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?

Indian Spiced Rice

It’s no secret I love Italian food, most notably – pasta. But that is just my go to comfort zone. I adore many other ethnic foods. I guess like most of us, when I don’t know what to cook, I lean into my sweet spot. So, in an attempt to not make pasta this particular day, I begged my tummy to give me a sign.

It answered back with a resounding gurgle for spice. And, as if the universe was conspiring with my stomach, forcing me to crawl out of my pasta coma, I just happened to tune into a cooking show where a rambunctious guy was making rice using star anise and a cinnamon stick. Now those are some fierce energy vibes working their magic in the universe; fast and furious. The craving turned into a rushing wave. I was now officially pining Indian flavors.

There was no time to waste, especially given that the day before was a total flop, food wise. The guilt from my lazy Monday of not making a stitch of grub, which left us grazing on some undressed arugula and a can of sardines, compelled me to make us a good meal. It was Tuesday, and no way was I going to let the week continue on this no cook trend. Plus my sister was coming. I seriously needed to get my butt into gear. Taking mental stock of what we had available, the first two items that popped up were string beans and potatoes. I could make Indian food with those.

Now for the spices. Sure, we keep a few interesting ones on hand, and some that land squarely in the Indian spice world. But we definitely didn’t have star anise or cinnamon sticks. Motivation was running sky high, so I hopped in the car and drove to our local market that specializes in Middle eastern spices and foods. I grabbed what looked interesting:

  • Cardamom seeds

  • Cinnamon sticks

  • Cumin Seeds

  • Fenugreek

  • Pepitas

  • Dried Currants

  • Curry powder

As soon as I got home I surveyed my new selections and very quickly realized I never got star anise. No biggie, this was going to be my version of Indian food anyway. Anyone who knows Indian food knows that the art of combining and blending spices is as masterful of a skill as being a Sushi Chef. So I wasn’t going to attempt a miracle on the Ganges. I just wanted some spice.

I knew I was going to make rice. That was a no brainer, since it is the basis for most Indian food. But I needed dishes to go with the rice. With my mind rattling off the different options, I came up with a long, and clearly over ambitious list in my zeal for making Indian food.

  1. Dal, a lentil stew

  2. Chana Masala - a chick pea stew

  3. Potato pancakes

  4. String Beans

  5. Cauliflower

In the end, I did accomplish 4 out the 6 machinations (including the rice) that whirled around in my head. The funny part is that one the food items that motivated me to make Indian food, the string beans, never got spiced up and served. I guess they couldn’t take the heat. So get out of the kitchen.

In order to keep this posting manageable, I will post the recipes for each of the other dishes separately in the next weeks. Otherwise, the photos alone will have you scrolling for days. For today, let’s focus on the rice, which quite frankly is where it all began.

Ingredients

3 c basmati rice
1 cinnamon stick
4 cardamom seeds
2 full T cumin seeds
1/2 c onion, sliced
1/2 c red onion, sliced
2 t salt
2 cloves
4.5 c water
4 T oil
scallions, thinly sliced, optional

I use olive oil for most everything. I don’t like using vegetable oil because it has soy in it. But you can use vegetable, canola or olive oil for this recipe.

Also, I was over ambitious and made 3 cups of rice. For two basic reasons. My husband loves rice like I love pasta. And my sister was coming for her every week trip, and she also loves Indian food. All the more reason to load up on this starchy grain. Make the amount you need and divide the amounts according. However, if it doesn’t divide evenly err on the side of using more.

Instructions

  1. First things first, soak the basmati in water for 15 minutes to take out some of the starch. This helps to make the rice fluffy and not sticky.

You only need enough water to cover the rice.

You only need enough water to cover the rice.

Then measure out all the spices. Since I was making this up as I went, I started out with less cumin seeds and then realized that I was making 3 cups of rice, so increased the amount to what I listed above.

Mise en place, get everything ready and in place. Salt, cardamon seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin seeds.

Mise en place, get everything ready and in place. Salt, cardamon seeds, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin seeds.

2. Toast the dried spices in a large pot with oil.

3. Meanwhile, cut up red and yellow onion, then add them to the pot. Let them cook over medium low heat to allow the onions to cook down to right before the caramelized state.

Cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, cloves, cardamon seeds and salt.

Cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, cloves, cardamon seeds and salt.

Onions add a sweet flavor.

Onions add a sweet flavor.

In go the onions to cozy up with the spices.

In go the onions to cozy up with the spices.

Sauté the onions until just lightly browned.

Sauté the onions until just lightly browned.

