Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

29 Apr

P1040036

These lightened-up chile rellenos were so darned tasty I had to come out of hibernation to post them.  Although I love classic chile rellenos, dripping with cheese and stuffed with meat, I decided to lighten them up a bit and make a version both Zak and I could enjoy.  So I dialed down the cheese, adding just enough for that creamy, cheesy element that is distinctive of a chille relleno, but not so much it overwhelmed the dish.  I substituted quinoa for a meat product, adding some texture, nutty flavor, and healthy protein.  Instead of deep-frying the chiles, I pan fried them in relatively heart-healthy canola oil.  Served with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and a bright, fresh, and flavorful chilantro chimichurri, these were absolutely excellent.  The crunchy exterior gives way to the slightly spicy pepper and cheesy, nutty interior that is bursting with spices.

Rather than traditional poblanos, I used a mixture of cubanelles, which are relatively sweet and not very spicy, and Hungarian hots, which vary in spiciness depending on the pepper and range from relatively mild to pretty hot.  You can, of course, use poblanos – they did not have them at the store we went to, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and make some substitutions.  I was very pleased with the results, and liked having one sweeter and one spicier chile per plate.

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos:

3 large cubanelle peppers

3 medium Hungarian hot peppers

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

4 oz. cream cheese

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. New Mexico chile powder

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, for serving

Spray a cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat for about two minutes.  Using a pair of tongs, add the peppers, working in batches if necessary.  Cook the peppers about 3 minutes per side until skins are blistered and blackening.  Transfer to a ziplock bag, and immediately shut the bag to allow the pepper to steam.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are softened.  Carefully peel the skins from the peppers.  Set aside the peppers, discarding the skins.

While peppers are steaming, add quinoa and water to a medium-sized sauce pan.  Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

Transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl.  Add cream cheese, cheddar cheese, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and chile powder.  Using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

Place egg whites either in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a glass mixing bowl.  Using either the mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  (You can do this by hand, I suppose, but it took me a good 10 minutes using my electric hand mixer, so I do not recommend it unless you are a glutton for punishment as well as chile rellenos.)

Gently fold the egg yolks into the egg whites.

Place flour and egg whites in two separate shallow pans.  Add canola oil to a cast iron frying pan and heat over medium high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Cut slit lengthwise down each of the peppers, removing seeds and stems if desired.  Do so carefully, so as not to tear the peppers.  Stuff the peppers with the quinoa and cheese mixture so that you can close the peppers by folding edges of the slit over one another by about 1/8-1/4″.

Take a pepper and dredge lightly in the flour, then in the egg mixture.  Transfer directly to the oil.  Fry the peppers about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy, working in batches if necessary.

Serve with cilantro chimichurri and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Cilantro Chimichurri:

2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

5 cloves garlic

1 tsp. dried ancho chile powder

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Add garlic to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until roughly chopped.  Add cilantro and pulse until also roughly chopped.  Add chile powder and red wine vinegar and pulse a few times to combine.  With machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Roasted Cauliflower and Feta Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

17 Mar

Roasted Cauliflower and Feta Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

Though relatively easy and quick, this dish is packed with unique and bright flavors.  The acidity and slight bitterness of the roasted lemon works wonderfully with the nuttiness of the quinoa.  Cauliflower really takes on a new dimension of tastiness when it’s roasted, giving it a nice hint of sweetness from the slight caramelization.  The feta adds a perfect saltiness without overwhelming the rest of the flavors.  Finally, the herbaceous flavor of the thyme really ties the whole dish together.

I particularly loved how healthy this was.  Quinoa is high in protein and low in fat, olive oil is chock full of good fats, and the lemon juice has loads of vitamin C.  Though cheese is never the healthiest thing on a dish, there is a relatively small amount of feta.

Roasted Cauliflower and Feta Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

Adapted from Bueno Vida

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

1/8 cup plus 1 tbs. olive oil, divided

1 lemon, thinly sliced

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup feta, crumbled or roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º.

On a tinfoil-lined baking sheet, toss together 1 tbs. olive oil, cauliflower, thyme, and lemon slices.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.  When done cooking, remove lemon slices and thyme.  Pluck 2-3 of the thyme sprigs of their leaves and set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse quinoa with cold water.  Bring 2 cups of water to boil.  Add quinoa.  Turn down to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, thyme leaves, and pepper flakes.

In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower, quinoa, feta, and dressing.  Serve at any temperature.

Chicken and Rice Soup

14 Feb

Chicken and Rice Soup

I could tell on Monday night that I was starting to get sick, so I went to bed early, hoping to wake up and feel better.  When that didn’t happen, I decided to make some nutritious and delicious comfort food to cure what ailed me.  This soup was exactly what the doctor ordered.  This soup tastes like it was a whole lot of work, when in fact it is almost totally hands off.  However, it has hours of home cooked flavor from the homemade bone broth and vegetable-poached chicken.  The rice is filling and adds a nice creamy texture to the soup.  I consider the lemon in both the broth base and as a finishing touch the “secret ingredient” here – it brightens up the whole dish and balances out the sweetness of the carrots.

I woke up the next morning feeling greatly improved, thanks in no small part to this healthy and satisfying dish.  If you plan to eat this as leftovers, be aware that the rice will soak up a lot of the liquid, and you will either need to add more stock as you reheat or eat a much less soup-y version the next day.  Both ways are really satisfying and have all of the same comforting flavors.

