Girl + Fire = Food



Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Menjurje" Tea

Moms. They're great. Especially when you're sick, which I have been. Six times this year.

I'm otherwise healthy as a horse; I run 3-4 times a week, spin class twice, Zumba once or twice, otherwise eat well. I take care of myself. And yet, it seems like I'm sick every other month.

SIX times in one year. Ugh.

But mom is always there, making me chicken soup. And this wonderful honey lemon tea that is great for soothing sore throats. Something I know about, intimately.


Next time you're sick, try this.

If anyone wants to send me a new immune system (or just a less stressed life?) it's on my Christmas wish list!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Roasted Squash Puree: An Alternative Thanksgiving Side Dish

Do you ever get tired of mashed potatoes? No, because mashed potatoes are a delicious combination of the best type of carbs (potatoes) + fat (butter) around, and don't let anyone tell you differently (though pizza would be a close second). I know some people opt for sweet potatoes, considering them a healthier starch. Sure, okay.

What about other vegetables? Aside from those sweet yams with marshmallows, which isn't something we eat at our house, but to each their own. (We do eat whiskey marshmallows, though. And green bean casserole, of course. We're not monsters!)

This Thanksgiving, you can invite other squash varieties to your dinner with this jazzed up version of a pumpkin puree. The original is great and all, but pumpkins are so much more fun when they're carved in October or in pie in November. Plus, pumpkin puree is usually sweet. This ain't.

We're going to use green pumpkins! With edible skins! That's right, kabocha squash looks just like a pumpkin, but it's green and you don't need to take the skin off. Then there's the ultra cool spaghetti squash. Roast both of these with a couple heads of garlic, and you're halfway through this process. You can even make it a week ahead, and in an effort not to devour it all, freeze!

You'll want to sauté some onion, then add a bunch of spices, maybe add some liquid, throw in the squash. Then blend the whole thing together with a magic stick blender, or food processor, or if you like your veggies a bit lumpier, just mash away. I like my smooth, so I used a stick blender. It's magic. Also, my favorite kitchen gadget.

The trick here is the spices and the secret finishing ingredient:

Yup, limes! Or, more precisely, lime juice. Sounds weird, right? In this case, weird = good. It's deliciously weird! I mean, we're already onboard the off-beat train with two otherwise unlikely squash cousins.

You could totally turn this into a soup instead. Are you a soup eater? Try more liquid. Make it heavy cream and add more delicious calories! 'TIS THE SEASON!!

I like my mashy green-flecked puree. Enjoy.

print recipe

Roasted Squash Puree
A savory alternative to mashed potatoes or other typical seasonal puree.
  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 1 kabocha squash
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons Adobo salt mixture
  • 2 heads garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth (or just plain water)
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt & pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Slice each squash in half and scoop out the innards (save the seeds if you like them, you can roast them at the same time). Cut the kabocha into 1-inch chunks.2. Line two baking sheets with foil. Spread the kabocha pieces on one, place the spaghetti squash halves on the other. Drizzle olive oil over all the pieces (about 2 tablespoons each), followed by a sprinkling of Adobo (about 1 tablespoon for each sheet).3. Cut the tops off both heads of garlic, remove the outer papery skin (leaving the heads intact), drizzle a bit of olive oil over the heads (about 1 teaspoon each). Wrap each head in foil.4. Place the wrapped garlic on a baking dish with the squash, roast in oven for 30-45 minutes, until the squash flesh takes on a golden brown char. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Then scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash to make "spaghetti."(These 4 steps can be done ahead of time and the vegetables kept in the fridge.) 5. While the squash is cooling, heat the remaining tablespoon of olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until translucent. 6. Add the spices and mix to ensure the onions are fully coated. Add the broth, roasted squash, and squeeze the garlic cloves into the pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10-20 minutes, until the squash is soft and easy to mash. Add salt and pepper to taste.7. Blend in batches, add additional liquid as needed until desired consistency is reached.8. Squeeze in lime juice and mix to incorporate. Serve warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No-Bake Avocado Mini Cheesecakes

Family dinner night at my parents' house is always the perfect occasion to test recipes, lots of hungry mouths for tasting. Especially when that dinner night happens the same night as the Giants play the Steelers.

