Friday, April 20, 2012

English Pea Pearled Barley Risotto

I adore vegetables. I've never had a problem eating them. Even as a kid, I would clean my plate of its brussel sprouts and ask for seconds. Now, I look forward to and take advantage of seasonal vegetables. Spring!!! That means english peas. I love the color and the way they pop ...and it's quite fun to peel them from their pods. They're so limited, however, so grab them when you see them.

I used mine in a yummy risotto. The creamy rice contrasts so well with the texture of the peas. Mint and parmigiano reggiano are all you need for the fresh flavor. Instead of aborio, I used pearled barley. Its slightly healthier than aborio. Think wheat bread over white bread --not as healthy as whole wheat though because the bran layer (containing most of the nutrition) is removed for texture's sake.

Anyway, it's good. Here's what you'll need;

1 cup pearled barley
2 leeks, washed carefully and thinly sliced
1/2 cup dry white wine
14 ounces of vegetable broth
2 lbs of english peas, removed from the pods
1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano
1/4 cup fresh mint, chiffonade cut
olive oil

Heat the olive oil in the pan then add the leeks and barley. When the leeks are soft, add the white wine. Cook until the wine evaporates. Season with salt and pepper. Add 2 cups water and cook until the barley has absorbed most of the water.

Slowly add the broth (about a cup at time) and stir allowing the broth to be absorbed. You don't have to be as attentive as you would to a risotto with aborio, but you'll need to watch it. When the liquid is almost entirely absorbed and the texture of the barley is nice and creamy, you can add the peas. Cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the peas become slightly wrinkly and have that nice pop.

Finally, stir in the parmesan and mint, reserving a little for garnish and adjust the seasoning.

You're going to love this pretty dish! It's not too unhealthy either.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Chipotle Veggie Tamales

Everyone who drinks in Chicago bars knows that tamales and imbibing alcohol go hand in hand. If the "tamale guy" visits the bar you so happen to be patronizing, it's difficult to resist the steaming hot treats he is hauling with him. However, it is perhaps not the best idea to eat from a stranger's cooler while tipsy and in whatever dark, seedy, hipster bar you're at. My idea? Make them yourself!

Tamales are easier than they look but are quite time-consuming, so give yourself some time or some help if you plan on making this recipe. The good new is they freeze well so you can come home from whatever bender you've been on and pop a couple in the microwave to avoid that dreaded morning hangover.

Of course, you don't have to be an alcoholic to enjoy tamales. They're great snacks in any season, perfect for feeding large crowds, and you can alter them any way you'd like. The ones I make are vegan and loaded with veggies so are actually quite healthy. Here's the recipe I got from Vegonomicon...

You'll need...
Many, many corn husks (The recipe makes about 30 tamales, and you may need twice in case they're small or they break. Most Mexican grocery stores sell large packs of them.)

For the dough:
4 cups masa harina corn flour
4 cups veg broth
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup olive oil

For the filling:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced small
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 small carrot, peeled and diced small
1 15 oz can black beans
1 cup frozen corn
1/4 cup veg broth
2 chipotles in adobo sauce plus 2 tablespoons (or more if you like a lot of spice) of the sauce
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt, if desired (I try not to use it for health reasons.)

Start by soaking the husks in warm water. They need to soak for at least 20 minutes. You'll need at least that time to prep all of the ingredients, so just let them soak while you make the dough and filling.

To prepare the dough, combine all of the ingredients and beat until fluffy. Cover the dough with a damp towel or plastic wrap until it is ready to use.

Heat up the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onions and garlic for about 5 minutes, until softened. Add the peppers and carrots, and sauté for 3 more minutes. Then add all of the remaining ingredients except the salt. Sauté and simmer until most of the liquid is evaporated. This will take about 5-7 minutes. Then, salt as desired.

The assembly is the time-consuming part. Take about 2 table spoons of the dough and smash it in the center, leaving a couple of inches of space around the periphery. Top with a tablespoon of the filling and then top that with another tablespoon of the filling. Roll the tamale so that the dough encases the filling. Then unroll to tuck the bottom into the center and re-roll. Tear off astring of husk to tie the top with.

