what about those odds and ends that knock around the fridge?  Or vegetables that are starting to look a leetle long in the tooth?  Or – Heaven help me – that last quarter-box of spaghetti that seems doomed to sit in the pantry together?  Considered separately, these things are all unpleasant challenges that I’ll never overcome, food that is probably destined to ultimately go to waste.

Well, I’ve already established that I hate to throw food away.  But what’s to be done about leftovers that look decidedly unappetizing?  Answer: throw them into a soup.  After interacting with new flavors, almost-spent dishes take on a different – better – character.  This soup, which I first saw featured on an episode of Giada at Home, is a sparkling take on leftovers that actually elevates humble chicken soup to “treat” status.  The fresh lemon juice brightens the flavors of leftover chicken breasts and slightly-limp carrots and turns this soup into a dish where, honestly, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Lemon Chicken Soup

1 yellow onion, peeled and minced
extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
2 carrots, peeled and sliced in rounds
1 quart chicken stock
2 cups water
2 leftover chicken breasts, large-diced
1 handful spaghetti or other long pasta, broken into thirds (at least)
juice of 2 lemons

  • Heat extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.  Add onion and season with salt and pepper.  Saute until translucent.  Add carrots and saute until carrots are beginning to soften and take on golden color.
  • Add stock and water and simmer 10 minutes.
  • Add diced chicken and spaghetti.  Bring to a boil for 8-10 minutes, until the spaghetti is cooked.  Add lemon juice.  Reduce heat to low and simmer until ready to serve.

You can experiment with different add-ins; this soup would be a great foil for anything you may have aging (slightly) in your fridge.  I frequently have half a pack of spinach left over by just before the expiration date, and I’m definitely planning to throw that in next time!

Source: Adapted from Giada at Home.

Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda

I realized just how behind I am on posting – this move threw me all off, but I’m back now, I swear – when I saw that this dish, hubby’s and my Valentine’s Day entree, was still in draft form.  And that’s a shame.  I hate to think I’ve waited so long to share this with you all, because it’s wonderful.  Tilapia is one of my favorite – perhaps my all-time favorite – kinds of fish.  Although I do love tuna.  And halibut, and sole, and really good salmon.  Anywho.  This tilapia is wonderful, gently sauteed and coated with a bright, fresh-tasting sauce of citrus and herbs.  It was easy to make, too – bonus!  I’m definitely not going to wait for next Valentine’s Day to make this again.

Tilapia with Citrus Bagna Cauda

For the Bagna Cauda Sauce
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 anchovy fillet, minced (yum!)
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon orange juice
1 teaspoon chiffonaded fresh basil (or chives)
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon orange zest

For the Fish
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tilapia fillets
salt and pepper

  • To make the bagna cauda sauce, combine the oil, butter, and anchovy fillets in a nonstick saute or fry pan and warm until the anchovy melts.  Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Remove from heat and add the juice, herbs and zest.  Season to taste with salt and set aside.
  • Wipe out the fry pan with a paper towel and add additional olive oil.  Season the fish with salt and pepper and saute until just opaque and still tender – approximately 3 minutes per side.
  • Plate fish and dress with the bagna cauda sauce.
  • Optional – garnish with chives.

Yield: Serves 2.  I reduced the recipe, which originally served 6.  For the original proportions see…

Source: Adapted from Giada’s Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis

Lemon-Buttered Pasta with Shrimp

Bring your appetite to this dinner.

I’ve mentioned before that hubby and I love to hike.  What I failed to mention, is that we are certifiably insane and we will quite literally hike in all kinds of weather.  And when I say all kinds, I mean all kinds.  Sure, we like to hike on those nice, pleasant, 70-degrees-and-sunny kinds of days.  But we’ve also hiked in the rain (Buttermere in the English Lake District) and the mist (Isle of Skye, Scotland) and in the snow.  We got a few inches in the DC suburbs on Saturday, and hubby and I decided to take advantage of it by throwing on the Smartwool socks and the hiking boots and the snowpants and going traipsing through our favorite neighborhood woodlands at Great Falls National Park.  Aside from the park rangers and one other crazy hiker, we were the only ones on the trails – well, with the exception of a huge flock of geese and one rather cold-looking heron (who let us get very close, since he was either too cold or too blase to fly away).  After about three hours of wading through the freshly fallen snow, hubby and I were: (1) freezing, and (2) ravenous.  We hurried home to this dinner, which took care of both the cold and the hunger in one shot.

