Wednesday, March 4, 2015

I'm Quin(oa) on You

If you know me at all, you know that I'm more than just keen on quinoa. I frickin love that stuff, and I don't know why. Maybe it's the nutty, toasty taste or the slightly crunchy texture. Maybe it's the 45 grams of fiber per serving or the crazy amounts of protein. Maybe it's just because I feel like I did hot yoga for 6 hours after eating just one serving of it (seriously, there's no better way to feel superior than to eat quinoa).

Sadly, Spain has not jumped on the grain train quite yet. Apart from the ubiquitous rice and couscous, (the food so nice they named it twice) it's hard to find any cool grains out here. Luckily, I have a mother who loves me and she sent me a bag of quinoa in a care package. Good thing too, because the last care package had about 4 pounds of Halloween candy in it.

As such, I have been carefully parceling this quinoa out serving by serving, hoping to make it last as long as possible. Then I created this recipe and it all went out the window. This recipe is so good it's a double-edged sword. I call it a power bowl because it has every ingredient you need to power through a long day or re-energize after a workout. Tommy thinks that name is pretentious and it sort of is but what do you expect from a girl who wants her funeral to be held at Whole Foods?

The way I make this recipe is vegan but if you want to add chicken, go for it. A lot of other vegetables would taste good too: snow peas, bean sprouts, edamame, you name it. The sauce itself is also pretty flexible in terms of spice and sweetness. I like a relatively even balance of flavors but it's totally up to you.

To save time I usually stab the sweet potato with a fork a few times and stick it in the microwave for 5 minutes or so. If you do that, this recipe only takes about 20 minutes to put together completely.

Eating this power bowl makes you feel kind of absurdly healthy so feel free to combat that with a dozen or so Oreos. It's what I like to do.

NOTE: I did have more and better pictures of them but this genius lost them somewhere on the depths of her computer. Stay tuned.

Ingredients:
For the Bowl:
1 c. quinoa, cooked according to instructions
1 medium sweet potato, steamed until soft and cubed
2 c. broccoli florets
2 c. raw baby spinach
1 c. firm tofu, drained and cubed
1 tbs. ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
2 tbs. neutral flavored cooking oil

For the Sweet and Spicy Sauce:
1 tbs. Sriracha
1 tsp. honey
1 tbs. sunflower seed oil
1 tbs. sesame seed oil
Juice of 1/4 lemon

1. Heat the oil in a large sautee pan over medium-low heat until it shimmers. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Add the broccoli, stir, cover and cook for about 3 minutes or until bright green.

2. Meanwhile, season the tofu cubes all over with kosher salt and pepper. Add to the sautee pan with the broccoli and cook, stirring often, until the tofu is golden brown.

3. Add the spinach at the very end and cook just until wilted. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl with the quinoa and cubed sweet potato.

To make the sauce: combine all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to combine. Pour over the power bowl, whisking constantly.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Cold as Rice

I genuinely feel sorry for all of my friends and family in the States right now. I do not envy you the current, fearsome cold snap that FROZE Niagara Falls and dumped so much snow on the Northeast that Mayor Martin Walsh of Boston in a public statement legitimately encouraged people to stop jumping out of their second-story windows into the drifts.

Today in Almería it was so warm that I walked around without a coat on. Tommy currently has about 40 sprouted watercress seedlings on our front terrace. I would not trade with you guys for all the paella in Valencia (although I do envy your central heating in a fearsome way).

It's hard to want to do much more than huddle around a fireplace with a gallon of tea and a heated blanket when the weather is so nasty, but you do have to eat somehow. And since driving conditions across much of the country are incredibly dangerous, it's better to cook at home rather than order in and force some poor delivery kid to fight icy roads or go out to eat and take the risk yourself.

Thusly I present to you a 30-minute meal that will warm you up ("stick to your ribs," my mom would say), cost you very little and utilize probably what you already have in your fridge at home: brown rice primavera.

