Rice & Quinoa With A Crunch

As I was editing the photos for this post, I dawned on me just how much inventing I actually do when it comes to food. (Well, actually anything in my life really. More to come about votive candle holders I’ve been hand painting which will be up for sale soon.) The reason it came into light was because I had forgotten that I even came up with recipe and combo until I looked at the photos. Then I went scouring through all my little slips of paper where I jot down ingredients and amounts to find the notes for this recipe. I seriously might have forgotten about it all together had it not been for this blog which requires me to write shit down. Thank you, thank you, thank you for forcing me to photograph, catalog, measure and archive all my inventions. For decades, I had been coming up with food combinations which I made that one time only, and never or rarely repeated again. The top pretexts for no repeats; one, because when I see ingredients I don’t think about what I did last time, I see something new. Two, because apparently I don’t have as good a memory as I think. Three, without writing it down, there is no way of recouping exactly what I did. So, if I don’t have a recipe or even a hint of what I once did to go by, I might as well create something fresh.

There are some recipes that I do make over and over again. Like Boquerones Skewers, Stuffed Piquillos, or Salmon Burgers or Indian Spiced Rice. Quite frankly, it’s because I have this blog to jog my memory with images and recollections of a meal past. I now use it as my own personal recipe book. (I hope you do, too.) And so at this exact moment I’ve found another raison d'être to continue writing and creating. Not just for you all, but for me, too.

I wish I could recall exactly why I came up with this one, but it escapes me now. Maybe it was that I didn’t want to just serve rice, or just quinoa and figured why not put them together. Maybe I was riffing off my Glorious Grains - Moroccan Style. Whatever the guise, I’m glad I riffed because it was a fluffy, crunchy delight. And one I will now definitely make again. This, of course, got the two thumbs up seal of approval from my daily taste testers - JuanCarlos and Jill. or J to the second power as I like to call them.

The main line up: Basmati Rice, Quinoa, Pepitas, Slivered Almonds, Fresh MInt, Red Pepper Flakes and Chinese Chives.

The main line up: Basmati Rice, Quinoa, Pepitas, Slivered Almonds, Fresh MInt, Red Pepper Flakes and Chinese Chives.

Ingredients

1 c Basmati Rice
1 c Quinoa
1/4 c Pepitas, toasted
1/4 c Slivered Almonds, lightly toasted
1 c onions, chopped
1.5 T fresh mint, julienned
1/2 t red pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
1/2 c Chinese chives, chopped*
3 T Olve Oil
1 t salt
1/4 black pepper

Instructions


1. Sauté onions in olive oil, add salt and pepper until softened.

Chopped onions ready to soften and give off their sweetness.

Chopped onions ready to soften and give off their sweetness.

2. Add rice and quinoa and let the grains lightly toast before adding 3.5 c water, cover and let simmer

until cooked.

The onions only need to softened, then in goes the rice, then quinoa so they can toast and absorb some of the sweet onion and oil flavor.

The onions only need to softened, then in goes the rice, then quinoa so they can toast and absorb some of the sweet onion and oil flavor.

Quinoa in the pot to get coated with oil and onions, too.

Quinoa in the pot to get coated with oil and onions, too.

3. Meanwhile, in a pan toast the pepitas and almonds separately. Be careful to only lightly toast the

almonds as these are delicate and can burn quickly and easily, which is why they need to done them separately.

Toasting the pepitas.

Toasting the pepitas.

3. Mix all the ingredients together and taste for seasoning. Serve immediately.

I know I’m known for making a vinaigrette and drizzling it over a dish, but after tasting it, it actually didn’t need a thing. I conferred with JC, and he agreed. Leave it just as it is. More evidence why it’s important to taste as you go. However, if you wanted to make this more of a salad type of dish you could add a lemon vinaigrette. It will change the texture of both the starches and the crunch factor, but I imagine it would tasty just the same. Try it my way first, then decide for yourself.

Everything ready.

Everything ready.

In go the pepitas.

In go the pepitas.

In go the almonds.