Lemon-Buttered Pasta with Shrimp

1/3 package pasta, any shape (I used fusilli)
3 tablespoons butter, separated
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 lemon
4-5 shakes Tabasco sauce
black pepper
chopped chives (optional)

  • Boil a pot of water for pasta.  When water is at a rolling boil, salt liberally and add pasta.  Cook pasta according to package directions.
  • In a non-stick or cast-iron skillet or pot, heat 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil until butter has just melted.  Add shrimp and saute, tossing constantly, until shrimp turn pink.
  • When shrimp are cooked through, melt in the remaining butter.  Add lemon zest, juice, Tabasco sauce and pepper, and stir to incorporate all the flavors.
  • When pasta is finished cooking, transfer pasta with a slotted spoon over to the shrimp and sauce.  Toss pasta to coat completely.  If desired, sprinkle chopped chives (either fresh or freeze-dried) over pasta.  Serve immediately.

Source: Covered In Flour

Citrus Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I can practically hear you screaming now.  “NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!  Mommmmmmm!!!!!  No brussels sprouts!  No, no, NOOOOOO!!!!!”

Well, save me the drama.  Sure, they’re good for you.  Cry me a river.  The fact of the matter is, brussels sprouts are good.  No, better than good – they’re delicious.  Of course, I think all vegetables are delicious (except okra… I’ve tried, but I can’t, I just can’t).  But brussels sprouts are one of my favorite vegetables.  Carrots?  Yes, please.  Squash?  Mmmm, indeed I will.  Broccoli?  Load ’em up.  Brussels sprouts?  GIMME!  Because I love brussels sprouts so much, I have taken it upon myself to change people’s minds about them.  It’s my mission in life.  Because most people, ya know, HATE them.  They are the butt of every Thanksgiving joke.  They’ve even made an appearance on “Friends” as “Monica’s stinky brussels sprouts.”  Well, I’m sick of it.  Enough with the smelly gym socks references!  Brussels sprouts don’t deserve the reputation they seem to have acquired.  So I’m here to make the case for brussels sprouts, and this is it: Roast them.  Roast them now.  If you are one of the multitudes who hate brussels sprouts, it’s because you haven’t had them like this.  So go roast them, then eat them, then apologize to all brussels sprouts you have scorned over the years.  Your Honor, the defense rests.

Okay, I’m being a little bit quippy here, but it’s true: there are ways to screw up brussels sprouts.  In fact, it’s pretty easy to screw them up, and when you do, they’re the definition of gross.  For instance, boiling brussels sprouts, to put it mildly, does not show these vegetables off to their best advantage.  They are actually very versatile and tasty, but people insist on boiling them.  Don’t!  Put the saucepan down and back away from the stove!  Roast them like this, or shred and saute them with a tiny bit of creme fraiche and bacon, or steam them and dress them with a tart vinaigrette.  But don’t boil them.  (And if you disregard this advice, don’t come crying to me about gym socks, ‘cuz I don’t want to hear it.)  Brussels sprouts are wonderful many ways, it’s true, but I think they’re at their best when roasted.  The outer leaves caramelize and become crispy and salty and savory, and the inside leaves take on the wonderful, nutty character that you will NEVER achieve by boiling.  And then when you hit them with some lemon juice and zest, man, oh man, they are amazing.  Brussels sprouts will change your life.

Citrus Roasted Brussels Sprouts

2 cups brussels sprouts, stems trimmed, outer leaves removed
1 lemon, zested and zest reserved
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
kosher salt
fresh black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Clean and trim brussels sprouts: slice off the bottom of the sprout (the woody, tough part) and remove any outer leaves that have become tough and/or yellow and/or wilted.  Cut sprouts in half and rinse under running water.
  • Place brussels sprouts halves in a large bowl and dress with olive oil and a generous seasoning of kosher salt and fresh-ground pepper.  Zest a lemon, reserving half of the zest.  Add the remaining half of the zest to the brussels sprouts mixture.  Roll the lemon to distribute the juices, then slice in half.  Squeeze the juice of half the lemon over the sprouts, reserving the second half for later.
  • Roast for 45-50 minutes, tossing once or twice.  Remove from oven and transfer to serving bowl.  Squeeze the second lemon half over the sprouts, and sprinkle the remaining zest over the top.
  • Change minds, change lives.

