Spicy Satay Quinoa

Spicy satay quinoa

Spicy Satay Quinoa

While I usually like to think of myself as someone on the cutting edge (usually) sometimes I’ve been known to miss the boat (sometimes). That is the case when it comes to quinoa. It seems like it went to ‘never heard of it’ to ‘sick and tired of it’ overnight. I finally got around to trying it in the form of a flavored box mix I had picked up somewhere that looked good but tasted awful. After that dreadful experience I put it on the back burner. I just went on with life continuing to scratch my head over the popularity of this quaint little grain. Then over the summer we had a couple of visitors and I was forced to give it another try. Our friends Eli and Miri were here from Israel and Miri wanted to make some quinoa for us. As you can imagine I was a little less than enthusiastic. Miri made it very simply by sautéing a mirepoix of aromatic vegetables, adding some water, a bouillon cube and the quinoa. Happily, instead of having to figure how I was going to choke it down, I was treated to a light, healthy and delicious dish. It was ready in no time and everyone, including myself, loved it. I was amazed at how easy it was to prepare and wondered why anyone would ever bother with a mix. In addition to tasting good it is also considered a superfood, high in protein and gluten-free. It is easy to digest and is a great source of dietary fiber and phosphorous as well as being high in magnesium and iron.

After our friends left we continued to make it just the way Miri taught us. However, we eventually got braver and began experimenting with the recipe a little more each time we made it. Quinoa is like a blank canvas that is begging to soak up any flavor and texture that you want to add to it. It was after a long day at work that I was in the mood to eat some Thai food but not in the mood to cook it. I was staring at the huge bag of quinoa in the pantry and suddenly became inspired. I continued scrambling in my pantry for some coconut milk, curry paste and peanut butter. The results were fantastic! We loved the combination of flavors and continued to make this “new quinoa recipe” over and over until we got it down perfectly. If you like Thai Satay you are going to love this dish. One component of this dish that elevates it is the sweet and sour cucumber. Although it sounds like a bit of work it is easy to make. The quinoa is still great without it, but I am begging you to try it with the sweet and sour cucumbers. You will be glad you did.

Enjoy.

Spicy satay quinoa

Sweet and Sour Cucumbers

Spicy Satay Quinoa

Spicy Satay Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 1 rib of celery, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 rounded teaspoon red curry paste*
  • 2 rounded tablespoons chunky peanut butter
  • 1 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable) dissolved in 1 1/4 cups water
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed Thai Basil, chopped (chiffonade)
  • 1 cup of dry quinoa
  • Sriracha Sauce for garnish (optional)
  • For the Sweet and Sour Cucumber
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 1 cup of cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup red onion, thinly sliced

Instructions

Begin by preparing the cucumber relish. Cut the cucumber and red onion and place in a small bowl. Combine the vinegar, sugar and hot water and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Pour over the cucumber and red onion and set aside. For the quinoa begin by cutting the carrot, pepper, celery and onion into a ¼ inch dice and sauté in 1-2 tablespoons oil until soft and beginning to brown. Add the chopped garlic and continue to sauté for a couple more minutes. Push the vegetables over to one side of the pan and add the curry paste. Fry the paste for a minute or so being careful not to burn it. Stir in the peanut butter and blend with the other ingredients in the pan. Add the water and bouillon, coconut milk and lime juice and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, give it a stir, and return to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes or until the quinoa is tender and all the liquid has been absorbed. Do not lift the lid until at least 15 minutes or so to check on it. After that it is ok to stir if necessary to prevent sticking or scorching the bottom. After 20 minutes taste for doneness. Plate and serve with Sweet and Sour Cucumbers.

*Most Thai red curry pastes are not vegetarian. Thai Kitchen brand is and it is easy to find in many major supermarkets.

Spicy satay quinoa

A note from Tim: most Thai red curry pastes are not vegetarian. Thai Kitchen brand is and it is easy to find in many major supermarkets. Use a vegetarian bouillon cube to keep this dish vegetarian.