In go the almonds.

I may seem like a lot of chives, but it’s not. It’s actually the perfect amount.

I may seem like a lot of chives, but it’s not. It’s actually the perfect amount.

Mix it all up gently. I was going to add a vinaigrette but JuanCarlos tasted it and said it needed NOTHING else. So there you have it.

Mix it all up gently. I was going to add a vinaigrette but JuanCarlos tasted it and said it needed NOTHING else. So there you have it.

I guess it doesn’t matter why I came up with this combo, it only matters that it answered the call. And it definitely delivered on my hope for serving more than just rice or just quinoa. And the deciding factors were:

The red pepper flakes gave a hint of heat while the mint produced a fresh, vibrancy.

Heat

Heat

Cools the heat

Cools the heat

The Chinese chives provided that mild onion note.

Chinese chives. Longer and flatter.

Chinese chives. Longer and flatter.

It may seem like a lot but you need a lot to cut through the starch

It may seem like a lot but you need a lot to cut through the starch

And of course, the pepitas and almonds packed the crunch, which you know I love.

Crunch AKA Pepitas

Crunch AKA Pepitas

Crunch2 AKA Slivered Almonds

Crunch2 AKA Slivered Almonds

All in all, a great little side dish starch that fills the belly and the soul. I served it with lentils and sautéd grey sole.

A medley of flavors. Fluffy AND Crunchy. How great is that?

A medley of flavors. Fluffy AND Crunchy. How great is that?

Watercress, Cucumber & Herbed Butter Tea Sandwiches

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There are a ton of ways to say it…

Ask and you shall receive

Put it out there

Tell the universe what you want

Whatever saying you espouse, it’s all based on energy and the Laws of Attraction. If you want something, all you have to do is ask. Once you float an idea out there, the universe, full of energy, tries to provide you with the answer. I can attest to this theory in dozens of real life examples. I could go on and on about the “careful what you wish for“ statement. Which seems a bit more negative in tone than it’s true meaning. But it heeds the warning of be mindful of what you put forth because your wish will probably be granted. And so mine was. Sure, it had been brewing for some time, but the universe doesn’t have deadlines. It delivers what you need when you need it.

Now granted this is not one of those major life altering wishes. It was way more frivolous. More like a desire and Saturday morning daydream. None the less, it was a wish. I had been wanting to throw a tea party for the longest time. I know, you are thinking; Really, after all that blabber on the universe providing and it’s energy and that is what you wished for? It was. No judgement, please. However, I had two big hesitations. One, I can’t eat bread, and two, who would I invite? The latter is an easy challenge to overcome. The former, well that is another story entirely, which is why I have never thrown a tea party. BUT, out there I put the thought. Floating around like whisper waiting to be heard. And so, there was a cosmic little giggle when I was recently asked to cater a tea party. And there it was… Call it serendipity. Call it fate. Call it my prayers were answered. Call it whatever you like, but I asked and I received. And the funny part of it was, it literally answered all the challenges. Since it wasn’t MY tea party I didn’t have to eat the bread, or figure out who to invite. Talk about wishes coming true.

This is one of the easiest and most classic tea sandwiches.

Ingredients

Black Rye Bread
Watercress
English Cucumber, thin round slices

Herbed Butter, room temperature
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 T chives, chopped
2 T parsley
1 T lemon juice
Lemon zest
1 t salt

 

Instructions

1.First things first, make the herbed butter. Start with softened room temperature unsalted butter. It is important that the butter is really soft so the added ingredients can be blended in thoroughly and easily. Chop the herbs. Then using a mixer with a paddle attachment, blend together. Add the lemon juice, zest and salt to taste, mix a bit more but do not over mix. Set aside and leave at room temperature so it is easy to spread on the bread.

The best part about this butter is that you can place it in plastic wrap, roll it up like a log and freeze. You can then slice it anytime you want. Add it to rice or noodles or to finish a steak or fish.