Our family is 99.9% Giants fans. My brother is bringing a Steeler fan into the family. We love her. We don't love her team.

But we do love avocados, because they're creamy and come from the land of the Aztecs. The fact that they have skins like dinosaurs is just part of the awesome bonus.

The Steelers fan, weirdo that she is, doesn't like avocados "plain." So I told her I'd put them in cheesecake (my brother's favorite dessert). Two birds, one stone.

The maxim that you can't please everyone all the time is so very true. So when you mix an avocado with condensed milk, cream cheese, and lemon juice, you will get a variety of opinions. Dad thought it was perfect and he's always the hardest to please. Mom loved it too. I was a big fan of the tartness, especially with lime zest over the top.

The rest of the family, not so much.

They're crazy. Don't listen to them. Especially the gloating Steelers fan. We don't want to talk about that. Ugh.

Let's talk about empty pie tins. Because you can either make this cake into 12 mini pies or one large one. The original recipe is very, very simple but called for one large cake. That wasn't going to work with a bunch of little and big kids around. So I adjusted it to make single-serving cakes (mini cakes...cakies) and adding lime zest. It's a great finish.

Far better than whipped cream. 

Less guilt-inducing too. Little cakies, no whipped cream. It's practically calorie-free!

That and the Giants will win the Super Bowl again this season!

Hey, it's totally possible. Don't ruin it for me.

print recipe

No-Bake Avocado Mini Cheesecakes
Adapted from No baking, just mix, pour, chill. Easy as 1-2-3.
  • 1 large avocado, soft or slightly overripee
  • 13 ounces condensed milk
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 12 mini pie crusts
  • lemon zest
1. Blend the avocado, cream cheese, condensed milk, and lemon juice together until smooth. It helps if the avocado is really soft, and slightly overripe as it makes it easier to blend.2. Pour or spoon into the mini crusts.3. Chill for at least an hour (or up to overnight) before serving.4. Before serving, zest lemon on top of each cake. Enjoy chilled.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 12 cakes

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bacon Edamame à la Française

I've been stuck at home watching a lot of tv recently, since my immune system decided to take a vacation. Daytime tv is horrible, so I usually stick to the Food Network and Cooking Channel.

I caught an episode of French Cooking at Home and watched Laura Calder melt a HUGE portion of butter, fry pearl onions in it, and THEN add bacon to it. I was totally on in love with the idea...until she started shelling peas.

Peas irritate me. I don't know what it is about them that bothers me so much, but I don't like them. So I knew I wasn't going to follow this recipe exactly, but I didn't know what to use instead.

And then I remembered there was edamame in my freezer. And despite all the warnings about genetically-modified soy, and soy consumption tied to cancers, I do occasionally indulge in some. It's rare, because I don't want to die (that's why I eat quinoa). But it was the perfect replacement for this exceptionally rich dish.

Obviously with this much butter AND bacon, you eat this sparingly. After you defrost the beans, of course.

The original recipe called for an entire pound (2 cups) of peas. That's a LOT of peas. I decided half a pound of soybeans was sufficient and there was a good balance of beans to everything else. Despite my abhorrence of peas, I do so love bacon. And pearl onions (usually in my martinis, but fried up is good too). Throw in a bunch of lettuce so as not to completely clog your arteries and you're in business.

If you've never peeled pearl onions, all you have to do is boil them for a few minutes and the skins will come right off. Then drop them in butter, and once they're lovely and brown, toss in the bacon. The smell will overwhelm you. It's fantastic.

It's okay to scale back on the butter, if you're really afraid of saturated animal fat. I used half the listed amount and it was just fine. You might also want to be careful about how much salt you use. The bacon will add a good amount, so low-sodium chicken broth is a good bet.

In the end my taste testers (aka mom & dad) loved it. I found it intoxicating, from the aroma while it cooked, to the warm wilted lettuce and plump soybeans in my mouth.

