Quinoa Porridge with Grilled Tomatoes and Garlic

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I could eat this savory porridge everyday. Between the quinoa, rich in vegetable stock (and butter!), the rich flavor of blistered  cherry tomatoes, bright herbs, salty feta cheese tang, and crispy, fried garlic, this dish gives me everything in umami flavors, and diverse textures. I originally made this dish for a quick dinner, but I gladly ate it again for breakfast the next day, and then later for lunch…

Taken from Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, but with a substitution of parsley and cilantro (because that’s what I had) for his mint. You can make thicken or thin this porridge to your liking simply by adjusting the amount of vegetable broth. Don’t skim on the oil or the butter – this dish needs fat to really make it sing!

Serves 4

  • 1½ cups quinoa
  • about 4 2/3 cups vegetable stock
  • 4 tsp unsalted butter
  • 1/3 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 3½ oz  crumbled into ¾-inch/2-cm chunks
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 8 oz baby plum tomatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
  • salt and black pepper

Herb oil

  • 1 green chile, seeded and coarsely chopped
  • ½ cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup mint leaves ( I used cilantro, instead)
  • 7 tbsp olive oil
  • salt

Preparation

1. To make the herb oil, place the chile, parsley, mint, oil, and ½ teaspoon salt in the bowl of a small food processor and process to form a smooth sauce with a thick pouring consistency.

2. Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan, add the stock, and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium and cook gently, uncovered, for about25 minutes, stirring from time to time, until a porridge-like consistency is formed. You might need to add a bit more stock if the quinoa is sticking to the pan. At the very end, fold in the butter until it melts, followed by the parsley and then the feta, making sure the feta stays in chunks.

3. While the quinoa is cooking, place a large sauté pan over high heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice so that all sides get some good charred color. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, so that it turns golden brown without burning. Transfer to a bowl and sprinkle with¼ teaspoon salt and some black pepper. Chop the mint and fold it into the tomatoes just before serving, as it will start to blacken once chopped.

4. Spoon the warm quinoa porridge into shallow bowls, top with the tomatoes, finish with a drizzle of the herb oil, and serve at once.

Eggplant Delight.

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A simple, pureed dish of grilled eggplant, fried lightly with an egg, sprinkled with coriander and lime juice. It’s simple, easy, and delicious on toast or as a side with rice.

I used these interesting round, green asian eggplants that have a very mild flavor, but are also full of small round seeds, which add another textural component to the dish.

3 medium asian eggplants or 1 large Mediterranean eggplant (about one pound). If you use a Mediterranean eggplant, it will need to be salted and soaked to remove bitterness). This recipe comes from Burma: Rivers of Flavor by Naomi Duguid .

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Eggplant Delight 

1 large egg

1.5 Tbs shallot or peanut oil

1/4 tsp. turmeric

1 dried red chile, broken

1 small shallot, minced

3/4 tsp. salt, to taste.

2 Tbs. chopped coriander

1 lime, wedged

While it may be tempting to skip the lime and cilantro, please don’t. They really make the dish!  Prick the eggplants with a fork, and place them in an oven-safe dish, roasted at 450 until the skins collapse and the eggplants are very soft. Slice the eggplants open and scoop the flesh into a bowl, then smash well with a pastry cutter or fork. Stir in the egg into the mixture well, until the yoke completely separates.

Heat the oil in a wok, then add the oil, and stir in the numeric. Add the chili and shallot and cook, stirring constantly, for about 15 seconds. Add the eggplant mixture and continue to stir, scraping the sides and bottom of the wok, and keeping the eggplant mixture soft and smooth, for about 1 minutes. Add the salt, stir, taste, and add more salt of necessary. Turn the eggplant into a shallow bowl, top with cilantro and a healthy squeeze of lime juice.

Breakfast Bulgar Upma

upma

I love savory breakfast foods. On Philadelphia’s first snowing morning this winter, I wanted a warm, heating porridge, and found a great option in Whole Grains for a New Generation. Upma is a spicy Indian mush – but don’t let that dull description fool you! This breakfast porridge had loads of texture, and bold flavors.

I had no teff in the pantry, but substituted some bulgar, which is made from the farro grain. I fried the onion, garlic and spices first, then added the grains, an additional half cup of tomato sauce, and some salt, and this rich, spicy porridge was finished in 20 minutes. I topped mine with some greek yogurt, but a soft boiled egg, and scallions would be wonderful, as well, as would the addition of some homemade Indian lemon pickle. As the original recipe suggests, you could also use teff, farina, or any type of cracked whole wheat grain, and I suspect that polenta would also be wonderful.

