Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lunch Box: Lentil-Quinoa Yoga Bowl

I've been making an effort to prep one lunch ahead of time on the weekends for my fiance and I to take to work during the week.  This yam-and-eggplant stew was a recent tasty lunch, and I figured I'd make this a semi-regular feature on the blog in case anyone else out there is looking for prep-ahead lunches that are a little more exciting than PB&J.  So, next up is this lentil-quinoa "yoga bowl."  The base of lentils and quinoa provides protein, cashews add crunch, and a tangy spinach-yogurt sauce makes the dish extra yummy.  I'm not going to lie -- after a day or two in the fridge, this is not the prettiest dish in the world.  But, give it a chance because the flavors are fantastic!

Word of warning: the portion size here is definitely for someone on a diet (or someone with a small appetite). Both of us found it wasn't quite enough to keep us going through the afternoon.  To bulk this dish up, you could increase the amount of lentils and/or quinoa; add an additional protein like tofu, grilled chicken, or cooked salmon; or pack a thick slice of whole grain bread on the side.

Lentil-Quinoa Yoga Bowl (adapted from 101 Cookbooks, original recipe here)
Serves 4

1 cup uncooked lentils
1/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1/3 cup cashews
3 T olive oil
1-1/2 tsp paprika

For the sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup raw spinach
1/4 cup green onion tops
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp chile garlic paste
scant 1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

To finish: freshly squeezed lime juice

1. Cook the lentils and quinoa separately according to package directions (essentially, cover with lots of water, bring to a boil, and simmer until tender; time will vary depending on which type of lentils you use).  Drain, and place in separate bowls.  Season generously with salt.  Layer into four lunch containers -- a scoop of lentils followed by a scoop of quinoa.
2. Sprinkle each container with a quarter of the cashews.
3. Gently heat the oil over medium heat in a small pan.  Add the paprika, and cook for about 30 seconds, until fragrant.  Drizzle evenly over the four containers.
4. While everything cools off, make the sauce. Combine all the sauce ingredients in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  Divide among the four bowls.  Squeeze lime juice all over the top.
5. Cover and stash in the fridge until ready to eat.  Right at lunch time, stir everything together and enjoy.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Red Pepper-Kale Pasta with Goat Cheese

This is a great weeknight pasta dish, because the sauce cooks in the time it takes to bring a pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta.  Despite being quick, the dish is flavorful and filling.  You can use any combination of roasted and fresh bell pepper you have here -- I had half a jar of roasted red peppers in the fridge, and supplemented with a fresh bell pepper I had on hand.  The peppers pair well with creamy goat cheese, both melted into the sauce and sprinkled on top of the finished dish.  Kale cooks right with the pasta for an easy way to add greens and texture to the dish.  Serve with good bread on the side for a hearty, tasty dinner -- we picked up a loaf of this baby spinach, onion, and garlic ciabatta from the farmer's market.

Red Pepper-Kale Pasta with Goat Cheese (loosely adapted from Rachel Ray Magazine)
Serves 4

12 ounces dry pasta
1 bunch kale, leaves torn into smal pieces 
2 roasted red peppers, chopped
1 smallish fresh red pepper, trimmed and chopped
1 tsp high-quality garlic powder, or substitute 3-4 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp minced toasted onions, or substitute a minced shallot
14.5 ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
5 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1. Bring a large lot of water to a boil. When it boils, add the pasta along with a generous pinch of salt.  When the pasta has 2 minutes to go, add the kale. Drain.
2. While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, make the sauce. Heat a generous pour of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When it gets hot, add both types of pepper along with the garlic powder, onions, and a generous pinch of salt.  Cook for 7-8 minutes, until the peppers are tender.  Add the crushed tomatoes, and stir until hot. Then add half the goat cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Then turn the heat down to low and let the sauce bubble until the pasta-kale mixture is ready.
3. Stir together the sauce, pasta, and kale until everything is evenly distributed. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve topped with the remaining crumbled goat cheese.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Sesame-Soy Glazed Salmon

Salmon was on sale at the grocery, so I picked some up without a clear idea of exactly what I was going to do with it.  This sesame-soy glaze was the perfect choice because it was super easy and used items I already had in my fridge and pantry.  Bonus: super delicious!  The sauce is sweet but not overly sugary, and I love sesame seeds on pretty much everything.  We didn't manage to leave any leftovers, but I bet this would be awesome cold the next day for lunch, maybe on a big salad.

On the side: roasted zucchini and polenta (sort of weird with fish, but tasty!)