I'm not clear on what makes this à la Française (read: French)...maybe it's the obscene amount of butter? The fact that Laura Calder has a delightful accent? I don't know. Suffice to say it's good food. Just eat it.

print recipe

Bacon Edamame à la Française
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 16 pearl onions, peeled and halved
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1/2 pound soybeans, shelled
  • 1/2 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • 2 cups red leaf lettuce, shredded
1. Melt butter in a frying pan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat until the onions begin to brown. Brown food tastes good.2. While the onions are frying, cut the bacon strips into small pieces (sometimes called lardons). When the onions have browned, add the bacon and cook until crispy. 3. Add the soybeans and chicken stock. Cover and cook until tender.4. Add the lettuce, stir, and cook covered until just wilted (about 1 minute).5. Serve warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 4 servings

Monday, October 29, 2012

Day Drinking at Hollywood On Tap

I like beer. It's frothy. But I only really like specific beers. Mostly in the Belgian style, like Hoegaarden and Blue Moon. I'm a fan of the Trappist ales like Chimay, too. But I what I truly love are the superduper sour red ales. If it tastes like carbonated vinegar, I'm probably in love with it.

What I don't like is bitter, hoppy beer. It leaves my mouth feeling like it's covered in moss. Or carpet. In other words, not good.

And these days, most "craft" beers are exactly that: really bitter, hoppy beers. I don't understand the appeal, but I'm just one person. To each his own.

All that to say that when my buddy Rob had an extra ticket to the Hollywood On Tap craft beer fest held on Paramount Studio's "Streets of New York," I figured I'd tag along.

I don't think I've ever seen Rob drink beer (he's the Whisky Guy, after all), so this was going to be interesting. I'd also just cleared my entire weekend of all the responsible things I should have been doing, so why not waste the day drinking instead?

I knew there wasn't going to be much of a selection catering to my tastes, but I was willing to try something new. While Rob concentrated on the stouts (beers that taste like tree bark to me), I sought out anything claiming to be red ales.

There were but a mere handful.

The first stop was the Abita Brewing Company out of Louisiana. I was intrigued by their Pecan Harvest Ale simply because it wasn't the traditional fall pumpkin offering. You could smell and taste the subtle roasted pecans, which was nice. It completely deviated from my hunt for the sour reds but what the hell, right?

It was, of course, a bit too bitter for me. Sigh.

Next up was the Sacramento-based Ruhstaller, which has an interesting history. The California Red Ale was also too bitter for my taste, but it came with a delightful story.

In a bit of serendipitous planning on the event organizers' part, in the booth just next door was the local Monkish Brewing Company beers. This is where I found a winner. The Red Table was still a bit hoppy, but closest of all to what I wanted. And paired with a pink peppercorn, it was quite, dare I say, yummy.

This was the only booth we stopped at that paired their beers with a food product, so I really appreciated that. I'm a dummy for not also indulging in a taste of their Feminist, which came with some dried hibiscus flowers.

This misstep simply guarantees that I'll head down to Torrance for this and the rest of Monkish's frosty beverages. Yay for local breweries!

Now, let's talk food, lest this become a drinking blog (Girl + Quaff?). Two weeks in a row of concentrating solely on alcohol is making me sound like a drunk. I'm not.


There were a number of food trucks at the festival, none of which I'd ever tried. We settled on Germany's Famous Bratwurst. Rob, being of German descent, had the traditional bratwurst with sauerkraut and German potato salad. I, being of spicy descent, opted for the currywurst with garlic fries. Served with curry-laden ketchup it was so damn good.


If you're in the LA area, and have a hankering for German sausage, find this truck. It will make your tastebuds happy. They seem to concentrate on downtown and the Valley, but it's probably worth the trek.

On a weekend, anyway.

When you don't feel like being responsible either.

And then get yourself a local beer. They go so well together.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Girl + Conference: Liquid Refresments, Las Vegas Style

I don't know what your conferences are like, but apparently when you have one for meeting industry professionals, there will be alcohol EVERYWHERE.

I'm not complaining. I just wonder if this is true for everyone else.

Last week I regaled you with stories of eating my way through Las Vegas. Part two is all about the accompanying libations.

At our first stop at the Paris Hotel, we were greeted by tuxedoed waiters offering two types of wine and something blue. I've learned that I can't drink anything that is sweet because I will end up very sick. And that's not how one comports themselves while trying to network. The blue drink was VERY sweet.

