Saturday, June 22, 2013

Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers

Today I packed up my kitchen, and it's difficult to explain the sensation of seeing this room that's become so important and wonderful and productive for me transform into boxes and emptiness. But we're moving to New Orleans this coming week, and I can't wait to set up a new kitchen, along with all the delicious food options and inspirations. It's going to be so lovely.

Here, though, is a simple weeknight recipe I made with an old favorite in mind:  Quinoa and Pistachio Salad with Moroccan Pesto. Instead of roasting the peppers, I stuffed them! I also opted for a tomato flavor over the Moroccan pesto.

Fresh thyme was a key player--tying the recipe together much like the Dude's rug and his living room. The herby aroma elevated the stuffing into a freshly delicious meal.

The tomatoes came from the garden of one of my bosses, and acquiring them kickstarted this whole recipe! Combined with quinoa, chickpeas, tomato puree, parsley, garlic powder, cumin, and the aforementioned thyme, then topped with mozzarella at the end. As it stands, I think it's the last meal I will cook in my kitchen! Not too elaborate, but delicious and cheap and fairly healthy. I will get fancy again sooner or later, but for now, this was a lovely note to go out on.

Quinoa-Stuffed Bell Peppers
Serves 2 - 3.

3 large bell peppers (cut off tops and hollow)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium zucchini, diced
3 small tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup chickpeas
1/4 cup tomato puree
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic powder
1/2 tablespoon cumin
1/4 cup minced parsley (plus more for garnish)
4 sprigs fresh thyme, minced
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, roughly chopped

1. Preheat oven to 350. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high until shimmering. Add zucchini, tomatoes, and chickpeas and sautee for 5 - 7 minutes until tender.
2. Stir in puree, garlic powder, cumin, parsley, and thyme. Cook--stirring often--for another 3 minutes.
3. Spoon mixture into hollowed-out bell peppers. Set on coated baking sheet (slicing a bit off the bottom of the peppers if needed, so they stand upright. Fill a small bread pan halfway with water and place on bottom rack of oven (set low). Place another rack in the middle of the oven and set the baking sheet with bell peppers on top. Cook for 18 - 20 minutes.
4. Add fresh mozzarella to the top of each bell pepper. Return to oven for another five minutes, until cheese melts.
5. Sprinkle each pepper with minced parsley and serve.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Summer Salmon Burgers

Here's another meal that pairs well with the weather.

After I made the maque choux last week, I could not stop thinking about those flavors. I can't wait for the rest of summer: so much corn and tomatoes...all the time.

I turned them into a relish here, topping grilled salmon--I would love to ramble on about how much I enjoy the taste of warm, pink flesh but I would hate to be incarcerated for intent to cannibalize.

I added mint to the relish to enhance the connection with the cool cucumber salad. The salad idea came from my cousin Mary--she made hers with zucchini, whereas I was the victim of a poorly supplied market and had to opt for cucumber. Not such a sore loser, though! It got along swimmingly with the mint and lime juice.

Last but not least...the brioche. I'm not much of a baker in terms of cookies and cupcakes, but I do love churning out a great pastry or bread. Kneading and shaping the dough, watching it brown in the oven, pulling it apart as it still steams...mmmmm. All that before the first bite even!

Enjoyed with the crisp Nobilo sauvignon blanc and now a viewing of Apollo 13 as I blog. Houston, we have a plate is empty! (So many apologies.)

1. I used Smitten Kitchen's recipe for brioche buns. My house isn't crazy warm like hers, so I proofed the dough in the oven. For the first rise, I preheated the oven to 170. When it reached the temperature, I popped the dough in the oven, shut the door, and turned off the heat. After an hour, it had doubled in size. The recipe made more buns than I needed, but I fully aim to use the ocean of brioche I have produced. Halve the recipe if you must!
2. Another brioche note! I ran out of regular milk, so I used almond. No noticeable difference! Might even have been better ;)

Summer Salmon Burgers
Serves 4.

