Thursday, August 27, 2009

Black Quinoa with Toasted Chickpeas

The past two weeks I was graced with wonderful visitors and an amazing wedding, per my previous post. The downside was, I thrashed any form of balanced eating hardcore...two words: German bakery. Predictably, the less I cooked or prepared my own meals the worse I felt. Attempting to restore the damage, I did what always works - threw away the instant stuff, bought fresh products, and started again. OK, in some cases I just finished the instant stuff :) Anyway, in the end it worked.

In a random local shop that wasn't sure what it wanted to be - part trinkets, parth clothes, food?! - I happened upon some black quinoa (as if this grain weren't protein and fiber-ful enough). In order to substitute without missing any of the junk, I also wanted to make some tasty snacks á la toasted chickpeas. Lastly I was craving a satisfying spread akin to mayo but without sugar or vinegar. Luckily in all the shades of healthier dairy and cheese available here in Switzerland (quark, yogurt, creme fraiche, fromage frais, ricotta, cottage cheese), I found a couple of recipes for 'mayonnaise' with my new favorite, fromage blanc or blanc battu. Playing with a combination of these led to a super dish.

Black Quinoa with Toasted Chickpeas

Quinoa & chickpea salad (2 servings ):
1/3 cup of black quinoa
2/3 cup of water
1/2 head of cauliflower
1/2 cup of chickpeas, soaked overnight
2 T olive oil
1 t sea salt

Blanc battu dressing:
1/2 cup of blanc battu* (or fromage blanc or greek yogurt)
1-2 T olive oil (or canola)
1 T apple cider vinegar
garlic powder
1 t herbs de provence
salt & pepper to taste

  • Preheat the oven to a high temperature (I had mine at 250 C) and mix the chickpeas and with 1 T of the oil and just under 1/2 t of salt. Simultaneously mix the cauliflower with the remaining oil and salt. Roast them in separate baking dishes until the cauliflower begins to brown and the chickpeas are toasted, but not quite crunchy. Set aside.

  • Meanwhile prepare the quinoa by simmering it in the water until soft (when all the water is absorbed and it 'pops'), about 20 minutes. Stir frequently while cooking, and fluff with a fork when done.

  • While the vegetables roast and the quinoa simmers, combine all of the ingredients to make the blanc battu dressing. Add the spices and herbs to your tastes. It would also go wonderfully with fresh dill or basil.

  • Allow the roasted vegetables to cool, and then combine with the black quinoa and dressing. Bon app!

I'm really looking forward to making this again, and will double the recipe and share :) I'd also like to continue experimenting with variations to the dressing (FYI the mayo substitute also included half an egg yolk and more oil, but I found the texture of this mix was just right). Lastly, I'll be keeping a stash of herbed, toasted chickpeas on hand whenever possible! They are unbelievably good.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

So my quiet this month has been due to tons of visitors to Zürich these past few weeks, with two more sets to go. I got to do a lot of travelling (and eating), but little cooking. Furthermore I just got back from a schööön wedding of two good friends in southern Germany a few hours ago.

In keeping with my hobby, however, I did find some great local regional food in Strasbourg when I visited with my father and stepmother last week. I had no idea that Alsace was so full of culture, from the interesting traditional regional dress, legends about the storks that herald spring, and the history of being both German and French at any given part of the last century. It's also the home of the European Parliament. Hubert Keller, one of my favorite chefs (I couldn't stop watching Top Chef Masters as hard as it is to do so outside of the US), is from this region. And of course the best sweet white wines, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, are produced locally.

While the parents dined on steak and coq au vin, I had andouillette with haricots verts (photo below). Those from Louisana may recognize this type of pork sausage made from the intestines :D The beans had plenty of butter, garlic and herbs and my Dad and I remarked on how it felt as if we could have been eating the same meal centuries ago. On our way back from the old town on the ile in the center of the city, I stopped at a shop where I bought some tasty (and inexpensive!!) foie gras and a fig mustard that I devoured within about 72 hours.

I did have a chance to cook dinner early in my Dad's trip. The first course was the pleasing yogurt-feta dip with farinata, topped with the olive oil I bought in Catalonia. The second was red rice salad in a roasted pepper, along with this really great wakame and zucchini salad from the latest cookbook from Hiltl - the oldest and best vegetarian restaurant in Zurich. For the salad's dressing, I added Byodo's great apple cider vinegar to the sesame/soy recipe. I use the stuff religiously for cole slaws, tuna or egg salads, marinades. Apple cider vinegar is the only type that's actually alkaline, balancing your body's pH like almonds and veggies do. I recommend trying condiments that use this vinegar over others...

The third course wasn't my proudest, as I attempted a goji berry carrot cake with homemade vanilla frosting. Though I used plenty of cream quark for lightness, the gluten free dough was quite heavy :( I think it was because I subbed in a portion of quinoa flour, which doesn't work so great for sweet baking as it's nutty and dense - such as with my scones. Also my parents were not at all used to the fact that - and I LOVE this - the whipped cream here is natural and unsweetened!!! And 100% creamy.

I'll conclude with a flashback to the flavourful Alsatian meal that was gone too soon :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

A New Kind of Stir-Fry

I'm not sure what the inspiration, but last month I was really in the mood for some Chinese takeaway. I haven't had any since the last time I was in New York, particularly as I try to avoid the fermented, wheat based sauces and the fried rice, doughs and noodles. That said, Chinese cooking can be the healthiest around when vegetables are steamed or lightly stir-fried rather than overcooked. Proteins like chicken and shrimp are also frequently incorporated, which are marinated in flavorful fish. nut and sesame oils. Terrific vegetables and legumes like bok choy, mung beans, and green onions are frequently thrown in, and a little egg for good measure.

But if you're avoiding empty carbs...what about the rice? Surely not necessary, but a classic pairing. My searching for a solution, and a creative use of one of the world's healthiest foods: cauliflower.

Turkey-Broccoli Stir Fry + Cauliflower Fried 'Rice'

1/4 lb turkey breast
3 T sesame oil
2 T soy sauce (GF if you find it)
1 teaspoon of arrowroot
1 egg, beaten
1/2 head of cauliflower
1 stalk of green onions
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup of broccoli, blanched* (I blanch raw broccoli in boiling water for 3 minutes)
2 T pine nuts

  • Chop the turkey breast into chunks and marinate in the arrowroot, 1 T of the sesame oil and 1 T of soy sauce while you make the rice and prep the vegetables.

  • Put the cauliflower in a food processor and process very quickly until it resembles the consistency of rice (some then microwave the cauliflower, but I keep it raw). Chop the green onions, and cut the broccoli into florets.

  • Heat a second T of sesame oil in a wok or deep frying pan and add the beaten egg, scrambling. Remove from pan when done and set aside.

  • Now add the final T of oil. Stir-fry the cauliflower until it just begins to brown. This takes a little while, perhaps 10 minutes, but really adds to the dish! At this time, stir in the onions, broccoli, carrots (not pictured) and the remaining T of soy sauce and sautée for 3 minutes. Remove from the pan, mixing with the scrambled egg.

  • Finally, add the meat and cook for a few minutes until done. Add the marinade and heat until it gets thicker. Remove from heat and mix with the veggies and scrambled egg.

  • Serve the turkey and broccoli stir-fry over the cauliflower fried 'rice', and top with peanuts (I prefer pine nuts). Bon app!

This recipe should serve 2 with a generous amount of rice, though I've not measured out the amounts perfectly. I'll definitely be practicing this more, it's yummy. I've also been experimenting with the seasonings, and added ground ginger for a nice kick the second time around. Let me know what you come up with ~c* x