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Quinoa and Beet Wraps

30 Jun

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My food intake has been uncharacteristically indulgent the past couple of weeks. I kicked it off with my very favorite beef tartar at The Greenhouse Tavern with my dad, followed by a gorgeous sushi boat at Pacific East with my in-laws and sister-in-law that evening. The next day, we went over my in-laws house for some of my mother-in-law’s homemade gravy (this one made with San Marzano tomatoes and deliciously tender meatballs – yum). Saturday we went back to the in-laws for her homemade bean burritos and summer corn. Then, on Sunday, we bid my sister-in-law farewell with a decadent stop at Li Wah for some dim sum, where I really outdid myself in eating just one more bite of everything.

So. I’m not just bragging about all of the awesome things I ate. Okay, yeah, I’m sort of bragging, but I only brought it up because after all of that, I needed something healthy. But it couldn’t be a ho-hum dish, because after all that rockin’ flavor day after day, my palate might have shriveled up and died in protest if I ate something boring for the first time in days and days.

This fit the bill perfectly. Beautiful sweet beets, nutritious and savory sauteed beet greens, salty feta, tangy-sweet apple cider vinegar, slightly crunchy and nutty quinoa, and the heat of crushed red pepper flakes wrapped up in a soft tortilla … it’s really a winning combination. Not that my crappy picture-taking demonstrates it, but this dish is also beautiful. The bright red beets look like little jewels, staining the quinoa a slightly red hue, set off by the emerald green beet greens and bright white flashes of the feta and tortilla. It’s a feast for the eyes as well as as the mouth. It also makes for killer leftovers – both reheated and room temperature. I made one room temperature and one reheated tortilla for lunch today and liked both equally.

Quinoa and Beet Wraps

Slow cooker roasted beets:

2 medium beets with greens attached

4 tbs. olive oil

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Prepare beets by cutting off greens (reserve greens – see below), leaving about 1/4″-1/2″ of stem, and scrubbing clean. Place each beet on a square of tinfoil about 6″ x 6″, or large enough to encase the beet. Drizzle each beet with 1-2 tbs. of olive oil, and season generously with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Close each tinfoil packet and twist shut. Place beets in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

When beets are easily pierced through with a knife, remove from slow cooker. Remove from tinfoil packets and let cool. When cool enough to handle, peel beets using a vegetable peeler or edge of a spoon. Cut off about 1/4″ of rooted end and top. Dice into 3/4″ squares and set aside.

Veggie wraps:

5 tortillas

Slow cooker beets (see above)

Beet greens (reserved from above)

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

3 tbs. olive oil

3 tbs. apple cider vinegar

1 small onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup feta, finely chopped

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

Add quinoa and water to a medium sauce pan over medium high heat. When the quinoa comes to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes until quinoa is cooked through. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onion and season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes to taste (start with a small amount of each, especially crushed red pepper, because you will be adding seasoning in each layer). Saute onion until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 45 seconds.

Add beet greens. Season again with a small amount of salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes. Saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until beet greens begin to wilt, about 3 minutes. Add reserved beets from above and saute about 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the apple cider vinegar, cooking until only about 1 tbs. remains. Finally, add quinoa and feta and saute another 1-2 minutes until all ingredients are heated through and vinegar is absorbed. Taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary. Set aside, covered, to maintain warm temperature.

Heat tortillas in a large saute pan or in the microwave for 45 seconds. Spoon about 1/3 cup of seasoning into the center of tortilla and roll into burrito form.

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Garlic Sauteed Swiss Chard with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta

22 Jun

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This was a decadent tasting but relatively healthy lunch that I enjoyed immensely. The creamy polenta works well with the texture of the Swiss chard stems. The tangy flavor of the goat cheese compliments the slightly sweet, slightly acidic flavor of the balsamic. Both are balanced out by a generous helping of spicy crushed red pepper flakes and a healthy dose of garlic. As an added bonus, this dish is really pretty thanks to the colorful Swiss chard stems and bright green leaves. If you wanted to make this more substantial, a poached egg on top would be a welcome addition to the flavor party.

Garlic Sauteed Swiss Chard with Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta

Creamy Goat Cheese Polenta:

3 cups water

1 cup polenta

3 tbs. goat cheese

1/2 cup milk

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

In a medium saucepan, bring water to a boil. Whisk in polenta, and reduce heat to medium low. Whisking frequently, cook until polenta is cooked through and most of the water is evaporated, about 20 minutes. Add goat cheese and milk and whisk to combine. Cook another 5 minutes until milk is absorbed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Garlic Sauteed Swiss Chard:

1 bunch Swiss chard

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1 medium spring onion, chopped

1 tbs. olive oil

1 tbs. butter

2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1 tbs. balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Prepare the Swiss chard for cooking by cutting off the tough ends of the stems. Line up the ends of the stems of the Swiss chard and cut every 2-3″ width wide. Set aside.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add Swiss chard and saute, stirring frequently, for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add crushed red pepper flakes and balsamic vinegar. Cook another 30 seconds to one minute, until balsamic is mostly evaporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve Swiss chard over cooked polenta.

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

29 Apr

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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.

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.

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