4 skinless salmon fillets
1/2 cup pesto
Salt & pepper (to taste)
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons oregano
Olive oil (for cooking)

Brioche burger buns
2 tablespoons olive oil (for toasting)

3 ears corn, shucked
1 bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 mint leaves, sliced chiffonade style
1/4 cup olive oil

2 cucumbers, halved and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 mint leaves, chopped
1 lime, juiced

1. Prepare brioche buns. Set aside.
2. Coat salmon fillets with pesto and seasonings. Place in a small bowl covered with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for one hour.
3. Preheat oven to 450. Combine corn, bell pepper, onion, tomatoes, garlic, and mint in a large, oven-safe skillet. Add olive oil and stir to combine.
4. Place skillet in oven and cook for 20 - 30 minutes, until vegetables are tender. Reserve relish to a medium bowl to cool.
5. In another bowl, combine cucumbers, oil, mint, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Cover and place in fridge for thirty minutes to allow flavors to meld.
6. Remove salmon from marinade. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in medium grill pan. Add salmon fillets skin-side up and cook, 5 - 7 minutes per side.
7. Toast brioche buns in a small skillet over medium-high heat.
8. Place salmon on toasted buns, topped with relish. Remove cucumber salad from refrigerator and serve on side.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Shrimp Maque Choux

Bare feet tap-dancing against the burning concrete steps. Grass stains on my shorts and individual blades clinging to my thighs and knees. The creaky porch and closing my eyes as I spin into a cloud of bug spray.

All this floods my brain with one bite of watermelon. We would sit on the front porch and let the red juice run down our forearms as we crunched closer and closer to the rind.

The swelter of this week had me craving the cool fruit, and while I could have purchased myself a whole watermelon and turned dinner into a gluttonous sprawl under my carport, I opted for another summery dish. Maque choux.

Somewhat like a succotash--minus the suffering (I have to imagine being sauteed is rather like a hot tub.) Maque choux is a dish with Cajun and Native American heritage. The name is even thought to be a French take on the original name.

Lots of corn here--I can't tell you how excited I am that corn is in season. So sweet and delicious.

I decided to add shrimp to turn this into an entree. Simply seasoned with citrus pepper and Tony Chachere's.

Paired with New Belgium Brewing's Rolle Bolle and you've got an effective way to treasure the weather, not just curse it.

Shrimp Maque Choux

3 ears corn, husked and shucked, corn milk reserved
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup bacon, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup green bell pepper, diced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 cup tomato, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Ground black pepper
Cayenne pepper
2 green onions, diced

31 - 40 peeled, deveined shrimp
1/2 citrus pepper seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons Tony Chachere's

1. In a large heavy saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. Add bacon and cook until lightly browned.
2. Add corn, onion, celery, bell pepper, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring often, for 15 minutes until vegetables are tender.
3. Add tomato, garlic, corn milk, and another pinch of salt. Cook for another fifteen minutes, not stirring quite as often.
4. Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons butter in a medium skillet. Season shrimp and then add to skillet, turning occasionally, until shrimp are bright pink and curled.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Sizzled Garlic Broccoli with Red Pepper Pesto

Here's a fun, easy way to tackle broccoli as a side dish. Sizzling combines the aspects of roasting and steaming, so you get the best of both worlds.

I'm so excited that summer is approaching. Many more delicious vegetables are coming into season, and I'm looking forward to finding ways to be a more of a deconstructivist when it comes to recipes. That'll have to be a challenge for the next blog (which is coming up really soon, because I was really late posting this one despite cooking it almost a week ago!)

Anyway, this recipe is much more straightforward, but so delicious.

There's a risk with steaming broccoli of it becoming too water-logged, but the sizzling process allowed it to be crispy but fresh.

The garlic browned first, giving the broccoli a great platform on which to sizzle. Like a nice garlic coat to make you feel kicky.

The roasted red pepper pesto was simple, though I added a bit of sriracha and honey to round it out.

Once the broccoli was sizzled, I tossed it with the garlic and pesto and served it alongside the lemon chicken and rice & beans that my boyfriend made. Teamwork!

Sizzled Garlic Broccoli with Red Pepper Pesto

Red Pepper Pesto:
2 red peppers
1/2 cup basil, roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 teaspoon sriracha
1 tablespoon honey

2 head broccoli, trimmed and chopped into florets
3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 450. Add red peppers and roast for 10 - 15 minutes, until significantly blackened on the outside. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. Cut off stem and peel pepper. Cut in half and deseed. Then cut flesh into strips and add to food processor.
2. Add remaining pesto ingredients to processor and...process.
3. In a large heavy saucepan, heat up two tablespoons olive oil over medium high. Add garlic sliced and cook 3 -4 minutes until lightly browned. Remove garlic from saucepan and set aside.
4. Add broccoli florets to pan, along with water and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Then cover the pan and cook the broccoli--uncovering and stirring occasionally--until water is evaporated and broccoli is tender and slightly browned.
5. In a large bowl, toss together broccoli, garlic slices, and red pepper pesto. Serve!