When I first started cooking and perusing online for recipes, I used to get serious food blog envy. The innovation on recipes, the incorporation of an array of colors and the pornographic food photography that induces one into a perverse sexual food act. Ahhh.. the prowess of an SLR and a photographer with a high aptitude of sensuality….rear!
Although, my photography skills have only approved slightly, my experimenting through trial and error in the kitchen has enriched my ingredient knowledge and skill. I now handle my spice cabinet with more finesse, playing around with the flavors and colors of my fridge and pantry. It feels like a huge accomplishment when you can begin to grasp the chemistry of how flavors work together. It’s one thing to be passionate about cooking, but another to taste and deliberate on whether your dish is missing something sweet, savory, hot, salty, nutty etc…
Speaking of color, I wanted to make a meal that not only spoke to me in flavor but also in color. The pineapple sitting smack middle in my kitchen had been asking to be fondled for a few days now. I was craving something Asian, and decided I’d turn pineapple-fried rice on its head, going leaner and cleaner with a Spicy Cashew Pineapple Quinoa Stir Fry - That’s a mouthful!
My pantry was bursting at the seams with quinoa; as a super food it would be a great stand in for rice. I was inspired by Veganomicon similar recipe, but changed the ingredients and functionality of the dish. Their interpretation was on the salty side. I wanted to entice a savory taste experience to imitate the sensory experience of fried rice, so I used coconut milk as my base. To top it off, I added an extra color dimension by spooning the stir-fry into royal purple radicchio cups.
| Ingredients |
| Preparation |
Measure quinoa and rinse with cold water. Place on stove top with water, pineapple and tamari bringing to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 25 minutes until soft and water has evaporated. Chill in fridge.
Using your largest skillet, toast cashews dry until golden in hue – 8-10 minutes, Remove
Make sure to have all ingredients for stir-fry chopped. Add the sesame oil, scallions, and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add the sliced Serrano and ginger. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, and then add the yellow and red pepper and edamame. Stir-fry for about 3 minutes, until the bell pepper is softened and edamame is bright green. Cook until softens, 5 minutes.
Add the basil and mint, and stir for another minute before adding the pineapple and quinoa.
In a measuring cup, combine the coconut milk, tamari (or soy), mirin, lime juice with zest, garlic powder and agave.
Add quinoa and pineapple folding into ingredients. Mix for three minutes. Add sauce and continue to mix for another five minutes.
Lower to medium heat, add cashews and let sit for another 5 minutes to get crispy pieces. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon into radicchio cups or bowl and serve.
Time and time again, I’ve tried to beat the odds - wear a shirt without getting something on it. My clothes typically have a one-to-two wear life span, dodging a variety of sticky, greasy or colorful messes. Whether I’m bibbed up or strapped into a face funnel, something ugly, loud and rude always rears its face on my clothes. I fear that one day, I’ll end up in a predicament like this GUY
Hundreds on dry cleaning bills and irritated friends, who swear they’ll never lend me a shirt again, has given me a complex when it comes to handling the worst kinds of staining foods. I see them in the grocery aisle, glance at them on the menu, but the knee jerking psycho semantic complex keeps me looking the other way. Beets are one of those foods. It’s purpley red flesh, once broken, can paint everything from your hands, clothes, walls, counters and dishes. It’s up there next two red wine and oily fish on the DANGER STAINING SCALE.
A couple days ago I was craving something fresh and colorful. I had received a bundle of beets from a farmers market and they’d been staring me down for a week. I couldn’t take it any longer. I stripped down, put on some blacks and covered the kitchen a la’ Dexter Morgan, preparing myself for the inevitable mess. I knew I could do it. Beets had been a popular fix for the past year and I’ve yet to see anyone with stained hands and clothes where it was prepared. It’s likely that these people aren’t prone to being a n’th degree klutz, but regardless, I was ready to conquer the beet and succeed, sans stain.