Sesame-Soy Glazed Salmon (adapted from the Haggis and the Herring, original recipe here)

About 1 pound salmon (in fillets or one large piece -- either will work)
1-1/2 T soy sauce
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 T sesame seeds
1/2 T brown sugar
1/2 tsp toasted, dehydrated onions or 1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 T olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a heavy baking sheet with foil. Grease lightly.
2. Place the salmon skin-side-down on the baking sheet, and score down to the skin (but without cutting through the skin) in a criss-cross pattern, spaced every 2 inches or so.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, mustard, sesame seeds, brown sugar, onions, garlic powder, and oilve oil.  Pour as evenly as possible over the fish (some will run off).
4. Bake until the salmon is cooked to your liking - 15 minutes or so for smaller/thinner fillets, or 25 minutes for a larger piece of fish.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Secret Recipe Club: Arroz con Leche

My partner for this month's Secret Recipe Club was Leslie of La Cocina de Leslie.  Leslie's blog is full of Mexican recipes that look absolutely amazing -- I wanted to try everything! I decided on her arroz con leche, or rice pudding, because I have a bit of a history with rice pudding.  I really like it, but the one time I tried to make it (years ago), it was a total fail. I'm not sure if it was a bad recipe or just user error, but it just turned out weird and unappetizing.  I think my roommates and I each took just a couple of bites before tossing it.  Leslie's recipe looked super tempting, so I wanted to give this dish another shot!  I'm glad I did, because Leslie's arroz con leche is amazing--it's super creamy and sweet with just the right amount of spicy cinnamon. Everything rice pudding should be...I'm in love!

Arroz con Leche (adapted from La Cocina de Leslie, original recipe here)

1 cup rice (I used Arborio)
1 cinnamon stick or 1 heaping tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups water
4 cups milk (I used 2 percent)
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup raisins
Ground cinnamon, to serve

1. In a large saucepan, bring the rice, cinnamon stick or ground cinnamon, salt, and water to a boil over medium high heat.  Cover and reduce to a simmer.  Let simmer until the rice is cooked, about 15 minutes.
2.  Add the milk and raisins, and fish out the cinnamon stick and discard.  Cover and cook until the milk starts to bubble, stirring occasionally.  The stir in the sugar and simmer, uncovered, for another 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for at least 15 minutes.  Serve warm, or chill for at least 2 hours to serve cold.  Sprinkle with ground cinnamon before serving.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mexican Mac

I've written about Homeroom in Oakland before, and it remains one of my all-time favorite restaurants.  Sadly, now that we're in Boston it's a little further away these days! Luckily I have their cookbook, and the recipes totally do the restaurant justice.  Last week, we made Homeroom's Mexican Mac.  This is one we had in Oakland, and it was way too spicy for us even though the flavors were great. So, it was fun to recreate it with a little less spice.  Super creamy Monterey Jack cheese makes an awesome sauce that's spiced up with chipotles in adobo and crispy chorizo.  You can find both raw and smoked chorizo at the grocery, and either will be delicious here.  Make sure to get it really crispy to provide a little texture.  If you prefer a spicier mac and cheese, of course you can always add extra chipotles.  Serve fresh fruit and veggies on the side since this is a very rich dish.

Mexican Mac (adapted from the Mac + Cheese Cookbook)
Serves 4

12 ounces dried pasta
1/2 pound chorizo
2 cups whole milk
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 chipotle in adobo, minced finely

1. Put on a big pot of water to boil. When the water boils, add some salt along with the dried pasta, and cook until the pasta is al dente. Drain and keep ready until the cheese sauce is done. (You can cook the pasta while you prepare the sauce to save time)
2. Either uncooked or cooked chorizo will work here.  If you have the smoked links, cut them into small cubes.  If you have bulk or uncooked chorizo links, remove the casing (if it's there) and crumble.  Either way, add to a non-stick skillet set over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the choizo is cooked through, browned on the outside, and sizzling.  Drain off any fat that is rendered out.
3. Heat the milk in the microwave until it is hot but not boiling.
4. Heat a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Melt the butter in the skillet, and then add the flour and whisk constantly until the mixture turns light brown, about 3 minutes. Gradually whisk in the milk, using a silicone-coated whisk to protect the coating on the pan.  When the milk is incorporated and the mixture is smooth, cook for another 30 seconds or so.  The sauce should be thick and just bubbling.  Remove from the heat.
5. Whisk in salt, grated cheese, and minced chipotle.  You can add more chipotle (and/or a spoonful of the sauce) if you like a spicier dish.  When the cheese is fully melted, add the browned chorizo and fold to combine.  Finally, add the pasta and sitr to combine everything.  If any of the components have cooled off too much and the dish isn't hot, you can put it back over the heat for a few minutes (this will depend on how the timing went with the chorizo, sauce, and pasta).