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

I made a a lot because I had to make plenty of sandwiches. I froze the leftovers

2. Wash and thoroughly dry the watercress. Thinly slice the cucumber into rounds.

3. Get all the ingredients ready, placing the bread out.

4. Heavily butter one side, then lightly butter the other side of the bread. Then place the cucumber down first.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

Line everything up to create your own assembly line. Of course, I made way more than you will need, but the concept still works even for a few sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

I placed 3 slices in a row x3. This way when I cut the bread into finger sandwiches I used the cucumber rows as my guide to create 3 bite sized sandwiches.

5. Pile the watercress on top. Close the sandwich and trim the crusts. Then cut the full sandwich into smaller finger sandwich pieces. I chose to cut these into thirds. You can also cut them in quarters to create squares or on a diagonal to create diamonds. Your choice. It tastes the same no matter the shape. It’s all about your visual preference, so do what turns you on.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

When only using but a few ingredients freshness is of the utmost importance.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

I needed plenty of finger sandwiches for my event. Assembly line work is in my blood and makes the task go faster.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

The scraps. Just as edible, if you like the crust.

This sandwich has such a wonderful flavor profile. The butter provides a huge amount by giving you sweet, salt and herbaceous notes. The watercress is slightly peppery and the cucumber is crisp and cool. The bread, well that is down right comforting while also adding an earthiness. This simple little sandwich packs a powerful big punch.

I hope your wishes all come true. Remember to be mindful of what you ask… the universe is listening.

 
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Smoked Trout Cucumber Bites

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Coming up with easy to make, easy to eat appetizers is a fun game I like to play.  Sure, I almost always put out a cheese/charcuterie board because it's chock full of crowd pleasing eats: cheese, dry-cured meats, olives, nuts, fruits & crudité bits.  But I truly enjoy serving a 'pop in your mouth' nibble.  These Smoked Trout Cucumber Bites answer the call. 

I have used smoked trout before in several different ways.  In the fall and winter months when the cucumber is swapped out with a small, warm potato rounds, it makes a perfect combo of a warm and cold bite. Sometimes I use small new potatoes, as shown here.  Sometimes, fingerling potatoes.  But for the warmer weather months, I choose a boat that keeps it cool, like a cucumber, or endive.

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Ingredients

5-6 oz. Smoked Trout, flaked approx. 1.25 c
(pre-packaged like Ducktrap or from a specialty deli)
1 English cucumber, thick slices
1/3 c + 2T sour cream
1/3 c scallions, thinly sliced
chives, finely chopped

 

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Instructions

1. Cut the cucumber into thick slices about 3/8" thick and arrange on a platter.

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2. Remove the skin from the smoked trout and break it up with your clean fingers, or flake it with a fork.  I use my fingers because I am able to feel and remove any fine bones.

3. Add the scallions and/or chives, plus enough sour cream to hold the smoked trout together. (The store didn't have any chives that looked good, so I only used scallions on this day.  I do love chives for this dish, though.)

Smoked Trout skin still on, waiting to be flaked.

Smoked Trout skin still on, waiting to be flaked.

Smoked Trout flaked.

Smoked Trout flaked.

Awaiting the savory combo of scallions and sour cream.

Awaiting the savory combo of scallions and sour cream.

4. Again, using your clean hands or a small ice cream scoop, create little mounds on top of each cucumber round. The ice cream scoop is not only faster, but also makes keeps it all uniform and looking pretty.  We eat with our eyes, folks.

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5. Place about 2 T of sour cream into a small plastic bag, taking all the air out and cutting a small hole on one of the corners. Squeeze a little dollop of sour cream on top of each mound.  Sprinkle with more scallions and chives.

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I made these two weeks ago for an outdoor party placing them on a tiered plate rack, which came back to the kitchen with two empty plates. And again two nights ago for a late summer dinner party.  They were loved both times. Cool and refreshing; a one or two bite nibble that everyone will love. 

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This could not be simpler to assemble. You've made tuna salad before, right? Well, this is the same concept, only presented in a tantalizing, easy to enjoy way.  Best part is that you can scoop this mixture on top of other 'pop in your mouth' vehicles.  Need some ideas?