IFBC 2014

IFBC 2014

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I wanted to quote ‘Oliver”and entitle this post “Food Glorious Food!”, but I’m guessing that line has already been used about a million times already. If ever there was a weekend where it applied though, last weekend was it. For a second year in a row I attended the IFBC (International Food Blogging Conference) in Seattle. I’ve gone to quite a few different food conferences/events in the past, but I can honestly say that IFBC is my favorite. Once again I got so much out of it by acquiring new knowledge, new ideas, new friends and a renewed enthusiasm.

knee high stocking company The conference started on Friday, but I decided to get to town early to see Seattle and have a couple of days to relax and explore. I also wanted the chance to get together with a couple of friends from IFBC 2013. My friend Mary from ‘Fervent Foodie’ invited me to dinner along with Jenifer from ‘Cocoa Nib’. We were joined by two new friends, Nichole from ‘Gap Creek Gourmet’ and Jill from ‘Eating My Words’. We had dinner at ‘How To Cook A Wolf’ in the Queen Anne section of Seattle. The name is a reference to the MFK Fisher book about inspiring courage in time of wartime shortages. Ethan and Angela Stowell have created a menu consisting of small rustic plates that take advantage of local seasonal ingredients. Everything we ate was delicious and well thought out. I could have stayed all night, but instead we headed over to ‘Knee High Stocking Company.’ We were not, as you might imagine, shopping for hosiery…quite the contrary. Knee High Stocking Company is a speakeasy. Like the speakeasies of yore, you need to find the unmarked door and ring a bell to get in. You also need to have a reservation. The only thing you don’t need is a password (I think they should institute that). The cocktail menu is long and full of interesting and appealing old school cocktails with a modern twist. The space is intimate, cozy and comfortable. It was like relaxing in someone’s living room, but no one I know makes cocktails like that. Another of my other pre-conference meals included a great bowl of noodles from ‘Long Provincial Vietnamese Restaurant’. Long Provincial has a very extensive menu that I would have loved to dive into; unfortunately, one of the snags of dining alone is not being able to order everything you want. I don’t always mind eating alone…sometimes a little down time before a busy conference is a welcome contrast. Such was the case with my meal at ‘Pintxo’, a charming tapas restaurant not far from the ‘Westin’. I sat and drank a very respectable house red wine while ordering little plates until I couldn’t eat anymore. I really enjoyed the quiet rustic interior, and every dish I ate was a hit. I could only stand so much relaxation before it was off to the conference.

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The conference opened with best selling cookbook authors Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. Karen and Andrew are true visionaries. Their work has always been one step ahead of everyone else’s. They were on the forefront in the early days of the Internet, using the new technology to share their ideas and passion about food before anyone else did. They continue to be ahead of the curve and their insight into the way food is continuing to evolve was interesting and welcome. With barely time to catch a breath, we went on to the next speaker, Todd Coleman, who is the creative director of ‘Tasting Table’ and co-founder of ‘Delicious Contents’. I thoroughly enjoyed Todd’s presentation where he shared his modern and unique approach to food photography. His use of simple items like tin foil and flashlights, unexpected backgrounds and interesting textures was truly inspiring. The breakneck pace continued with a cooking demonstration from Seattle’s own Thierry Rautureau, the ‘Chef in the Hat’. Thierry’s session was both amusing and informative. He demonstrated how to elevate a few simple ingredients into a first class meal while dropping tip after useful tip throughout his presentation. Afternoon sessions included something for everyone with topics ranging from food, tech, writing and an informative look into one of my favorite subjects, the wines of Bordeaux.

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Cooking demo with Thierry Rautureau

I think everyone’s favorite part of the conference was the Gourmet Fair. Local restaurants were out to impress with scrumptious offerings, local vintners poured memorable wine and martinis were flowing courtesy of ‘Lindsey Olives’. This was a great way to unwind and socialize after a long day as well as network with fellow bloggers and brands. Here I am just going to let the pictures speak for themselves.

Sunday-morning breakfast was provided by ‘Bigelow Tea’ and was followed by more sessions on writing and technology. At noon the conference drew to a close, which was all too fast and soon for me. The IFBC 2015 conference will return to Seattle again next September. Registration is open and I have it on my calendar. Thank you Seattle and IFBC. See you next year!