Finally, loosely steam the tamales for about 35-40 minutes. They will be expand and be firm tot the touch when finished


Let cool and serve! I paired my tamales with both guac and a salsa verde with a side of sauteed garlic kale and some chips.

Try varying the ingredients too. I added roasted pablanos the second time I tried this recipe, and it was awesome.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Lemon, Mushroom, and Leek Risotto with an Arugula Salad

This lemon, leek, mushroom risotto is my absolute favorite dish to make and to eat. It's perfect for a nice comforting meal by yourself, or add an arugula salad and it makes a great meal if you're having a dinner party or a date over. The lemon, leeks, and parsley make this dish taste bright and refreshing while the parmesan makes it absolutely decadent. (This is about as decadent as I get. I'm a pretty healthy eater generally). It's a little time consuming, as all risottos are, so I'd recommend watching a show on your laptop or having a friend over to drink and chat while you slowly stir in the broth.

Here's what you'll need for the risotto;

8 oz trimmed Leeks
8 oz Mushrooms (I really recommend the "Gourmet Mushroom Blend" containing a mix of shitake, oyster, and cremini, but just cremini works fine too)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
3 Garlic Cloves, crushed
6 tbsp butter
I large Red Onion, chopped
1 3/4 cups of Aborio Rice
5+ cups Veg Stock, heated (Do this before you start chopping your vegetables. It should boil, but you should be able to see it steam).
grated zest and juice of one Lemon
2/3 grated fresh Parmesan (if you can't afford the real stuff, Whole Foods sells a grated 3 cheese blend that tastes great and is totally affordable)
1/4 cup of chopped mixed Parsley and Chives
Salt and fresh ground pepper
Lemon wedges and Parsley for garnish

Start by washing the leeks really well. In case you've never cooked with leeks, you should know that there is often dirt in the middle. Cut off the butt and the dark green portion of the leek and slice in half lengthwise. Then, rinse until they are visibly clean. and roughly chop. Wash and chop the mushrooms too, but you can skip this step if you bought the blend because that's already done for you.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan. All of your ingredients are going in here eventually, so pick a big one. Cook the garlic for a minute. Then, add the leeks and mushrooms. Season well, and cook until brown; about ten minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Now add two tablespoons of the butter and cook the onion over medium heat for about five minutes. Then, stir in the rice to cook for about a minute.

This is where the veg stock comes in. Add a ladleful of stock to the rice and stir into the rice. Stir occasionally until all of the liquid is absorbed and then you can add another ladleful. This process should be repeated until all of the liquid is absorbed. The rice should be creamy and tender and not sticky.

When your rice has the perfect consistency, you can stir in the leeks and mushrooms you cooked up earlier, the rest of the butter, 3 tablespoons of the lemon juice, and half the parmesan and herbs. Add more seasoning here if needed too.

When serving, sprinkle some cheese and herbs on the individual servings and garnish if desired.

Want to make it a perfect meal with that yummy arugula salad? I don't blame you; It's delicious and super easy to make!

All you need is;

Fresh Lemon
Olive oil
Shaved Parmesan
Fire-roasted Tomatoes

Toss the arugula in some olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice to taste. Season with the salt and pepper. Then put the arugula and top with the parmesan and chopped fire-roasted tomatoes.

This meal is quite impressive, so I'd recommend you share it!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Greens and Quinoa Pie

If you couldn't already tell, I am a HUGE fan of Quinoa. It should definitely be a pantry staple in every vegetarian/vegan home. It's this grain-like seed (actually related more to beets, spinach, or tumbleweeds(?!), according to the very reliable source, Wikipedia), it's gluten-free, and it's a complete protein. Anyway, when I saw this recipe for an entire pie of quinoa, I was pretty excited.

The recipe comes from Vegetarian Times. It's a great magazine for easy, creative recipes and only $15 for a year's subscription. (Not advertising. Realistically, you can find the same recipes online and on other free sources, but who doesn't feel compelled to buy a magazine once in a while?) I digress. This recipe is another easy one to make though it takes a while in the oven.