Source: Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

Steamed Purple Fingerlings with Lemon Aioli

Last month, I took a brief jaunt to Miami to visit my fabulous friend Rebecca.  Rebecca and I met in college and discovered that we shared an affinity for good food, good wine, and good dinner conversation.  Once we discovered these mutual interests, Rebecca and I were practically inseparable.  By senior year, when we each had apartments of our own (Rebecca took the plunge earlier – I was harder to pry away from the sorority house) we made a habit of cooking and eating dinner together every night.  Since we did everything together anyway – meeting in the morning to walk to class, sitting together in every class that we could (and we made a point to sign up for as many of the same classes as possible – including wine tasting, of course), meeting after class to walk home together, going to the grocery store and farmers market together, cooking together, eating together, and watching bad reality TV together – it was only natural that we would absorb some of each other’s recipes.  Today, we’ve been friends for nine years; Rebecca makes my poached eggs, and I follow her method for cooking eggplant.

So anyway, where am I going with this?  Well, here you have an adaptation of one of talented Rebecca’s recipes – roasted blue potatoes with with vegan aioli.  She whipped up the original on the Sunday night before I flew home to the hubby, while I laid on her couch complaining about having eaten too much caviar at brunch that morning (and afternoon) at the Biltmore Hotel.  When Rebecca suggested these potatoes, I reacted strongly, I admit – in fact, I may have screamed “NOOOOOOO!”  But when they came out of the oven, Rebecca presented them in a spiral on a plate and proceeded to make “yummy” noises until I relented and tried them.  Needless to say, I was whipping up my own version of Rebecca’s aioli and serving it alongside adorable steamed purple fingerling potatoes for the hubs less than a week later.  I know a good thing when I see it.  And taste it.  And so does Rebecca.

Steamed Purple Fingerlings with Lemon Aioli

1 pound purple fingerling potatoes (substitute Russian Banana or other fingerlings)
1/4 cup mayonnaise (or vegannaise)
zest and juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon chopped chives, parsley or dill (cook’s choice!)

  • Scrub the fingerling potatoes clean, but don’t peel them.  Slice the potatoes lengthwise and cook in a steamer set over simmering water for approximately 15 minutes, until tender.
  • Meanwhile, make the aioli: combine the mayo, lemon zest, juice and chopped herbs in a small bowl.  Transfer to serving dish and garnish with additional chopped herbs if desired.
  • That’s it!  Easy, right?

Source: adapted from Messybaker’s BFF Rebecca

Bean and Barley Salad

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I belong to salad.  It’s year round for me.  What salad and I have together… well, it’s special.  It’s not a summer fling.  I do love salads in the summer… grilled tuna and avocado salad, for instance.  And there’s nothing like roasted fall vegetables over greens in late fall, or a tart and crisp fennel and grapefruit salad in the winter.  But one of my all-time favorite salad categories is the warm grain salad.  It’s a perfect salad for a fall dinner – hearty enough to make a meal out of it, but extremely wholesome and nourishing all the same.  And I’m not just talking about rice – although a wild rice salad with grapes is very nice.  Any whole grain can bulk up a salad, whether as an accent or as one of the basic building blocks – and you’re supposed to eat whole grains, anyway.  Bonus!  Take barley for instance – I’ve always got some in my pantry and sometimes it can be hard to know what to do with it.  But I’m telling you… give this salad a try, and you’ll never wonder what to do with that barley you bought in a fit of crunchiness.  This salad is what barley is made for.

A note on the beans, before I give you the recipe: while this salad would work with your run-of-the-mill dried pinto beans from the grocery store, it’s just better if you use heirloom beans.  The recipe was written to be made with the Yellow Indian Woman beans from Rancho Gordo… and no, I’m not being racist.  That’s really what they’re called.