Breakfast Bulgar Upma

1 Tbs. Canola Oil

1 small onion, or 2 shallots, diced

2 cloves of garlic

1 fresh red or green chili (or one hot, red dried chili)

1 tsp. crushed chili sauce

1/2 tsp. dried ginger or 1 tsp. fresh, minced

10 dried or fresh curry leaves

1 tsp. brown mustard seeds

1/2 tsp. ground cayenne  or  other chili powder

1 tsp. hot curry powder

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1/2 tsp. salt

3/4 cup raw bulgar

1.5 cups water

Heat the oil in a nice large saucepan dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and garlic, and saute on medium just until it begins to brown. Toss in the dried spices, stirring, until they release fragrance (about 10 seconds) then add the tomato and chili sauces, stirring well. Add the bulgar, salt, and water, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the bulgar is soft, but still toothsome, and your porridge has reached a thick consistency. Top with yogurt, fresh herbs, soft eggs, or fried shallots.

Cranberry Wine and Ginger Jam

 

cranberry wine ginger jam

 

Do you make holiday food gifts? I like to give my neighbors and co-workers a little something, but I’m not really big on the traditional cookie plates. Every year I make something different, and this year a left-over bag of Thanksgiving cranberries inspired a jam-making evening. The jam is think, really almost more of a chutney, and I used the basic recipe from Food in Jars. With a few jars, I used candied ginger instead of fresh, and I added a big pinch of cinnamon to each batch. The other secret ingredient? Wine instead of cider! I used a cheap red wine – why waste the money – but it gives the jam a nice depth.

You could spread this jam on toast, make a fun PBJ or an exciting grilled cheese. Your meat-eating friends could spread it on turkey sandwiches, but I’m most excited about using it on the baked brie my family traditionally makes Christmas night.

 

 

 

 

Muhammara Spread

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Muhammara is a delicious, complex, savory Syrian spread that I can’t get enough of. As a dip for toasted flatbread, spread on a sandwich, even tossed over pasta, the earthy, intriguing flavors of roasted walnut, red peppers and tomatoes, spices, and of course, a healthy drizzle of olive oil have me sneaking into the fridge in the middle of the night, spoon in hand, for my container of cold muhammara.

I base mine on this recipe from 101 Cookbooks, but pantry necessity often requires that I make a few changes. On the last go ’round, I reduced the number of red peppers to one, and substituted 1/2 cup of tomato jam for the 1/4 cup of tomato paste. Tomato jam has a similar consistency, but with the added depth of spices like cinnamon, clove, and star anise, which worked beautifully in the muhammara. If you are interested in making your own tomato jam, you can try this recipe from Mark Bittman or this one from Food in Jars.

Muhammara

reprinted from 101 Cookbooks 

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper 
flakes or 1 small red chile
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
, plus more to serve
2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 to 3 roasted red peppers
1/2 to 1 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

to serve: torn basil

Using a hand blender or a conventional blender, puree the chile flakes, cumin, most of the walnuts, bread crumbs, olive oil, pomegranate molasses, tomato paste, and red peppers to a smooth, even consistency. Mix in the warm water in increments to achieve an easily spreadable consistency similar to a thick yogurt. If you¹re going to use it for dipping, you might want to leave it a touch thicker. Stir in the salt and adjust the seasonings if needed. Serve topped with torn basil, the remaining walnuts, and a thick thread of olive oil.

Serves 4-6.

Prep time: 10 min

Seared Tofu in “Crazy Water”

seared tofu in crazy water

Have you ever heard of  Acqua Pazza or “crazy water”? It’s an Italian tomato broth infused with olive oil, chills, and fresh parsley. Traditionally, its used to poach fish, but I made this version using local, organic tofu “steaks” cut on an angle.  I carefully poked a few holes in the tofu and marinated it in sesame oil, tamari, a bit of powered ginger and garlic, and a pinch of chili for a few hours. Then I heated a generous amount of safflower oil in a cast iron skillet and seared the tofu slowly, turning it with tongs until each side was nicely browned.

Placed in a bowl, surrounded by “crazy water” and served with bread that had been brushed with crushed garlic and olive oil and grilled, the presentation is simple and beautiful. If served with a nice salad and some fresh fruit to finish, it can also be an easy and impressive dinner-party dish — especially if you make the crazy water the day before (like I did). The whole meal comes together beautifully, and easily. And what a wonderful way to use the last of the summer tomatoes!  I’ve included a link to the Food and Wine recipe from Marcella Hazan for tomato water, which I used (more or less) below.

Marcella’s Hazan’s “Fish in Crazy Water” 

Zucchini Agrodolce

zucchini agrodolce

We may be officially transitioning into fall, but there are still zucchinis in our farmers markets and gardens. Squeeze the last little bit out of summer with this zucchini noodle recipe from the smart Heidi Swanson and her blog site 101 Cookbooks. (Recipe)

I made my version, above, with green zucchini instead of yellow squash and, at the last minute when I discovered that my dates had been invaded by little creatures, golden raisins and chopped dried apricots instead of the dates. It was delicious, a great 2nd course for a casual small plates dinner party, and tasted even better the next day. One thought though – a full cup of almonds is awful lot, and I think that you could reduce that amount by half. If, like me, you don’t have any pretty little micro greens, just add more fresh chopped herbs!