Here's what you'll need;

1/2 cup quinoa
1 large bunch of chicory (otherwise known as curly endive)
1 head of romaine lettuce, shredded
olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped dill
1/4 cup crumbled feta
1/4 cup aged goat cheese or swiss (I skipped this and doubled up on the feta to save money and calories)
3 eggs, lightly beaten

Start by toasting the quinoa for a couple minutes in a pan. Add a cup of water, cover, and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.

Saute the chicory for 3-5 minutes. Then add the romaine for an additional 2, or until wilted. Squeeze out the excess liquid, chop so it's a little smaller, and stir in the quinoa. Preheat oven to 350. Saute the onions for 10 minutes or until brown. Then add to the mixture with the green onions, dill, feta, and eggs. Season.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in the oven for about 5 minutes. Remove and coat the bottom of pan (pie or casserole). Then you can spoon in the mixtures so it is evenly spread. Bake for 20 minutes then drizzle the top with another tablespoon of oil. Bake for another 20-30 minutes. The pie should be golden brown.

The result is pretty tasty, but not all that filling. Also, you have to really like dill to even attempt this one. That is, unless, you want to experiment with other flavors. Using all goat cheese and replacing the dill with some sage might be a nice one to try. Regardless, this would be best paired with a soup or other creative side of your choice.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Chicago Diner Inspired Avocado Tostadas

I visited the infamous Chicago Diner for the first time the other day with a good friend. I've heard pretty mixed reviews of the place with a lean towards yummy, but I definitely wanted to check it out for myself. The menu looked pretty good, and there were several things I wanted to order. I picked the Avocado Tostadas because I am not the type of vegetarian that does it despite the fact that they love the taste of meat. The Chicago Diner is famous for their vegan versions of popular meat diner food like the ruben. Meat doesn't taste good to me, so I don't want a dish that tries to imitate it. Instead, I opt for lot's of delicious veggies. There's not a vegetable that I don't like.

Anyway, I got my food, and it was delicious. The only problem was that my two tostadas were not filling, and they cost a whopping $10.99. Well, there was one more slight problem. I didn't like the salsa. It was a mild blend of what I believe to be cilantro, lime, and vinegar which I opted not to use.

Essentially, the tostada started with a layer of spiced black beans, followed by a thin layer of quinoa, sauteed red peppers and onions, and topped with fresh avocado. It's pretty simple, but it tastes great, it's healthy, vegan, and easy to make.

Here's what you'll need to make 4 or 5;

Can of Black Beans
1 small Red Onion, sliced into thin strips
1 Bell Pepper (red or orange), sliced into thin strips
1 cup Quinoa, cooked (easily done in a rice cooker)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 ripe Avocado (you know when an avocado is ripe if it ever so slightly yields to pressure and the nub easily comes off)
Salsa (I really like on from Salpica for this recipe. It's a verde made with green olives and roasted tomatillos. It's a little smokey and spicy.)
Mexican Seasoning blend to taste

Set the quinoa. Open the can of beans, and pour about half of the water out. Slowly simmer the beans with water and the seasoning. When it is heated through, pour out half of the beans and mash well. Then blend the beans with the mash, and you have the bean spread. Meanwhile, you should be sauteing the onions and pepper.

When all of your ingredients are ready, you can heat the tortillas by placing them over your burner with a low flame until they get a little sweaty. Layer the beans and then quinoa. Spread the salsa. Top with the peppers and onions and finally the fresh avocado.

Super easy, super yummy.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pineapple Cashew Quinoa with Fresh Spring Rolls

Ok, ok, I know having pineapple in your main course is a little off-putting to some, but I swear this dish is not too sweet. It's actually savory and a little spicy. The pineapple just adds a great texture and balances some of the spice from the chilies. Paired with the spring roll, this meal is vegan and can be eaten hot or cold, and it is pretty darn healthy to boot. I got the recipe for the stir-fry from Veganomicon, but the spring rolls I just made up.

To start you should prep a cup of quinoa by cooking it with 1 cup of pineapple juice, 1 cup water, and a dash of soy sauce. You can skip the pineapple juice if you're worried it'll be too sweet. The quinoa should be fully cooked, fluffed, and cooled before you start the stir-fry.