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Panzanella

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Panzanella

“You say tomato, and I like tomahto…”
                                    George and Ira Gershwin

Have you gotten your share of ‘tomahtoes’ yet? I haven’t. It is my favorite late summer treat and I can’t seem to get enough of them. Since they are generally lousy the rest of the year, I am making every effort to eat as many as I can now. It is almost as if those off season red orbs in the market are not even the same vegetable (or fruit to be precise). Now that they are in the peak of the season there are a few dishes that show them off better than any others. A BLT is one; so is a Caprese Salad. Panzanella is another. This unassuming salad originated in Tuscany…no doubt invented because some Italian wasn’t about to waste some day old bread because it was a little dry. I thank him or her for for that! Panzanella combines three of my favorite ingredients… tomatoes, basil and bread. For the basic version, day old bread is combined with chopped tomatoes, basil, oil and vinegar to make a hearty rustic salad. There are endless variations and other ingredients that turn up in Panzanella as well. I prefer to keep it simple adding only onions, capers, cucumbers and sometimes cheese. Shaved Parmesan is good and so is fresh mozzarella. Olives, celery, tuna, anchovies and many other possibilities could also round out this versatile dish. The key to this salad (as it is with any simple salad) is to use nothing but the best ingredients you can find. It is only going to be as good as the tomatoes, bread, olive oil and vinegar you use. So far I have been getting plenty of good tomatoes from my neighbors (God bless them) as well as loading up on good heirlooms from my local farmer. For the bread, I have become a little obsessed with Acme ‘Pain au Levain’, my bread of choice lately. For vinegar, I like a good red wine or Champagne vinegar. Balsamic is good as well, but things tend to get a little too dark for me. Fantastic olive oil just goes without saying as does good kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. If you are fresh out of stale bread, you will have to “stale-idify’ some which is easier than it sounds. Hardly anyone follows a recipe when making a salad and I strongly urge you to just start tossing one up and tasting it all along as you go. If you need to see it in black and white, I’ll have a recipe at the bottom of my post. Let’s get started!

We are starting with a fresh loaf of Acme ‘Pain au Levain’. I am using a fresh loaf so it is going to need to be ‘stale-idified’. Cube it and toss it in a little olive oil and bake in a 250°until it is dry, but not toasted. Remember that the cubed bread will expand when it soaks up the dressing so don’t make them too big. Remove and cool.

I am using heirlooms from the local market and a few from my neighbors yard. Cut them into uneven bite size chunks. I am even adding a few cherry tomatoes.

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Place the tomatoes and cucumbers in a bowl and toss with capers, sliced onions, basil, vinegar, salt and pepper. I like to do this about 15-20 minutes before tossing the salad. The salt will bring out a lot of juice from the tomatoes, and all the flavors will have a chance to get to know one another.

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Just before you are ready to serve, toss the salad with the bread. It is ready to serve once the bread has soaked up some of the dressing.

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Panzanella

Panzanella

Ingredients

  • 3-4 thick slices of day old rustic bread, cubed
  • 2 pounds tomatoes cut into 1-inch chunks
  • ¼ cup cucumber, sliced
  • ¼ medium size sweet red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons capers
  • 5-6 basil leaves, sliced thin (chiffonade)
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 ½ tablespoons Olive oil (another two teaspoons if you are using fresh bread)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Instructions

Cut bread into uneven ¾ inch cubes. If you are using fresh bread, toss it with a couple teaspoons of olive oil, place it on a sheet pan and put it in a 250° oven for about 10-15 minutes. Remove and set aside. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and let rest for 15-20 minutes. When you are ready to serve, toss in the bread, mix well and serve immediately.

A note from Tim: I could not keep this blog going without the support from my partner Paul. Paul was particularly helpful with his contribution to this post which includes some of the photography.  Thank you Paul for all the things you do!

Roasted German Potato Salad

german potato salad dressing

Roasted German Potato Salad

I am good at some things and real lousy at others. One of the things I am lousy at is making potato salad. I am talking about the classic American Potato Salad with gobs of mayonnaise and hard-boiled eggs. When it comes to what goes in the salad I’m fine; where I fail is in the cooking of the potatoes. I screw it up every time so somewhere along the line I just gave up. Apparently the potato-boiling gene must have skipped a generation. I always ended up with either crunchy potatoes (yuk) or mashed potato salad (even worse). This is the real reason why I became the master of macaroni salad. Then one day a little oven light went on in my head…why not roast them? Just like that ‘Roasted German Potato Salad’ was born. For me roasting potatoes is much more forgiving than boiling. Not only are the results consistent every time, but I prefer the flavor, texture and color of roasted potatoes over their boiled counterparts. As an added bonus, it is also easier to prepare and I just love the crisp browned edges. Preparing them in this manner also means you can leave the skin on which is always my favorite part of the potato anyway. Roasting also results in a drier potato allowing them to really soak up the dressing making for a very tasty salad. As it turns out, this is a perfect technique for preparing German Potato Salad.