Primavera means spring in both Spanish and Italian, so while the weather outside might still be frightful, this recipe loaded with bright greens will help distract you for a short while. Typically, primavera is a pasta dish. Subbing the pasta with brown rice, however makes it much healthier and gluten free, if that's your jam (#Gluten4Life). This recipe comes together even quicker if you use a rotisserie chicken but you could also just use any chicken you have on hand; give it a quick sauté with EVOO, salt and pepper and you're good to go. Also feel free to add any other veggies you have lying around that need to be used up. I can see zucchini and carrot ribbons both being very tasty. If you want to get crazy, sub the brown rice for quinoa or another grain. It'll be good no matter what most likely

Ultimately, keep your chins up. The cold weather won't last forever, unless you are unfortunate enough to live somewhere like Saskatchewan. Just remember how miserable you are now when you're complaining about humidity in August. Really, which would you prefer?

Ingredients:
1 c. brown rice, cooked according to directions
2 tbs. EVOO
1/2 c. finely chopped red onion
1 bunch asparagus, woody ends snapped off and chopped into 1.5" spears
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. fresh or frozen peas
1 1/2 c. shredded cooked chicken
2 c. chopped baby spinach leaves
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
1/4 c. parmesan cheese to serve

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook until fragrant.

2. Add the asparagus and cook just until bright green and tender, about 5 or 6 minutes. Add peas and continue to cook for another few minutes.

3. Stir in chicken and rice. Add the spinach and stir until it is just wilted, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately with a sprinkle of parmesan.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

U-G-L-Y You Ain't Got No Alibi

Not all food is pretty. More specifically, not all GOOD food is pretty. Examples like three-bean chili, almost any form of stew and oysters leap to mind. Tastes good, looks like dog food. Such a pain to photograph.

To quote Jonathan Swift (who was surprisingly sassy): "He was a brave man who first eat an oyster."

But just because dinner is ugly doesn't mean you should hate. Embrace the homely. Encourage it to pluck its eyebrows and dress for its body type. Try and arrange it lovingly on a bed of rice or quinoa. Wait. I'm confused.
This is my best Catholic friend who is giving up everything for Lent. 

In honor of one of my best friends who is giving up all things delicious for Lent, (including meat, eggs, fish, cheese, refined carbs and beer) dinner tonight is a quick red-bean stew. It's super-fast, vegan, malleable and keeps well in the fridge. It's vaguely reminiscent of bean chili but with less of a Tex-Mex flavor profile.

I've served it over rice and quinoa both but feel free to experiment with other grains like farro and freekeh. Make sure to use something with good texture though because otherwise it'll be a big pile of mush. If you're feeling fancy it would also pair well with cornbread.

Feel free to adjust the spice levels to your liking. Sweet corn, jalapeños and shredded chicken are all good additions as well. The original version of this recipe started out with cubed, seasoned chicken as one of the main ingredients but in order to keep it lower-impact Tommy and I have stuck to making it vegan.

Ingredients:

3 or 4 cans red beans (depending on how large a batch you'd like to make)
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 mild green pepper, chopped
3-4 tomatoes, chopped OR 1 can diced tomatoes in juice
3 tbs. EVOO
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/4 tsp. very spicy ground red pepper or crushed reds (adjust to taste -- what we've been using packs a powerful punch)
1 c. vegetable stock

1. In a large stock pot, sautee onion, green and red peppers


until the onion is starting to brown and get fragrant. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down.


3. Add all seasonings and cook for another minute or two more until flavors combine. Add the beans and cook, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes or until the beans start to break down. Add the stock and stir to combine. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or so. Serve over rice/quinoa/etc.


NOTE: Tommy likes to mash the beans against the side of the pot to give it a smoother texture. I personally prefer leaving the beans whole but it's up to you.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mini Me

Unless you live under a rock, you know that Valentine's day is coming up. This Saturday. Boys, that gives you three whole days to scrape together a halfway decent present.

And FYI, if you go to Jared, she's going bye now. Seriously, have some self respect.

