Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sesame Salmon and Quinoa Salad

This is going to be a fairly quick blog post, because I wasn't planning on blogging the recipe so I didn't take the usual plethora of pictures, but also because it's very simple!

I've been trying to increase the qualities of "cheap" and "healthy" in my meals lately (which can be fairly difficult living in New Orleans and also having a mountain of cookbooks/Internet access), and that drive has led to a little more "what can I work with in my pantry?" than usual.

For this meal, I got a bag of the cheap frozen salmon fillets (probably the most painful price cut of all) and set about slightly modifying a favorite recipe of mine: Quinoa and Pistachio Salad with Moroccan Pesto.

First off, I took out the pistachios. So expensive! (I will now take a moment to google: "How the heck can you grow your own pistachios, because damn the man.)

I also substituted the Moroccan pesto for a jar of basic pesto I had on hand, amped up by the addition of sriracha and honey, an enhancement I started using after making charmoula sauce. Sweet heat! So good. (Results from pistachio search: I would need to grow trees, and I am quite without a backyard. Innovation/scheming will continue later.)

And I added zucchini! For a little more green, I seasoned the zucchini slices with salt, pepper, and cumin and roasted them alongside the red peppers. For the salmon, I patted the fillets dry, rubbed them with oil, and formed an oregano and sesame seed crust on one side. Seared them in my cast-iron, then served!

There you have your pre-paycheck mods for a delicious dinner. Hope you enjoy!

Sesame Salmon and Quinoa Salad
Salmon serves 2. Salad serves 4—6.

2 frozen salmon fillets, thawed and skinned
1/2 tablespoon oregano
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 cup water
1 15.5 oz can chickpeas
1/4 cup pesto
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 tablespoon honey
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, stem removed, halved and seeded
1/2 tablespoon cumin
Olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 400. On a large rimmed baking sheet, coated with cooking spray, spread out zucchini in a single layer in half the pan. Season with cumin, salt and pepper, drizzle with olive oil, and toss. Place bell pepper halves in other half of pan, cut side down. Roast in oven for 30 - 40 minutes, turning zucchini over halfway through. Remove when pepper is blackened and zucchini slices are browned. Let pepper cool, then remove skin and chop into 1/2 inch pieces.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine quinoa, stock, and water over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Cook for 10—12 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
3. Meanwhile, season salmon fillets with salt and pepper on both sides. On top side, sprinkle with oregano and sesame seed picture, pressing sesame seeds into the fillet.
4. Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add fillets (crust side up). Cook for 4—5 minutes on each side. Remove from skillet and set aside.
5. Mix pesto, sriracha, honey, and chickpeas into quinoa. Serve each plate, topping quinoa mound with zucchini and red peppers. Serve salmon alongside.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Roasted Sweet Onions Stuffed with Lamb and Apricots

These delicious stuffed onions were merely one component of a Mediterranean medley. You can read about the golden barley pilaf here and I'll share the cucumber and yogurt salad below. But I'd like to focus on this delightful combination of sweet and savory.

If we deem vidalia onions the vessel, then lamb, apricots, mint, and parsley are the precious cargo. The original recipe called from ground lamb, but the market was out of it, so I substituted for diced, seasoned, and browned lamb chops. It worked out beautifully.

And the final meal...

I just made two stuffed onions, but enough filling for four (...the extra was handily disposed.) I'll post the recipe serving four to corroborate more with the golden barley pilaf.

Roasted Sweet Onions Stuffed with Lamb and Apricots (via Leite's Culinaria)
Serves 4. 

1 1/2 cups chicken stock 
1/2 cup dried apricots (about 16), cut into 1/4-inch pieces 
1 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 
4 smallish Vidalia or other sweet onions (about 3 pounds), unpeeled 
5 tablespoons unsalted butter 
1/2 pound lamb chops, diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
3 or 4 shakes sriracha 
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley 
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint 
2 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
1. Preheat the oven to 400°F (204°C) In a small pot over medium heat, combine the stock, apricots, and lemon zest. Gently simmer until the apricots are plump and the liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup, roughly 10 minutes.
2. Without peeling the onions, cut about 1 inch off the tops and just-
enough off the bottoms that each onion stands upright. Reserve the onion tops and discard the bottoms. Remove all but the outer two layers of each 
onion by scooping out the centers with a spoon or melon baller, reserving the insides. Set the onion shells in a baking dish along with the tops. Finely chop the insides.
3. Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in almost all of the chopped onions, reserving some for another use, and cook until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the lamb, cinnamon, and cumin and season with the salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, continually stirring with a wooden spoon, until the lamb is crumbly, 7 to 8 minutes. Do not drain the rendered fat; it’s needed to keep the onions moist and to impart a luscious unctuousness to the overall dish. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the apricot mixture and its liquid, hot sauce to taste, and the parsley and mint. Let cool slightly. (The lamb filling can easily be prepared a day in advance, covered, and refrigerated.)
4. Spoon some of the lamb mixture into each of the hollowed-out onions, pressing down with your hands and mounding it over the onions. Sprinkle the 
bread crumbs over the onions and dot with the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and bake until tender, 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the size. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the bread crumbs are brown, about 10 minutes more. Serve immediately.

Cucumber and Yogurt Salad
Serves 4.
1 English cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 tablespoon dried dillweed
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, tossing lightly until cucumber slices are evenly coated. Serve.