Chicken and Rice Soup

Homemade Chicken Broth:

1 whole chicken, giblets removed from plastic packaging

2 small yellow onions, quartered

1 shallot, halved

4-5 cloves garlic

2 large carrots, scrubbed clean and roughly chopped

4 stalks celery, roughly chopped

1 small eggplant, quartered

2 bay leaves

1 lemon, halved

1 tbs. whole black peppercorns

In a large stock pot, combine all ingredients.  Add water to cover all ingredients.

Over medium heat, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a simmer and simmer for 4 hours, skimming fat occasionally, until darkened in color and chicken is cooked through.  Carefully remove chicken with a pair of tongs and set aside.  Strain, discarding remaining ingredients.

Chicken and Rice Soup:

1 whole chicken, reserved from above

12 cups chicken broth, reserved from above

1 tbs. butter

1 small yellow onion, diced

2 large stalks celery, sliced

2 large carrots, chopped

1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped

3/4 cups jasmine rice, uncooked

1 lemon, halved

Salt and pepper

Carefully remove chicken from the broth above and set aside to cool.  Once cool, using forks or your fingers, shred chicken into bite size pieces, both white and dark meat, discarding bones, skin, giblets, and fat.

In a medium Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat.  Add onion, celery, and carrots and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until onion is translucent and celery begins to become tender.

Add shredded chicken, parsley, and rice.  Bring stock to a simmer.

Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes until rice is tender.  Taste for seasonings, adjusting as necessary.  Serve immediately, with a squeeze of lemon over each bowl.

Hot Cheesy Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Dip

10 Feb

I know this is a pictureless post, but I made this to bring to a Superbowl party and didn’t think to photograph it at the time.  But it was so good I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to post it.  The creaminess of the mascarpone and mozzarella works beautifully with the sharpness of the parmesan, brightness of the artichoke hearts, and heat from the hot sauce and chile flakes.  The rich roasted garlic really brings everything together.  The textures are also a great match, with the crispy panko bread crumbs working beautifully with the melt-y, creamy cheese.  Basically, this dip was satisfying and addictive, and I couldn’t stop going back for one more chip or cracker full of it.  I really can’t say enough about how delicious this was – it was a true crowd pleaser.  The hint of spice is what really takes this over the top.

Somehow we managed to have a little of this leftover (we all had to save some room for the salad, chili, and the best key lime pie I’ve ever eaten), so I mixed it up with some cooked noodles and baked it for a really decadent macaroni and cheese.

Hot Cheesy Artichoke and Roasted Garlic Dip

Adapted from Spoon Fork Bacon

1 head garlic

1 tbs. olive oil

1 14 oz. can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

1 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature (you can use cream cheese)

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup fresh mozzarella, shredded

1/4 cup plus 2 tbs. parmesan, grated

2 tbs. hot sauce

2 tsp. dry mustard

2 tsp. red chile flakes

1 tsp. chili powder

1/3 cup panko bread crubs

1 tbs. butter, melted

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375º.

Cut off top 1/4″ of garlic head.  Place on a square of tinfoil and drizzle with olive oil.  Wrap the foil around the garlic.  Transfer to oven and roast 45 minutes, or until garlic cloves are softened and golden brown.  Squeeze garlic cloves into a medium mixing bowl.  Mash with a fork until paste consistency.  Add all ingredients except 2 tbs. parmesan, panko, and butter.  Stir to combine.  Taste for seasonings, and adjust as necessary.

Transfer to a 3 cup baking dish.  Set aside.

Mix together 2 tbs. parmesan cheese, panko, and melted butter.  Spread in an even layer across the top of the dip.

Transfer to oven and bake, uncovered, 20-25 minutes until cheese is bubbling and topping is golden brown.

Mushroom and Mozzarella Arancini over Spinach and Mushroom Salad

24 Jan

Mushroom and Mozzarella Arancini with Spinach and Mushroom Salad

This is a simple and easy salad with a really big impact in terms of flavor.  The rich, caramelized mushrooms in both their simple sautéed form and inside of the arancini create a meatiness that contrasts really well with the freshness of the baby spinach and simple lemon juice dressing.  The arancini adds great texture, acting almost as a warm crouton on the outside and a creamy, cheese-y bite on the inside.

This serves either as a lovely light entrée or an excellent starter salad.  By increasing or decreasing the size of the arancini, you can make this more or less filling.  This makes an excellent weeknight meal because it comes together so quickly and uses up leftovers.

Mushroom and Mozzarella Arancini over Spinach and Mushroom Salad

1 1/2 cups leftover red wine and mushroom risotto

2 1/8″ thin slices fresh mozzarella

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

Salt and pepper

3-4 tbs. canola oil

8 oz. crimini mushrooms, thickly sliced

2  tbs. olive oil

6-8 cups fresh baby spinach

1 lemon, juiced

Place bread crumbs in a shallow bowl and season with salt and pepper.  Using your hands, combine risotto and the egg.  Season risotto mixture with salt and pepper.  Take about 1/2 cup of risotto mixture and form into a patty with your hands.  Place mozzarella slice on the patty and press into patty.  Top with another 1/4 cup or so of risotto mixture.  Coat evenly with bread crumbs.  Repeat one time with remaining risotto, cheese, and bread crumbs.

In a frying pan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add mushrooms to olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Sauté, stirring frequently, until golden brown, for about 8-10 minutes.

As onions are cooking, add risotto patties to the frying pan with canola oil.  Cook 5-7 minutes per side until deep golden brown and heated through.

As mushrooms and risotto patties are cooking, place spinach greens in a bowl.

Top spinach greens with mushrooms and then arancini.  Top with lemon juice and serve immediately.

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