And while I'm on the subject, every kiss might begin with "K" but every fight does too. Even if the jewelry from Kay's wasn't fugly, I don't think I could buy it because their advertisements are so damned painful to watch.

But anyway, sometimes you don't have the dinero to buy your S.O. heart-shaped bling or whatever sentimental tchotchke. That's why it's helpful to know how to cook, regardless of your gender.

I know it sounds all repressed and 1950s but ladies, knowing how to cook a nice meal says so much more than "I have my MRS. degree and I am frothing at the mouth to bear your children." It also says: "I took the time to make something nice for you that you can't buy in a store" and "I know what you like to eat besides a spicy chicken sandwich from Chik-Fil-A." It's personal and sweet and that old adage that the way to a boy's heart is through his stomach is TRUE with a bullet. How do you think I've landed all my boyfriends? Not just with my feminine wiles and biting wit. Nothing says settle down and date me like a dozen banana muffins with cinnamon pecan topping.


A nice girl knocks on a boy's front door and waits there. A smart girl goes around back with a freshly-frosted cake and climbs in through a window.

Or you know, does her own thing and doesn't wait around for some dude. Either way.

And boys, being able to cook a few nice things looks very good on your transcript too. Because a sad number of millennial males are total bozos in the kitch, if you can throw together a reasonable plate of chicken and veggies (or really anything besides boxed pasta) you are in like sin. Plus you look cute in an apron.


Therefore I present to you mini frittatas. They are easy as anything, look adorable, and take very little effort. Although I strongly discourage breakfast in bed for a number of reasons (crumbs in the sheets, everything gets cold, hard to get comfortable with a loaded tray on your knees), these are perfect for a late breakfast or brunch. Depending on when you wake up. Ahem.

All you have to do is slice up some fruit, toast some nice crusty bread or shell out for decent pastries and you have a damn fine meal on your hands. It's less stressful than having to cook a whole dinner and they keep well in the fridge too. Can you say breakfast on the go? They're also easily customizable so load them up with anything and everything you can think of. Broccoli, cheddar, peppers, sausages, ham chunks, tomatoes, spinach, feta, green onions -- the frittata is your oyster. Which is an aphrodisiac, by the way.


Ingredients:
(Makes about 16)

8 eggs
1/4 c. skim milk
1/4 c. chopped fresh spinach
1/4 c. cubed feta
1 medium tomato, cubed
1/2 c. red pepper, cubed
1/3 c. onion, diced and divided
1 spicy sausage (andouille, chorizo) link or 2-3 small breakfast sausages
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Grease a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 350.

2. In two separate pans, gently sautée the spinach with half the onion and the red pepper and sausage with the other half until cooked through.


3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs until blended but not too frothy. Add the milk, salt and pepper to taste and whisk again.

4. Divide the egg mixture among the muffin cups, filling each about one-third of the way


Add your fillings of choice, and finish with more egg.


5. Bake for about 20 minutes or until firm in the center. Run a butter knife around the frittata to loosen and serve immediately.





Saturday, February 7, 2015

Do You Want to Build a Snowman?

First of all, let me apologize for the recent radio silence. Tommy and I moved to a new apartment and only just got our internet set up, no thanks to the perennially awful Orange.

Anyway, it is currently 55 degrees in my bedroom. It is currently 57 degrees outside. People are always telling me, "Oh Jess, you're so lucky to be living in Spain! I bet it's so nice and warm there!"

Well I'm calling bullshit. Yes, maybe we don't have to contend with a polar vortex or blizzards that would make your average midwesterner consider staying off the roads, but at least YOU ALL IN AMERICA HAVE CENTRAL HEATING.

I'm currently wearing a long sleeve thermal shirt, a wool sweater, a hoodie and a scarf. There is a blanket over my legs and one wrapped around my shoulders. I have given up on my ears and nose. They are being sacrificed to the weather gods.