Tri-Color Beet Salad
| Ingredients |
| Preparation |
Preheat oven to 475ºF. Cut ends off of beets, drizzle with olive oil and wrap tightly in tin foil. Place in oven and cook for 45 minutes to an hour. Wrap clove of garlic and leave in for 20 minutes. Check with a fork to see if beets are soft, as some oven temperatures vary. Once beats are ready, take them out of oven and let cool. Then using gloves, Ziploc bag or paper towel rub the skins off of the beets. [You can also try peeling in cold water, then reserve the liquid to make a drink. YUM.]
Cut beets into cubes or quarters. Cut the heirloom tomatoes in half and combine both in bowel. Add chopped green onion and basil.
Mix dressing ingredients together and whisk. Adding salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle dressing on top of salad, mix then serve alone or with a crunchy warm baguette.
Have you ever had the question posed to you, “If you were on death row, what would your last meal be”?
I find it to be a defining question into someone’s personality and its come up in most conversations with friends. This is one of the last tangible choices you have. If you’ve never had anyone ask you what your last meal would be, think about it; what would it be? Some people like to enforce rules like: has to be realistic to your location, you only get one choice of cuisine, one item etc… I play with no rules. Let your imagination run wild, you’re about to have the plug pulled; have whatever you want! You want Chef Ramsey - we can do that. You want an unusual beach slug from Japan - we can do that too. In the world of “imagination death row’”,anything is possible.
I’ve thought long and hard about my last meal. Spent a few years jumping from cuisine to cuisine or focusing on my flavor of the month. As my food child matured, I decided that I better start having conviction in my last meal, and be prepared for the next time I was asked that vital question.
My last meal would be a Mexican Smörgåsbord. A long wooden table, stretching to the very end of the room, carpeted with a variety of my Mexican favorites: swordfish ceviche, tuna ceviche, shrimp ceviche; a taco stand with all of the fixings; four types of empanadas; an oversized bowl of guacamole, that if I so choose, I could swim in; tamales stuffed with the most succulent fish; hand made corn tortilla chips; arepas; a tray of serano’s, habanero’s, limes, coriander and a tall pitcher of rock sugar mint mojito. To top it off, I’d request the presence of the patriarch of Mexican cuisine, from a small village outside of Mexico City; who would cook in front of me, sharing his secrets to the cuisine and the stories from his childhood of cooking with his grandmother. You may think it’s a bit excessive, especially if I’ve committed some heinous crime, but I like to see my story as being similar to that of ‘The Life of David Gale”: wrongfully accused with poetic undertones, justifying the need to milk the people’s taxes to pacify my betrayal through my palette.
So, this brings me to the empanada. It’s not often I get to indulge in an empanada chow down, since most available options are meat centric or extremely heavy and gas inducing (so people have told me…) I was flipping through one of my new baking cook books and came upon a recipe for empanada dough. I knew I had a ripe eggplant, red peppers, onion, chickpeas, heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs. I could make Roasted Vegetable Empanadas, playing around with the dough, so it wouldn’t be too heavy.
It’s tempting to want to eat these all to yourself, but thankfully my roommate called three as they came hot out of the oven. We enjoyed it with a tomatoe chutney I had made and some Italian hot peppers in oil. Empanadas are like a blank canvas, you can literately stuff anything in them. I encourage fresh ingredients, creative flavor combos and not last nights left over dinner of pizza and wings.
Up until recently I had a revelation in the world of salads. Around five years ago I used to make fun of people who claimed to get full on a salad. I always treated it as a side meal or a bargaining piece in a mental negotiation for something fried and unhealthy. Greens are the convenient illusion of balance when you’re going glutton and beyond. Soon enough, my taste buds matured and I became one of those people I laughed at, ordering salads as meals, raving about all the different ways you could eat it. When I got sick of the romaine, I moved onto to the boston; when I grew tired of that I stuck with spinach; when I craved a flavor change I went on to arugula; when I got sick of the spicy I’d take a jump into kale and then back again to romaine. Sometimes I even mixed them all; yes, living on the dangerous side of salad!