4. Drain the rice, add it the onion/spice mixture and let the rice get coated with the all the oil, onions and spices. Just as you would making a risotto, or paella. (I like using this method of cooking rice whenever I am adding other ingredients to the cooking stage.)

sauted.rice.jpg

5. Add the water, bring to a boil, then cover and lower the heat. (I use a 1 to 1.5 ratio of rice to water.) Cook for 10-12 minutes. The rice should be light and fluffy and no water left.

You can add sliced scallions, or toasted chopped nuts. You could even roast up more of the cumin seeds and add it to the top. Let your mind and tastebuds be playful.

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The aromatics of this rice will make you want to spoon it right from the pot into your mouth, skipping the bowl. Which is exactly what JC did. He loves him some rice, and Indian rice at that.

I must admit that I wasn’t sure about how much of the spices to use, but not to be boastful, I was really proud of myself. I feel like I nailed the right amount of spice combo to create a flavorful rice to use as the base for my Dal.

The dinner plate we enjoyed and the lunch sample Lisa did, too.

The dinner plate we enjoyed and the lunch sample Lisa did, too.

Now, I know that anyone who is gifted at making Indian food will have plenty to say about my version. True chefs/cooks of Indian food have a magical hand at spice blending that creates a real depth and flavor adventure. My in-house taste testers and Indian food fans loved it. Getting a pretty dang good, two thumbs up from both JuanCarlos and Jill. Jill thought so much of it that she brought some into work to have one of her co-workers who is from India try it. I must admit I was nervous at the idea. Alas, he wasn’t in the office, so her co-worker, Lisa, got to enjoy a complete lunch. And good for her, because like me she has dietary restrictions. This was gluten free, dairy free and perfect for her.

Once I decided not to be intimidated about staying true to traditional Indian spices laws, I was free to create a dish that was good enough to eat. Try your hand at mixing different spices for your rice. The combinations are endless. If not, try this one. I think you’ll like it. Namaste.

Screaming Shrimp Cooled by Creamy Avocado & Tomato

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Shrimp; sure their name might denote that they are small in size, but they are big in versatility.  As Bubba so notably recited, "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That, that’s about it.”  Well, that's where I disagree with Bubba. There are a thousand ways to prepare a shrimp.  Which makes them a perfect non meat dish to serve for a dinner party or crowd. Plus most people love shrimp. (Minus those poor souls with that horrible allergic reaction in the form of swelling, non breathing and other awful symptoms. So sorry for that group.)  

Shrimp, in any form, on a big platter equals party pleaser.  I have found this out the hard way.  Early on in our entertaining days, since I'm a pescatarian, we would make shrimp for me when meat was the main course.  But soon found out that everyone else loved them so much that they would eat up the small amount we made.  We realized that we often didn't make enough for everyone to partake.  Rookie move...that we remedied that quite quickly.  Now, if shrimp is on the menu, it's in quantities that can feed the entire crowd, not just selfish me.

If we get larger size shrimp (does that mean they aren't really shrimp?) then we often leave the shells on. It exudes a ton of flavor.  Marinate and cook them fully cloaked so that all that flavor from the shell cooks into the shrimp meat.   Then suck on the shell before peeling it off.  Don't groan and tell me that's gross.  It's delicious.  For this recipe you can peel the shell first or leave it on.  Your choice.  Either way this dish is about the play off the heat of the spicy shrimp cooled by the creaminess of the avocado and fresh cool tomato that makes it so satisfying.  I like this dish for a summer outdoor party or a late Saturday afternoon lunch. 

The setup.

The setup.

Ingredients

1.5 lb. large shrimp
2 avocados, cut into chunks
scrapings of avocado from the skin
2-3 medium (heirloom) tomatoes, thick slices
3-4 large garlic cloves, crushed
2-3 T jalapeño pepper, finely minced*
1/2 - 1 T Chili oil, or 1-2 t crushed red pepper flakes* 
1.5 -2 T ginger, grated*
1.5 T cilantro, chopped
1/2 c red onion, sliced
1 t salt
1/3 c olive oil
1/2 c white wine to deglaze pan
2 c basmati rice
1/4 c scallions, sliced
1/3 c cilantro
1 lemon, quartered
* These ingredients bring the heat. Adjust the amount according to how hot you like your food.

Dressing

avocado scrapings from the inside of the shell
2 T fresh lemon juice
salt, pepper
1/2 c Olive oil
Whisk together all above ingredients
1 T cilantro, minced for garnish
1 T scallions, sliced for garnish

 

Instructions

In a bowl, combine garlic, jalapeño, chili oil, cilantro, ginger, scallions, red onion, salt and oil.  Mix together with shrimp ensuring all are coated.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 1/2 hour to marinate.  