Yesterday, Tommy and I were so cold that we just went and got back in bed under all 3 blankets in our fleece sheets (not flannel, FLEECE -- they are the effing greatest. It's like sleeping in a sweatshirt that's still all fuzzy) and took my travel alarm clock which has a thermometer under there with us. We huddled like two sad rabbits in a fuzzy rabbit warren and watched the numbers tick up degree by degree until it was confirmed that it was at least 20 degrees colder outside of the blankets. This depressed us somewhat.

Spain is great for a lot of reasons but apartment construction is not one of them. Stone captures all that cold and damp really effectively.

So to combat these bone-chilling temperatures, I'm giving you guys a recipe that will warm you right up...because it is spicy as all hell. Nothing like some good chili pepper sweats to make you forget that your pinky finger is starting to turn the color of a blueberry!

This recipe is incredibly easy and incredibly delicious as well. You would think that avocado and salmon don't go well together but you would also be wrong. Gotta get that good fat as TMo would say. This pairs nicely with some toasty brown rice to bring the flavors all together. Feel free to reduce the levels of heat if you're sensitive to spice but I think it's pretty damn delicious as is.

I made this in a George Foreman grill because they are the greatest invention ever but you can also grill the salmon or use your broiler. Just don't overcook it because ew.

Speaking of salmon, Tommy and I got the best piece of salmon I've ever tasted a few weeks ago. It was so mild and delicious it honestly was like eating pure butter. I love living in a coastal city. Seafood for everybody! Seafood for all! You get a fish and you get a fish and you get a fish everybody gets a fish!

Ingredients:

For the Salmon:
2 lbs. of salmon, cut into 4 pieces
1 tbs. EVOO
1tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. ancho chili powder
1/2 tsp. crushed reds
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

For the Avocado Salsa:
2 avocados, diced
1/2 small red onion, roughly chopped
Juice from 2 limes
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1-2 tbs. finely chopped cilantro or parsley (I use parsley because cilantro tastes like soapy dishwater to me)
Salt and more crushed reds (if desired) to taste

1. Combine spice mixture in a small bowl.


2. Rub salmon fillets with EVOO and spice mixture, coating evenly. Refrigerate for 30 minutes (but no longer).

3. While the fish is chilling, combine all ingredients for the avocado salsa and chill.


4. Grill, George Foreman (I just made that a verb), or broil the salmon until flaky and no longer translucent in the center, about 5-8 minutes depending on thickness of the fillet.


5. Serve the salmon with a hefty dollop of avocado salsa on top.





Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gone Fishin'

As I have previously discussed, Sunday is the ugly stepsister of the week. It's lazy but cranky at the same time. You have this overwhelming, nagging urge to do something productive but you literally JUST CAN'T close your laptop. You say you're going to brunch at 11:30 and then end up getting day-drunk on Andre mimosas alone in your bathroom. Wait.

Fun fact: a bottle of Andre knocked a majority of my front tooth out on New Years 2013. It was a good look for me.
I wasn't kidding. But I like to think I rocked it.
Back to sucky Sundays though, I have a cure. Not a cure-all, mind you, but at least enough to make you feel accomplished and homey. Fish and chips.

I know what you're thinking, that sounds like a lot of work. But I swear it's not. And you will seriously reap the rewards afterwards.

Tommy and I went to the mercado central to buy fresh cod for the recipe, and this is the type of fish I would recommend
using. Tilapia fillets might work if that's all you have on  hand but I wouldn't bank on it. And besides, grocery stores are open in the States on Sundays so you really have no excuse.

I served the fish with an old recipe I had for wedge oven fries that I think was my mom's but I don't really remember. These oven fries are one of Tommy's favorite things but to be fair he loves the lowly potato in all its forms. They're salty and a little spicy and deliciously crunchy. Plus you really can just leave them and forget them, except to flip halfway through baking. Start to finish I would say that this dinner is only about 15 minutes of prep and 15 minutes of active cooking for the fish (20 minutes of baking for the fries). That seems reasonable, doesn't it? Tartar sauce and malt vinegar not optional. If you put ketchup on your fish and chips then honestly don't speak to me ever again.
Skinning fish like it's my job. Whammy!

