Wednesday, March 13, 2013

We Should Date. Or at least enjoy some delectable Sweet Pepper-Fennel-Date Slaw together.

"I'd pay good money for this at a restaurant," said my totally unbiased husband.

I blushed. And agreed.


Background info:

1. This statement was made on the second day we ate this slaw. On the first day, we ate it on braised carrot tacos. Does that sound good to you? Carrot tacos? It didn't sound good to me really, but we're doing some experimenting with our diet right now... vegetables vegetables vegetables blah blah blah vegetables... my children like carrots... we had carrots in the fridge... I find unqualified assertions like "our test kitchen staff loved this recipe!" unduly persuasive... and there you have it: we tried out some carrot tacos. Fairly labor-intensive carrot tacos, as it turns out. In the end they tasted like - wait for it - carrot tacos. MC took a bite and said, "these need steak." He was right.


2. I was exhausted and ill one evening recently and MC took over dinner duty, i.e. picked up some to-go items at a certain grocery store that you probably all shop at on occasion so I'm not going to bash it by name. Because of our various allergies and aversions, our options were limited. We ended up with some salmon steaks, a quinoa salad, some glazed butternut squash, and green beans. The green beans were actually good, but the others were mediocre or worse. The quinoa salad was dry and overzealously seasoned with cumin (one of my favorite spices! maybe it wasn't fresh enough?). The butternut squash was raw. (No joke. Someone forgot to cook it.) And the salmon was bland, though not awful. After unenthusiastically consuming this dinner, MC turned his disappointment into a compliment: "It's probably just bad to us because you make such good food." I was flattered. And inspired. MC knows a lot about my big dreams and sometimes he says things to show that he values them and is ready to support me if and when the time comes to pursue them earnestly.

Someday, friends. Someday...

I'm not usually an ellipses person. And yet today I'm overusing them. I am hot or cold like that.

Anyway, I am fairly certain that if I ever do start a restaurant - or even if I just create recipes for a restaurant - this slaw will be in the mix. Carrot tacos will not be, however.


FYI: Probably any sweet-ish bell-ish pepper would work well here. I used these cute multi-colored baby ones for the following reason: I got them for free from Local D'Lish. (They aren't local. Local D'Lish sells a small amount of fresh, organic, non-local produce during the winter. It's distributed by a company called Co-op Partners.)


Sweet Pepper, Fennel, and Date Slaw
Yield: about 3 cups
Note: This slaw will be best if you put some effort into slicing your veggies as thinly as possible. Duh.

2 cups thinly sliced sweet peppers*
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel
6 pitted dates, thinly sliced or chopped
Juice of a lime
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 bunch of cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon salt

Toss everything together.

Serve as a condiment with some Latin food, or toss 1/2 cup slaw with 1 cup baby spinach or mixed greens and enjoy a super tasty salad. Add some sliced chicken or steak and a little feta? Even better!

* I trimmed my baby peppers, halved them lengthwise, and then thinly sliced them into half-circles.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

What I Ate For Lunch (and you can too!) - Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs, Citrus, and Sesame-Soy Dressing

I am jeopardizing my job security by posting this recipe. As soon as I press "Publish", I'm pretty much giving away all my secrets and you needn't bother coming to a class of mine because most of what I have to offer is now on thishereblog. Although, at least arguably, my sparkling personality and quick-witted sense of humor shine much more brightly in the classroom than on this blog, despite my best efforts to be charming and funny here.

Quinoa salad

This salad is one of my favorite things to eat, because:

1. It's big and filling and complex and healthy.
2. It suits everyone - no wheat or dairy in it; can be easily modified to be vegan, though the version I ate today was not. (The dressing contains honey and fish sauce, but I've provided substitutions for both in recipe below.)
3. It's versatile and beautiful. The only rule I've made for myself when I make this is the following: color it up yo.
4. The fresh herbs are so refreshing! Despite either (a) having traveled from Mexico to be in my salad, or (b) having been grown in a sunless greenhouse in central Minnesota to meet the same noble fate. (The ones I used today are actually touted as being locally grown, and while they don't taste like they've had sun and bees doing them any favors, they still taste herby and that's good enough for me as I look out my window into the winter wonderland that has been my prison for two months. Wait? Did I just whine? Yes I did. You might too if you and your children had been sick for the better part of 2013. But back to that salad!...)
5. It has oranges in it. And lime juice. And I L-O-V-E citrus.

Here are some before-and-after-tossing pictures:

Quinoa saladQuinoa salad

This quinoa salad is a lot like this other quinoa salad (that's a link), and yet really different. More Asian.

Enjoy! May this nourish your body and make you comfortably full.

Quinoa Salad with Fresh Herbs, Citrus, and Sesame-Soy Dressing
Yield: Serves 1 or 2 people as main; 4-6 as side. You'll probably have extra dressing, and you will be v. happy about that.