Our last visit to Homeroom in May!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pesto-Scallion Mayo

I came up with this recipe somewhat by chance. I had recently been thinking about my all-time favorite slider spot in Berkeley, Slider Bar -- I was kind of obsessed with their pesto aioli.  I was making burgers, and realized that we had both pesto and mayo in the fridge, so I figured I would try making a cheater version at home (cheater because this is definitely not made with homemade mayonnaise or aioli, like I'm sure theirs is -- although, you could definitely go that route and I'm sure it would be even better!).  Then I noticed that we had some scallions about to go bad, and figured I would use them up as well.  The amounts listed below are very flexible -- you can go heavier or lighter on any of them based on taste and/or what you have on hand.  In any case, this recipe is insanely good.  We've had it on both regular cheeseburgers and turkey burgers, and it's also great as a dip for fries.  I kind of want to put it on everything now!

On the side: cantaloupe, oven fries, and roasted zucchini and peppers with Penzey's Tsardust Memories.

Pesto-Scallion Mayo
Makes enough for 4 burgers

Olive oil
1 bunch scallions, white and green parts chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 T pesto

1. Heat a good glug of olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the scallions and cool, stirring occasionally, until the scallions are a little charred in places.
2. Let the scallions cool slightly and scoop them out into a small bowl with a slotted spoon, draining off as much oil as possible.
3. Add the mayo and pesto to the scallions, and stir to combine.  Add more mayo or pesto as you like to get the consistency and taste you like.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Panko-Crusted Cod with Fennel Raita

This dish jumped out at me in a recent issue of Cooking Light, and it did not disappoint.  Although the plate looks like it has a lot of elements, each one comes together quickly and the combination of each of them is amazing.  I was totally in love with the fennel raita -- I've always used cucumbers in raita before, and the fennel contributes a different (and delicious) flavor profile as well as extra crunch.  Be sure to dice the fennel finely so you don't get big chunks.  A shredded carrot salad is a great fresh element, and I loved the crispy topping on the fish.  It sort of reminded me of fish sticks, but in a much fancier presentation!  Couscous on the side rounds out the plate with a little starch.

To get this on the table as quickly as possible, start by prepping the fennel raita and the shredded carrot salad (no recipe below, but I've linked to a couple in the photo caption if you need one -- my general formula is 3 carrots for 2 people, peeled and grated, olive oil, some type of acid (vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, etc.), and then something fun like fresh herbs, nuts, cheese, toasted spices, and/or dried fruit).  Then stash the veggies in the fridge and start water boiling for the couscous.  Of course you can make it from scratch if you like, but I find the boxed version is really tasty and super easy, so I went that route.  Prep the fish toppings, and then add the couscous to the water and set it aside to steam.  The fish cooks really quickly, so it should be done around the same time as the couscous.  Word of warning: the fish goes under the broiler for under 2 minutes, so don't be an idoit like me and decide to use that time for washing dishes!  My panko topping got a little too dark -- luckily it was still yummy, but a few more seconds and we really would have had the bad kind of blackened fish.  Keep an eye on the fish under the broiler and it will be perfectly cooked.

Bonus tip: If you end up with leftovers, break up the fish into bite-sized pieces and toss everything together in a tupperware.  Sounds weird (and looks sort of gross), but it tasted amazing the next day for lunch!

On the side: shredded carrot salad (this one is just olive oil, parsley, and rice wine vinegar, but if you want a recipe, some options are here and here), fennel raita (recipe below), and couscous.

Panko-Crusted Cod with Fennel Raita (adapted from Cooking Light)
Serves 3-4

1/2 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely diced
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (I like 2%, but you can use any you like)
1 T minced fennel fronds
1-1/2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp honey
1/2 cup panko
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
Generous pinch Aleppo chili flakes
1 pound white fish (such as cod or tilapia)

1. Combine the fennel, yogurt, fennel fronds, vinegar, and honey in a bowl.  Season generously with salt, and stir to combine.  Cover and stash in the fridge until ready to use.
2. Preheat the broiler to high.
3. In a small bowl, combine the panko and garlic powder, and season with salt and pepper.  Add a glug of olive oil (enough to just moisten the panko), and combine with your fingers until the mixture is uniform.
4. In another small bowl, combine the coriander, cumin, and Aleppo chili flakes.  Season with salt and pepper, and mix until combined.
5. Heat a large, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat.  Pour in a little olive oil and let it get hot while you prepare the fish.
6. Pat the fish fillets dry, and rub the spice mixture on one side of the fish.  When the skillet is hot, place the fish in the pan spice-side-down.  Cook for 3 minutes, then flip the fish.
7. Top the fish with the panko mixture, as evenly as possible.  Then pop the fish under the broiler for 60-90 seconds, until the panko is nicely browned.  Keep an eye on the fish the entire time so that it does not burn!
8. Check that the fish is cooked through, and if not, give it a little more time on the stovetop (mine was good, but I also got my topping too dark!)  Serve with the yogurt sauce.