For the Oven-Fried Potatoes:
3-4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed and quartered
1/4 c. olive oil
1/4 tsp. spicy paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
Freshly ground black pepper and kosher salt to taste

For the Fish:
4 6-oz. fillets, cut in half
1/3 c. cornmeal
1/3 c. all-purpose flour
2 egg whites
2 tbs. cold water
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/2 c. vegetable oil for frying (or as needed)


To make the potatoes:

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Arrange the potato wedges on a well-oiled or foil-lined baking sheet.

2. Coat the potatoes in the olive oil, shaking as needed to distribute the oil evenly. Sprinkle the paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper over the tops of the potatoes. Shake again to distribute the spices.


3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy, flipping halfway through.

To make the fish:

1. On two separate soup plates, combine the egg white and water and whisk the dry ingredients except salt.

2. Pat the fish fillets dry, and dip first into the egg white and then into the cornmeal mix, making sure to coat well.

Shake off any excess cornmeal and set aside on a plate. Repeat with all the pieces of the fish. Do not stack.

3. Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed frying pan with high sides until not quite smoking. Add the fish in batches, making sure they don't touch each other. Cook fish for about 3 to 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt to taste.








Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Cheesin'

I have written before about the fact that my grasp of millennial colloquialisms is shoddy at best (See "Sup, Shorty?"). I have been made fun of for my vocabulary on more than one occasion, and it hasn't bothered me since about the 8th grade. My vocabulary could kick your vocabulary's ass all the way around the playground and then steal its lunch money.

Violent vocabs aside, there is one common milleniword that I am quite fond of, and that is cheesing (typically pronounced with a dropped 'g').

This is the act of smiling so big that any number of things happen:
a. Your eyes disappear
b. You get chipmunk cheeks
c. You appear vaguely unbalanced

I personally love cheesin'. I'm happy and I know it and I want my insanely big grin to show it. Also I frequently don't know what to do with my face in pictures so it's either that or the "rock-on-stick-your-tongue-out" look which my parents hate and I did in at least 30% of my graduation pictures.

I could also do with a very large smile right now as I have been whacked out with a disgusting cold for over a week and now evidently have a sinus infection. See: my school kids are adorably disgusting fountains of boogers and microbes.

This recipe has cheesin' down to an art. Not only does it combine two fantastic desserts, cheesecake and cookies, but said cheesecake cookies are so delicious that you can't help but grin like an idiot.

They're not simple, they're kind of messy to make and they are almost absurdly high in calories. That being said, they are also very much worth it. The texture is incredibly light and fluffy, the blueberries are sweet and the lemon adds just the right amount of zing. If you've got a free afternoon, I highly recommend you bake them. As two of role models would say, treat yo self.


Note: I recommend you put the cubed cream cheese in the freezer until you are ready to assemble the cookies. If it is too warm, forming the cookies will be much messier and much more difficult.

Ingredients:
1 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 c. granulated sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 eggs
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 c. flour
1 1/2 c. blueberries 
1/2 package very cold cream cheese, cut into 1 tsp cubes

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats and set aside.

2. With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until it's light and fluffy. Blend in the lemon zest, juice and eggs. Make sure to scrape off any bits of zest that stick to the mixer paddle.

3. In a separate bowl whisk together the baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour. Incorporate into the wet ingredients in three batches, being careful not to over-mix.

4. Gently fold in the blueberries so as not to burst any. Refrigerate the dough for at least 15 – 20 minutes to make it stiff enough to roll.


5. For each cookie, roll 1 heaping tablespoon of dough into a ball. Flatten it slightly into a disc shape and place a 1 tsp cream cheese cube into the center. 


Form the dough around the cream cheese, creating a ball again.














6. Bake for about 10 - 14 minutes until the edges brown slightly. Transfer to a cooling rack and let rest for another 5-10 minutes.