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See?

Anyway, these beans are wonderful in this salad.  They hold their shape beautifully and bring a fantastic, rich flavor that goes extremely well with the barley and other ingredients – chopped preserved lemon and wilted spinach.  They really do make a difference, I promise!

Bean and Barley Salad with Spinach and Preserved Lemon

1/2 cup Rancho Gordo Yellow Indian Woman beans
1/2 cup organic pearl barley
1/2 package spinach (or equivalent amount of another leafy green)
1/4 preserved lemon, minced fine (use more if you like)
salt and pepper to taste

  • Put dried heirloom beans in a heavy stockpot, cover with water – about an inch – and cover the pot.  Allow to soak at room temperature for at least two and up to eight hours.  (I know this is annoying, but it’s crucial.  This recipe is really better on a weekend, I realize… but canned beans would not be the same.  Trust me on this one.)
  • Bring beans to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 1-2 hours, until extremely fragrant.  Test a bean occasionally to gauge doneness.  The Yellow Indian Woman beans should keep their shape but still be soft enough to eat without crunching.
  • Meanwhile, cook the barley according to the package directions.
  • When the beans are about done cooking, stir in the spinach (or other dark green – chard would be lovely here and was actually my original intention, but my grocery store was out, darn them).  Allow the greens to wilt, then drain the beans as necessary – but don’t get too precious about it.  A little pot liquor (what bean folks call the cooking liquid) is a very, very nice addition.  Stir in the minced preserved lemon and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Finally, add the barley and stir everything together.  Serve the salad while it’s still warm and congratulate yourself for eating such a healthy dinner!

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Yield: Serves 4.

Source: Adapted from Heirloom Beans, by Steve Sando

Garlic and Citrus Roasted Cornish Game Hens

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Cornish game hens have a lot going for them.  First of all, and most importantly, they are delicious.  You don’t get too far without that.  Second, and almost as important, they are absolutely adorable.  Who wouldn’t want their own little individual-sized bird?  It’s like a miniature chicken!  Perfect for a special occasion, because we all know that serving things in individual portions makes them gourmet.  I’m joking, of course, but where there’s smoke…  I served Cornish game hens to my ham-loving parents for Easter and they were charmed.  And I served them to my husband for our anniversary after a long day at the office.  In fact, I’m thinking seriously about hens instead of a turkey for Thanksgiving.  It’s the cuteness.  It’ll bend your mind, man.

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Garlic and Citrus Roasted Cornish Game Hens

2 Cornish game hens
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
zest of one lemon (plus the lemon)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
kosher salt and fresh pepper
1 cup orange juice

  • Situate a rack in the lower third of your oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Rinse the hens – including the cavity; I know it’s gross, but you need to do it, okay?  Okay?  Why?  Because I said so, that’s why!  Dry them off with paper towels.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil, zest, and chopped fresh herbs.  Season with salt and pepper.  Rub 3/4 of the mixture over the hens.  Stuff the rest under the skin.
  • Cut the lemon (which you zested previously) in half.  Cut a head of garlic in half as well.  Shove half of each into the cavity of each hen.  Tie the legs with kitchen twine.
  • Place the birds into a medium baking pan and pour the orange juice around them.   Drizzle a little more olive oil over each hen – this will help them to brown. Roast 30-35 minutes (or more, if your oven runs cool like mine does) until the juices run clear.

Yield: Serves two.

Source: Adapted from Giada de Laurentiis, with some inspiration from Giada’s Family Dinners, also by Giada.

Wine Pairing: We paired this dinner with a luscious Napa Chardonnay from Cakebread Cellars, one of my favorite wineries, which I am looking forward to visiting next month!  The wine was delightful (tasting notes coming soon, as previously promised) and was a perfect match with the game hens – rich enough to stand up to them, but with some refreshing fruity notes.  If you can’t lay your hands on some Cakebread, I’d recommend any lightly-oaked white wine, nice white Burgundy, or Chablis.  I also think this dish would be nice with Gruner Veltliner, but I think everything is nice with Gruner Veltliner.