Eventually, I grew tired of that and started finding that I was no longer feeling satisfied no matter how I mixed the greens. What was I to do? I loved salad. I really needed to start thinking out of the ‘salad bowl’ (yes I just did that). Shortly after, I visited a vegetarian restaurant for lunch and ordered their mix salad. On it came a variety of salads, but none of them had lettuce. No lettuce! Impossible! There was a green bean salad, a beat salad, a broccoli salad, chickpea salad and so on. Instantly a kaleidoscope of veggies took over my vision; my imagination bursting with ways to re invent the salad.
Butternut squash is in season so I knew I wanted to experiment with it and find something that could be a good contrast to its sweet robust flavor. Looking through the grocery aisles I came upon rapini. Rapini is a very bitter green and on it’s own can be quite overpowering, but melding the two juxtaposing flavors would create for a very interesting teeter-totter of taste experience. The whole recipe is incredibly easy to make. Short prep and assemble time. You just have to be patient as the squash roast. Sometimes I’ll make the squash the night before and then assemble everything in the morning.
Lets just say, the salad didn’t last long. My roommate ended up loving it so much, he kept sneaking spoonfuls until I caught him, giving him a speech about kitchen hygiene. But who am I kidding, I did the same thing and soon we were both spooning until there was nothing left.
* Beat all ingredients together
Pre heat oven to 475 F. Cut squash into cubes and layout on to tray, covering it with a generous layer of olive oil, salt and pepper. Then mix with hands to make sure all areas are covered. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Heat oil in a pan and sauté garlic. Before it turns gold, add rapini and some rapini leaves and sauté until rapini is semi soft.
Add rapini, squash and chickpeas into one bowl. Season with spices to taste. Add all herbs and green onion. Drizzle dressing and then mix thoroughly.
Enjoy on it’s own or with a slice of the Vegan Zucchini Carrot Banana Bread.
You know how Fresh gives their bowls and salads personalities based off of the types of vegetables they put in it. Or perhaps they just get high and pick names out of hats. I guess we’ll never know. Well, I’ve decided to give my Quinoa a name as well. While Fresh has got the Beach, Green Goddess and Power House - I’ve got, The Mighty. No real event or vegetable compelled me to this name , but I do feel pretty mighty after a few spoon fulls.
I don’t eat red meat. Haven’t for close to 16 years now, so I’m always looking for healthy alternatives to power up on my protein. Back in elementary school I used to microwave white bread with cheese. Those were the days when my body could take a beating from whatever I put in it. I quickly learned that wasn’t a real source of protein. And it wasn’t until several years later that I learned to distinguish what was good and clean vs. cacapoopoo for my insides.
Like many of you, I’ve jumped onto the quinoa craze bandwagon. It’s absouletly genious. I call it my blank slate. In the begining of the week I will (or Lorne will) boil a huge pot of it, let it cool and put it in a big tuperware for a morning creation. Depending on my mood during the week, I’ll make different Quinoa salads based off of what I have in the fridge. After a bit of experimenting I’ve come up with, I’d say, one of the best quinoa recipes ever. (humbleness at its best) Drum roll please…..”The Mighty Quinoa”.
2 cups of cooked quinoa
Half of a large red onion (chopped into small squares)
1 whole avocado (small cubes)
A bunch of colorful heirloom baby tomatoes (Halved)
Two small baked sweet potatoes (recipe below)
100 grams of Feta Cheese (chopped or crumbled)
1 bunch of mint (chopped)
1 bunch of coriander (chopped)
½ cup of good olive oil ( makes a huge difference)
1-2 tbsp of a good balsamic ( I use a 4 yr old crema di glaze)
Juice from half of a large lemon
Salt to taste ( I tend to go for 2-3 tsp)
Pepper to taste
A touch of cayenne
The first time I made it I cute up some firm tofu into cubes. I didn’t really need this because the quinoa is already packed full of protein but I love different textures in my food.
The second time I made this I added shrimp to make it a more substantial dinner meal. For my shrimp I seasoned them in herb de provence, olive oil, salt and pepper. I pan seared them for 15 seconds on each side and removed from heat.