For the dressing:
1/2 tablespoon mirin wine or sherry wine (or 1 (more) teaspoon honey or agave + 2 teaspoons rice vinegar)
2 teaspoons honey (or agave nectar or sugar or 3 teaspoons coconut nectar)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari (start with 1 and add more gradually to taste)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more soy sauce)
1-2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil (to taste)
2 tablespoons sunflower, grapeseed, or olive oil (optional – eyeball it for the consistency you want)
Juice from a whole lime (about 2-3 tablespoons)

For the salad:
1/2 to 1 cup cooked quinoa*/**
1/2 to 1 cup cooked or canned, drained black beans (or other bean of choice)
1 cup finely chopped purple cabbage
1 small tomato, chopped
1 jalapeƱo, serrano, or Thai chili, seeds removed and finely chopped (optional - could also throw dash of Sriracha or Cholula into dressing or on top of salad at end)
2 scallions, thinly sliced (or 1 shallot, finely chopped)
1 delicious orange, peeled and segmented or sliced***
Handful each of cilantro and mint (also used basil today - quite nicely chiffonaded, if I do say so myself)

Whisk together all dressing ingredients and set aside.

Place everything else in a bowl and toss gently.

Gently fold all the ingredients together. Dress with about half the dressing. Put the remaining dressing on the table for those who may want more.  Serve as is or over bed of lettuce tossed with 1-2 tablespoons of the dressing.

* To cook a pot of quinoa: In 1 or 2-quart saucepan, place 1 cup quinoa and 1 1/2 cups water. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, for about 15-20 minutes, or until water has completely dissolved. Remove from heat, stir a bit and let cool.

** Not a quinoa person? Use some greens or black rice or farro or pearled barley.

*** In the summer, when citrus is not in season, I make a version of this salad in several of my cooking classes and substitute sliced or diced peaches, nectarines, plums, mango, or pineapple. Canned mandarins and halved grapes work well too.

Friday, March 1, 2013

In Which My Toddler Asks for Seconds: Melissa Clark's Garlic-Sesame Cured Broccoli

Dear Salads Class Participants:

Oh you know who you are. You're the ones I impressed by memorizing your names even though we were out of name tags last night. I didn't forget them. You are Carol, Chantelle, Christine, Matt Mike, Rebecca, Juris Doctor Dre, Melanie, Caroline, John, Paula, Laura, and Rachel Kari. Yeah. YOU.

In case you didn't write down the bonus recipe, or take an iPhone photo of it, I'm linking to Melissa Clark's original recipe and writing down my version for you (less oil, less garlic, a little more sesame oil, ground cumin instead of whole cumin seeds). Because dang folks. After polishing off the last of the batch I'd thrown together yesterday afternoon, my toddler son and I were practically licking our bowls clean this evening. It's so good!

I hope you'll make it soon for yourselves and some people you love. And I hope you'll come to another class. And I hope I see you next Tuesday at Central Library's Smitten Kitchen cookbook event.

Non-salad class participants: this is for you too. It's a simple salad that takes about ten minutes to throw together (less time if you've got any knife skills) and then an hour of "curing". The raw chopped broccoli wades in a little acid-salt brine before swimming in a warm garlic-pepper-sesame oil marinade. Some culinary chemistry ensues. Salt, acid, heat, and time do some magic and, voila! - Melissa Clark's apt words, not my own - broccoli ceviche. It completely takes on the toasty, spicy flavors of the marinade and is so vibrant in color that it looks like it's been blanched. The best part is its nearly-crisp texture though. It's not quite raw, but slightly crisper than what I consider al dente. It's absolutely delightful. I never had the pleasure of experiencing such a perfect broccoli bite until I tried out this recipe. So I'm v. glad I did!

food 044

Melissa Clark's Garlic-Sesame Cured Broccoli
Yields: 8 big servings (recipe is easily halved, but see note at bottom)

1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar or lemon juice
1 teaspoon sea salt plus more to taste
2 heads broccoli (total 2 lbs), stems peeled and chopped, tops cut into bite-size florets
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds or 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2-3 teaspoons roasted (Asian) sesame oil
1/4 teaspoon (or more) crushed red pepper flakes

In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and salt. Add broccoli and toss to combine.

In a small saucepan, heat olive oil until barely hot (not smoking). Add garlic and cumin and stir for about a minute. Remove from heat and stir in sesame oil and pepper flakes. Pour mixture over broccoli and toss well with a rubber spatula. Let sit for at least 1 hour at room temperature, and up to 48 (chill it if you want to keep it for more than 2 hours). Adjust seasonings (it may need more salt, you may need more red pepper flakes) and serve.

Note: While Melissa Clark says you can make this up to 48 hours ahead of time, I think that the phenomenal "near-crispness" of the broccoli sort of takes a bow after about 24-30 hours. If you are halving the recipe, halve all ingredients except the vinegar or lemon juice. It is just plain tricky to coat broccoli in less than a teaspoon of vinegar. When I prepared this for my family the first time, I used the full amount of vinegar (and salt, actually) on one pound broccoli, and it was delicious - neither too acidic nor too salty.