Make it sing with spice!

Make it sing with spice!

Combine it all in non reactive bowl. I like glass

Combine it all in non reactive bowl. I like glass

Let those shrimps get cozy with heat.

Let those shrimps get cozy with heat.

While the shrimp are marinating, cook the rice.  I use 1.5 times water to rice ratio, bringing the water to a boil then adding rice.  I add a touch of salt to the water, cover and lower the heat to a simmer.   Let it cook around 15-18 minutes until light and fluffy.

Nothing better than fluffy rice. It's begging for some accents, like scallions and cilantro.

Nothing better than fluffy rice. It's begging for some accents, like scallions and cilantro.

Cut the tomatoes and avocado and assemble your plates so that you only have to add the shrimp and serve.  Make the dressing by scraping out the odds and ends from the avocado shell.  Add them to all the dressing ingredients an whisk together, and set aside. 

avocado.cut.jpg
avocado.jpg
avocado.scrapings.jpg

You can create a family style platter. Or you can individually plate them using the avocado shells to hold the rice.   

Then sauté the shrimp in a cast iron pan over medium high heat.  You want to get a nice sear on both sides. Shrimp do not take but 2-3  minutes to cook.  Keep in mind that they will continue to cook once removed from the heat. 

Get some good color and crust on them. Yum!

Get some good color and crust on them. Yum!

While the shrimp are cooking, toss the scallions and cilantro into the rice.  You can plate it by using the avocado shells, or simply plate alongside the tomato and avocado. Be creative, and make a pretty plate.

Fill the shell as a rice holder.

Fill the shell as a rice holder.

Or just lay the rice up against the tomatoes.

Or just lay the rice up against the tomatoes.

After all the shrimp are cooked, sauté the marinade in the pan, then add a splash of white wine. 

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sauce.jpg

Pour over the shrimp and place them on the platter, garnishing with the lemon pieces.  Drizzle the avocado dressing over the tomatoes and avocado. You can sprinkle more cilantro over the shrimp with a squeeze of lemon, too. Serve immediately. 

dressing.pour2.jpg

I love all the textures of this dish.  Fluffy, soft rice. Crisp, sweet but spicy shrimp. Creamy Avocado and Cool, sweet tomatoes.  What's not to love?  Let your shrimp scream.

Lunch with a Friend - Casual with Style

My dear friend, Donna, and I had been trying to make plans to get together for months. We had set a date to meet in the city for lunch, but alas those plans got axed.  Once we switched the day, it meant she was able to come up to my house for a 'ladies lunch'.  Does that make us sound old?  If so, then forget it.  We were just eating together.

It had been a while since we had last seen each other, so the idea was to enjoy each other's company and not have cooking occupy my time. The plan to keep it easy peasy was to create a menu where the majority of items could all be roasted in the oven and the rest could be made ahead of time.  Leaving me hands free for when she arrived.  I like starch (pasta, potatoes, rice not the kind used for ironing), and wanted to include that too. My immediate thought was polenta. However, after surveying the menu, a last minute swap out for rice felt like it paired better with the rest of the offerings, which also included a salad.  When it came to dessert, this needed to be super simple because I didn't have the time to bake.  Add to that, I wanted something that I could enjoy too. A traditionally baked item uses flour and eggs, well, no good for me. 

Sure sandwiches would have been even easier. Sure we could have eaten at the kitchen table.  But a little extra detail is much nicer. And so...

How hard is it to keep it casual but amp it a bit to feel special?  Simply throw down a runner the opposite way to create an more intimate area on a large table, add some placemats. Toss cloth napkins on the plate and put glasses on the table.  That always ups the ante, and really it doesn't take more effort than that.

So when you want to keep it chill yet with touch of style for no fuss lunch, here's a menu that can be pulled off without a hitch. The best part of this for me was that since it was pouring out and despise schlepping in the rain, I already had everything in the house, and didn't even need to shop!!  

Prep everything in their pans, season right before putting in the oven and have a glass of wine.

Prep everything in their pans, season right before putting in the oven and have a glass of wine.

If you need some recipes guides for the below menu, the highlighted items link to previous blog posts that feature each one. Also at the very bottom, you will find printable recipe versions.  If you have any questions on how to pull this menu off, write a comment below or email me

Lunch Menu

Simply roasted salmon nestled up against beautiful roasted vegetables all on one plate.

Simply roasted salmon nestled up against beautiful roasted vegetables all on one plate.