  • Fingerling or New Potato rounds

  • Potato Chip, or Tortilla Chip Cups

  • Puff Pastry round

  • Radish Slice

  • Endive or Mini Romaine Leaves

  • Celery Stalk pieces

You get the idea.  I served these as one of the 3 appetizers for a small dinner two nights ago.
Here was the scorecard:

 
  • 4 of us

  • 18 Smoked Trout rounds

  • Zero leftover

We smoked these babies.

One of the other apps was a  cheese/charcuterie  plate.

One of the other apps was a cheese/charcuterie plate.

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Glorious Grains Moroccan Style

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I think I might have a starch addiction. I am drawn to anything that provides that hearty, hulky texture.  Pasta, rice, potatoes, grains.  All these top my "I'll eat these anywhere, anytime" list.  Since I tend to consume all of the previously mentioned starchy delights a lot, I am always searching for different flavor combos to add to my repertoire.  I am not a huge fan of savory foods being too sweet, but I do enjoy countering tangy, sour, spicy flavors with cooling herbs and hints of sweet notes.  That's why this recipe, mixing grains of varied flavors and textures with herbs and other 'condiments', hits the bull's eye, satisfying those goals. Another great plus to this combo is that these grains pack a powerful protein punch.  Flavor, nutrients, festive looking... What more can you ask of your food?

When I first made this dish I was still eating wheat, so couscous was one of the 'grains' I used.  If you are not gluten free then go ahead, stir it in. For those who are gluten free, just eliminate the couscous as I do now.  You can add another grain or replace it by doubling up on one of the others already being used.  I used another 3/4 c of quinoa as a replacement.

What a heavenly and earthy mix. Also, notice my favorite little bowls that serve me so well for prepping dishes like this. If you want your own, check out   Miller Pottery

What a heavenly and earthy mix. Also, notice my favorite little bowls that serve me so well for prepping dishes like this. If you want your own, check out Miller Pottery

Ingredients

Simple, but perfectly balanced dressing line up.

Simple, but perfectly balanced dressing line up.

1 c uncooked Kasha (Buckwheat)
1 c uncooked Quinoa
1 c uncooked Couscous (eliminate to be gluten free)
1 c uncooked Millet
1/4 c chives, chopped
1/2 c chopped parsley
1/4 c mint, chopped
3/4 c dried apricots, diced
3/4 c Medjool dates, diced
1/2 c red onion, diced
1 c scallion, sliced
1/2 c almond slivers
(orange wedges would add lovely fresh component as an option)

Dressing
1/2 c lemon juice
1 T lemon zest
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1.5 t salt
3/4 c olive oil

 

Instructions 

Cook each of the grains separately, according to the package. 

Glorious grains. Millet, quinoa, kasha (which is also known as buckwheat)

Glorious grains. Millet, quinoa, kasha (which is also known as buckwheat)

While those are cooking, chop and prep all the remaining ingredients and have ready to mix together.   

Parsley, dates, scallions, red onion, almonds, dried apricots, chives, mint. Oh, these are going to love dancing together.

Parsley, dates, scallions, red onion, almonds, dried apricots, chives, mint. Oh, these are going to love dancing together.

Once the grains are done, drain and mix them together, adding the dressing before all the other ingredients.

Cooked kasha, milliet, quinoa.

Cooked kasha, milliet, quinoa.

Pour the dressing on first and let it all soak in.

Pour the dressing on first and let it all soak in.

Then add in all the remaining ingredients and toss until well combined. 

A bounty of textures, flavors and nutrients all in one big bowl.

A bounty of textures, flavors and nutrients all in one big bowl.

You see that big LOVE sign. That's right, stir this up with huge amounts of Love. (See below about the new sign.)

You see that big LOVE sign. That's right, stir this up with huge amounts of Love. (See below about the new sign.)