For the stir-fry you'll need;

4 oz Raw, Unsalted Cashews
3 tbsp Peanut Oil
2 Scallions, thinly sliced
2 Cloves Garlic, minced
2 Red Chilies, thinly sliced
Small chunk of Ginger, peeled and minced
1 Red Pepper, diced
1 cup cooked Edamame
1/2 cup Basil, sliced
2 tbsp Mint, chopped
10 oz fresh Pineapple, chopped into bite-size pieces
3 tbsp Soy Sauce
3 tbsp Vegetable Stock
1 tbsp Mirin (I replaced this with Sake, so I could drink the rest with dinner)
Lime wedges to garnish

Toast the cashew for about 5 minutes over low heat and remove from the pan. Raise heat and add the oil, garlic, and scallions. After they start to sizzle, add the chilies and ginger. After about 2 minutes, add the bell pepper and edamame and cook for another 3-4 minutes or until the peppers are soft. Add the basil and mint. After about another minute you can add the pineapple, cashews, and quinoa.

Mix soy sauce, stock, and sake in a separate container and then coat the quinoa. Heat and stir 10-14 minutes until it is hot. Be sure to stir the quinoa frequently, so it doesn't stick or burn. The lime tastes great squeezed over this dish.

The spring rolls have more room for your creativity. For these, I suggest getting the following ingredients;

Spring rolls (the rice kind --all you have to do is soak them in water for under a minute until they are soft and sticky)
Vermicelli or rice noodles (these cook in 30 seconds in boiling water)
Extra Firm Tofu, cut into rectangular strips
Spinach or other flavorful salad green
Carrots, julienned
Cucumber, julienned
Red Bell Pepper, cut into strips

Use a non-stick griddle to eat the tofu on each side. Roll the ingredients you choose in the spring roll, and you're done! The mint and cilantro are really flavorful and refreshing, so whatever ingredients you choose I'd keep those.

Now you can serve the stir-fry and spring rolls together on a plate, and you'll have a refreshing Thai inspired meal.

Want something heavier? Freeze some of the spring rolls and deep fry them. I haven't tried this yet, but my boyfriend is going to take them to work to give it a whirl.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Coconut Curry Sweet Potatoes with Baby Bok Choy ...and other veggies

This is a super easy recipe. Just buy some Thai Red Curry paste (you only need a few teaspoons at a time depending on how spicy you like your curry) and keep some light coconut milk cans and brown rice in stock. That way if you have some left-over random veggies in your fridge you can whip up a quick tasty dinner.

Start with the rice unless you have the fancy frozen stuff because that will take the longest. I have a rice cooker I set right when I get home if I know I want to make this dish. That way I can putz around the house a bit before I start cooking, and rice will be done about the same time as the rest of the meal. Remember, you can always make rice ahead of time and freeze it your self in zip-lock bags. I don't have a microwave, so I would just heat some water to a low boil and add the rice (keeping the rice in the bag) until it is heated through.

All you need to do for the sauce is warm a can (or two if you like a lot of sauce) of coconut milk with a few teaspoons of curry paste. Adding a ton of finely chopped cilantro and a thinly sliced Thai red chili to the sauce will make it more flavorful and pretty, but you don't really need that. While you warm the sauce, you can prepare the veggies you want to use. I used sweet potatoes, baby bok choy, sauteed shallots, mushrooms, and red pepper. Steam or saute the vegetables you want to use so that they are almost ready for consumption. Do not overcook them because you will be adding them to the sauce to cook for another 5 minutes or so.

For added protein, I used tofu. You do not need to use a lot of oil with the tofu. A couple of teaspoons is plenty if you have a nice non-stick griddle. Slice your tofu into 1" cubes, and use some paper towels to blot out a little of that water. Spread the cubes so that they are flat on your pre-heated griddle. Then flip after about five minutes or when the bottoms are a light golden brown. Repeat on the other sides so that you have nice crispy cubes.

When all of your veggies and tofu are done you can add them to the sauce. Coat and cook for 5 minutes. Serve over rice and you have a hearty and healthy meal!!