Sweet Potato Directions
Pre heat oven on broil. Cut potatoes into small cubes. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper and a touch of cayenne pepper to cover. Watch the potatoes very carefully. They burn if you don’t keep a steady eye. Let cool and combine with other quinoa ingredients after cooled.
This might sound crazy, but I believe if someone has the exact same ingredients and makes the same dish as you, depending on the love and attention you give it, it will come out tasting a whole lot different. There’s something to cooking with heart and passion. I’ve witnessed the difference a million times. Don’t just shove everything in at once. Taste as you mix. Cook with passion and you’ll notice the difference immediatly.
Have a forkful and enjoy!
Reminiscing Through My Taste Buds:
Israeli Salad. It’s easy, fresh and delicious.
What you need:
4 Tomatoes (Roma), Whole Cucumber, 1 small Red Onion, handful each of Mint and Parsley, Lemon Juice from whole lemon, Good Olive Oil, Zatar and Salt & Pep to taste.
Chop all ingredients into small cubes and finely chop herbs. With your eye and using your palette add the olive oil, lemon, Zatar and s&p. Throughly mix.
I put mine in the fridge for 10 minutes for optimal flavor fermentation.
Two nights ago I made my first attempt at cooking a whole bird. She wasn’t a big bird by any means - Maybe a three pounder at most. I remember as a kid, my mom would frequently make a whole roasted chicken after school or massive turkeys on the holidays. It seemed like such a big undertaking. Cleaning it, gutting it, seasoning it and cooking it for hours on end; basically hijacking your whole day. I also stay away because I hate germs and every time I touch raw chicken, I feel the need to wash my hands. Knowing how crazy I can be, it all seemed too overwhelming. So I kept my distance and would order the ‘dirty bird’ when craving a whole chicken (Canadians you know what I’m talking about). This past weekend, a woman at the market was selling free run, free range, antibiotic free, GMO free, organic chicken. I decided to take a leap of faith and rustle up the courage to do it. Monday evening came. I ran home in excitement with recipe in mind. Took the chicken out of the wrapping and was happy to find there were no gibblets, livers, hearts or anything to clean out; kind of feel a little ripped off, but hey, at least I didn’t have to deal with it. Well at least not yet. While running water through the cavity, I saw blood seep out. Sticking my hand into the cavity felt so wrong. I felt like I was invading this birds privacy. I closed my eyes and told myself to grow some balls. If I want to be a chef one day, I at least have to be able to handle washing a chicken. Breath. She was clean. I salted her inside out and left her for a few minutes to take a breather. It was all a little too close too soon. I laid out my ingredients and told myself that this bird had a really good life, on a great farm with loving people. This was it’s destiny. I would treat her just as well with a beautiful rub and season, making sure she was finished right to the bone. I also used fresh herbs from my patio. Royal treatment.
Three sprigs of Rosemary
3 Tbsp of Oregano
Whole Lemon Cut in half (I couldn’t fit the whole lemon. Used half and a quarter)
4 Garlic Cloves
Tbsp Lemon Juice
3 Tbsp of Butter
Pre heat oven to 400 degrees, Salt Pep the entire bird. Use 3 quarters of the lemon and place into the cavity along with a sprig of rosemary and 1 sliced garlic (or whole). Tuck the legs under the neck hole or tie with kitchen string if you have. (Trussing directions here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98SsqzpEpIY )
Chop other three garlic cloves, oregano and rosemary leaves. Melt butter and mix with ingredients along with salt and pepper. Squeeze lemon juice. Cut slits into the skin and try to spread rub underneath as far as you can reach. Use the remainder all over the bird, making sure to not miss an inch.
I decided to roast the chicken on the skillet. I chopped up some onion, sweet potato, and carrots. Seasoned them with some salt/pepper and herb de provence and threw it into the skillet. Placed my chicken on to her thrown and roasted for about 35 min. You’re looking for an internal temperature of 160 F in the thigh.
I wish I had a picture of my partner and I trying to cut the chicken. It always looked so easy in the movies. Sad sight to see indeed. Anywho, was delicious. Would have enjoyed a crispier skin but this bird was just fine and hey, there’s always next time.