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This dish can be served slightly warm, room temp or even chilled.  Since it has a nod to Moroccan flavors it will pair with lamb or chicken dishes quite well.  I ate mine with ripe heirloom tomatoes and French feta cheese.  The rest of our gang enjoyed it with roasted chicken.

 

You may have noticed that my LOVE in the background of some my shots has grown.  Indeed, it has.  There are moments in my life that continue to remind me of the many blessings bestowed on me.  Friends are at the top of my list.  One of my best friends extended her love by sending me some of hers in the form of that huge swirl of emotion.  Thank you Dominique for sharing this with me and for your eternal friendship, support and of course, Love.  My heart grew 3 sizes that day!

Salmon Bites with Yogurt Relish

It's no secret, I love to entertain.  For me, it's a wonderful way to gather the friends and family we love. Share food and drink, love and laughter.  When it comes to what to serve, of course, some of my old standby recipes appear.  Why not, they were good the first time and even the second. But admittedly, I try to be adventurous and use these entertaining moments to test out new ideas on my guests.  Fortunately for me, I have a group that is always willing to be just as adventurous in trying and reviewing my creations.  

In a couple of weeks JC and I will be hosting a small gathering and I've been pondering what to make.  Since many of these guests have dined with us before I certainly want to offer up some fresh new nibbles.  And I mean just that; nibbles, since I have decided that this event will be a cocktail/tapas style only.  No formal sit down or particular time to eat.  Just food coming out as it is ready.  This way we can cook, eat, entertain, cook, entertain, eat again.  It also allows for a very informal, free flowing party.  With this style of eating in mind, I want to have finger food or small items that are easy to pick up, put on a plate and mingle around.  I also thought this type of dish could be a useful one as we all are searching for easy ways to entertain during the holidays.

So, as I was sitting quietly one morning several ideas came my way. (I promise I will post the other ideas very soon.)  Normally, I don't test my ideas first.  I just make them and see what happens.  But since my sister and niece were here with us for dinner it seemed like a great opportunity.  My first set of guinea pigs!

So here's the rundown for my test run of seared salmon bites with my own homemade relish concoction for dipping.  

The line up. FYI, those small bowls are from   Miller Pottery  .

The line up. FYI, those small bowls are from Miller Pottery.

Ingredients

Salmon Filet (the amount will depend on the size of your crowd. For this test run I made 1.25 lbs of salmon which would have been enough to serve as an appetizer for 8-10 people with other offerings.)

Relish
1 c Greek Yogurt
2 T Dill Pickles, small dice
2  T Cornichon*, small dice
1.5 T Shallot, mince
2 T Chives, finely chopped
2 T Scallion, thin slices
4 T Cucumber, small dice
1 T Lemon Juice
1/2 t Course Salt

*Cornichon (French, meaning little horn) is a small pickled cucumber. 

Instructions

Cut the salmon into bite size squares, trying to make them as similar as possible.  Salt and pepper them and place them skin side down in a smoking hot cast iron skillet with a touch of oil (the fish will release plenty of their natural oils so you don't need much to get started).  Do not over crowd the pan.  

These will only need 2 minutes or so on each side. Let them get a nice crust.  Remove from the pan and place a on paper towel to soak up some of the oil. Continue cooking all your pieces. These can be made ahead of time and either lightly warmed up before serving or served at room temperature.

For the relish, this is as easy as mince 'em up and stir 'em up.  Cut all the ingredients into small pieces. 

All the little pieces ready and waiting for their yogurt bath: scallions, shallots, chives, olives, capers, cucumber, dill pickles and cornichon

All the little pieces ready and waiting for their yogurt bath: scallions, shallots, chives, olives, capers, cucumber, dill pickles and cornichon

Then with love, stir them into the creamy yogurt adding course salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice.

 

Plate them up and watch them fly off.  
 

Post note: This really does work well as a make ahead dish. I served it on the same night I made it and then again the next night.  I warmed the salmon in the low heat oven, and the relish got even better as all the flavors got super cozy with one another.  Be aware that when searing salmon open the windows and put the stove fan on high, as the smell does permeate the house.

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