Paella rice risotto style with 3 kinds of onions (red, yellow and scallions)

Paella rice risotto style with 3 kinds of onions (red, yellow and scallions)

For the Paella Rice Risotto style, first sauté a mixture of red, yellow onion and scallion until caramelized.  Set aside. In a medium sized pot, simply sauté some more onions in oil, salt and pepper then add the rice to toast it. Then add either hot water or hot stock (chicken or vegetable) a few ladles at a time until the rice absorbs the liquid. Continue until the rice is tender then stir in the sautéd onion mixture. 

Another option, you can check out my Garlic Rice recipe.

You know this salad. This is the Citrus Salad Bowl, but in one big bowl not individually plated. This way we could go back for seconds.

You know this salad. This is the Citrus Salad Bowl, but in one big bowl not individually plated. This way we could go back for seconds.

The skinny on how the dessert portion was pulled together with just a few ingredients: Open the fridge. Check out what you have and use your imagination.  I found strawberries and blueberries, and tucked in the back a tiny bit of left over chocolate ganache* (previously used for some profiteroles I had made).  And just like that I had a dessert.  Fresh Fruit Bark.

* Ganache is chocolate melted down by adding warmed cream to create a glaze .  When I originally made mine I used much less cream since I wanted a thicker consistency for the profiteroles.  If I had a traditional ganache, it would have never worked for this dessert.  

Spread the chocolate onto parchment paper.

Spread the chocolate onto parchment paper.

Instructions

I melted down the chocolate, spread it over parchment and jammed, I mean lovingly placed, the fruit into the chocolate. For texture, I sprinkled some crushed Marcona Almonds and popped it in the fridge to set and chill until time to serve. 

Arrange the fruit in a way that is appetizing to you.

Arrange the fruit in a way that is appetizing to you.

Since this was made with a semi ganache, it had a softer consistency than traditional bark.  That didn't bother either one of us, and the fresh fruit route was the perfect choice since Donna prefers fresh versus dried fruit. Phew, good call on my part.  This literally was the truest form of 'something from nothing', pulling a dessert out of the hat from whatever I had handy.  We both agreed it was quite delicious.  Bigger bonus, it gave her a new way to use up all the gorgeous summer fruit she gets at her country house.  

Starting with the lovely Shinn Estates Rosé that Donna brought, we had a relaxing time, ate well, caught up on each other's lives and travels, enjoyed a surprise yummy dessert, and of course, finished the entire bottle of wine. It ended as a perfect Lunch with a Friend.  

Sprinkle chopped Marcona Almonds all over the top.

Sprinkle chopped Marcona Almonds all over the top.

Garlic Rice with Sautéd Zucchini & Tomatoes

I adore starch of any kind. So it should come as no surprise that I love rice.  All kinds of rice. Depending on what I am serving usually informs how I serve up the rice.  For this particular dinner party I wanted something warm and cozy.  In my world that usually means pasta but in this instance I had my heart set on rice, so the I chose a short grain grain to be sautéd with garlic.  I also needed to serve a vegetable and in keeping with the warm and cozy theme, I immediately thought of zucchini and roasted tomatoes.  All those flavors together make me think of diving into a soft, sweet dish of yum.

Our stars of the evening.

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This set up should come as no surprise to you. Roasted tomatoes are versatile little jewels.

This set up should come as no surprise to you. Roasted tomatoes are versatile little jewels.

Ingredients

2-3 Zucchini, cut in small pieces
2 Yellow Squash, cut in small pieces
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
cherry tomatoes
Short grain rice, either paella rice or aborio
1 shallot, chopped
7-8 cloves garlic, 3-4 thinly slices, the rest for roasting whole
Magic 3 (oil, salt, pepper)

Instructions

Roast the tomatoes, as I know you know how to do by now.  But if you need a little recall, click here.

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While the tomatoes are roasting, cook your rice according the package, making the amount you need.  I have been loving this paella rice.  I pick up several bags at Despaña so my cupboard is always stocked.

While the rice is cooking, prep your vegetables.

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Once you have everything chopped, sauté the onions and shallots until soft then add the zucchini, squash, salt and pepper.   The goal is to not make them too mushy but to get a nice caramelization going.

After the zucchini is cooked and removed from the pan, use the same pan to sauté the rice.   Add a generous amount of oil and sauté the garlic until lightly browned, add salt and pepper to release the aromas. Then add the rice and toss until coated.  Finally, plate your entire dish.   This is how I presented it, but certainly you can serve in separate platters or find your presentation style.

This was exactly what I hoped it would be... warm and cozy, sweet and savory.  It paired beautifully with arugula and warm mushroom salad and fish that was served.  It's rustic with a tad of elegant.  Oh who cares about that, it tasted delicious.

Printable Recipe Version