I didn’t grow up eating German Potato Salad, but I have really grown to love it. In addition to just enjoying it, it also has about half the calories of classic American Potato Salad. You can take the calorie count down even further by using Canadian bacon or ham instead of regular bacon. I prefer using applewood-smoked bacon myself. This salad is best when it is just made and still hot. It’s also wonderful after sitting for a while or even cold. I even like it leftover, heated up in the morning with eggs. Enjoy!

Roasted German Potato Salad

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds Yukon potatoes, cubed (do not peel)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound bacon
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2-4 tablespoons Italian parsley, chopped

Instructions

Toss the cubed potatoes lightly with olive oil and roast in a 375 degree oven for 35-40 min or until lightly browned and cooked all the way through. For more even browning, roast them on a lightly oiled baking sheet and toss slightly about halfway through the cooking time (make sure not to overcrowd them). While the potatoes are roasting, fry the bacon in a medium-sized skillet until crisp. Remove and drain on paper towels. Drain all but about a tablespoon of drippings from the pan and sauté the onion in the same pan until it is browned. Lower the heat and add the vinegar, water, sugar, salt and pepper and stir to dissolve the sugar and heat throughout. Remove from heat and stir in the chopped parsley. When the potatoes are done, transfer them to a large mixing bowl along with the cooked and crumbled bacon. Pour the warm dressing over the potatoes and toss well. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more salt, pepper or vinegar as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Brownies with Ricotta and White Chocolate Raspberry Filling

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Brownies with Ricotta and White Chocolate Raspberry Filling

I love the power of the Internet. Last month I came a cross a recipe by way of an American in Paris who was vacationing in Sicily. There he met a woman from Estonia, who baked a cheesecake she had learned to make on a previous trip to Tuscany. The cake in question was an Italian Ricotta Cheesecake or ‘Torta Della Noona’. It sounded delicious and it was as you can see by the final results here. The original recipe was on a blog called Nami-Nami. I thought about writing a post about it but there was really no need to. It was perfect just the way it was written. The recipe called for sheep’s milk ricotta, which isn’t exactly on every grocery store shelf. Bellwether Farms in Sonoma however makes a delightful sheep milk ricotta that you can find at Cowgirl Creamery or Whole Foods. It was this leftover cheese from the Torta Della Noona that inspired me to make some brownies. There was no way I was going to waste the 6 ounces of sheep’s milk ricotta I had left over from the torta.

Brownies are about my favorite sweet treat. I like them moist and chewy. I have made them before with a cream cheese filling, but never ricotta. I am not really sure what inspired me to add the raspberry filling but I really liked it in there. As you can see by the picture below, it starts out looking like a mess but ends up very appealing in the end. I have made them again since with cows milk ricotta and they are just as good. I really enjoyed this recipe. I am sure it is going to be in my regular rotation from now on.

Brownies with Ricotta and White Chocolate Raspberry Filling

Ready for the oven

 

Brownies with Ricotta and White Chocolate Raspberry Filling

Brownies with Ricotta and White Chocolate Raspberry Filling

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup of butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Filling
  • 6 oz. fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 white chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam

Instructions

Combine butter and sugar together in a bowl and beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla and blend well. Mix all the dry ingredients together and add to wet mixture a little at a time while mixing at a low speed. Blend together thoroughly and set aside.

Prepare the filling by placing the cheese in a small mixing bowl. Melt the butter and white chocolate chip together is a bowl inside the microwave for about 40 seconds. Stir to blend thoroughly. Add this mixture to the cheese, along with the sugar, eggs, flour, and vanilla and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until smooth. Microwave the raspberry jelly for about 30 seconds.

Pour half of the brownie mixture into a lightly oiled 8 x 8 pan and spread evenly. Pour the filling mixture over the brownie mixture. It should not be even, you want it to be in ‘globs’. Pour the heated jam over the filling in a random pattern. Spoon the rest of the brownie mixture over the top. At this point it is going to look like quite a mess, but that is ok. Drag a knife though to incorporate the filling slightly and smooth the top a bit. Do not over do it, you don't want to mix all the ingredients together. Bake in a 350 oven for 35-40 minutes. When it is done a wooden pic will come out clean when inserted into the middle. Cool on a rack before cutting and removing from the pan.

Enjoy!