I don't know what was in it, but it was red on the bottom. Pretty, but suffice to say it screamed danger to me, so I stuck to the white wine.

The next night our local friends treated us to the "local experience": the Double Down Saloon. 10 years ago it was called The Junkyard and we had taken a party bus from LA to Vegas to see my friend's band play in it. It's still a terribly awesome dive bar, but now there's a half-full vending machine in it.

Their two signature drinks are the Bacon Martini and Ass Juice. Yes, you read that correctly:

The martini is nothing more than a typical vodka martini with smokey bacon flavoring added. It's not horrible, but you don't need more than one. The ass juice shot is served with a Twinkie.  Twinkies have a shelf life of about one million years, and I loved them as a kid. But as an adult, one bite and I can't imagine what I ever found appetizing about them. As for the "juice," it's super sweet. No idea what's in it, but I stuck to beer lest I end up needing the puke insurance they sell at the bar.

No joke. I mean, look at the sign behind the pool table. Insurance is $20.

Back on the tradeshow floor, there was free alcohol everywhere. Every third booth had champagne. And then the floor receptions! The photo at the top of this booth was from the tequila tasting in Mexico's booth.

At the end of one day, the Japanese tourism group gave us sake, then whisked us off to a Japanese restaurant with more champagne. And beer. And wine.

The next party took us to the Hard Rock Cafe, where I stuck my cake pop in my beer. And then there was dancing. Because that's what you do when men in afro wigs are playing funk music for you. You dance!

And eat cake pops.

After the big closing night party at a hip nightclub...

...we returned to the Double Down on the last night of our stay. Apparently we felt the need to go from high brow to very, very low brow for the after-party. Inside we found a few wayward Australians (different than the ones from the first night) that were also in town for the conference. Who knows how they wandered so far off the strip, but they'd never had Twinkies so they ordered one of these shots...and immediately regretted the Twinkie offering. It was pretty hilarious.

I love Australians.

I have three conferences in Las Vegas in 2013. I imagine I'll be seeing the Double Down a few more times, if my friends have any say. Though I'll probably avoid the Twinkies.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Girl + Conference: The Eats, Las Vegas Style

One of the best things about being an event planner is attending an event for which you are in NO WAY responsible. This is especially true when you've just come off an 11-month stint of planning and executing a 3-day event for 2000 people. Some might even call this a vacation, if such a thing existed for event planners. (They don't. You're always planning, whether it's your next 3 events or your next blog post.)

IMEX America is an amazing tradeshow in Las Vegas, which was, up until last week, one of my least favorite places. But spending time with some LV natives, off the Strip, taught me I might actually like Vegas.

And while I was able to do excellent networking and connect with industry friends, the parties are really what  this post is about. Because we ate (and drank) our way up and down Las Vegas Blvd (and off it) over the course of 5 days.

It was exactly what I needed. First up, the food. Next time, the drinks.

Note, when I remembered to shoot a picture of food (or drink), it wasn't with a real camera in perfectly lit conditions. It was with a crappy iPhone under mood lighting, because Las Vegas is very mood-oriented (read: dark).

We arrived at 3:45 pm on Sunday, which gave us just enough time to check-in to our hotel and hustle over to the Venetian | Palazzo, before being escorted to the Paris Hotel to be wined, dined and then whisked downstairs to see Jersey Boys. Bucking the standard, the Eiffel Tower Restaurant has delicious food. Also, floor to ceiling windows and beautiful sunset lighting (and a great view of the Bellagio Hotel seen above)!

Lox with cream cheese, fried cheese, and prosciutto with figs. Next time I'll show you what they offered to drink. Mmm.

This is what you eat at a classy evening reception. What you eat at 2 am after several hours of dancing, flirting with Australians, and drinking nothing but whisky at Gilley's over at Treasure Island isn't quite as beautiful. But damn if it ain't filling:

Nachos are good anytime. Especially at 2 am in Las Vegas.

Monday was a low-key day. We only had one reception before exploring the Vegas low-spots, like the ultimate dive bar Double Down Saloon that I had actually been to 10 years earlier. More on that next time.

Canyon Ranch SpaClub at the Venetian | Palazzo has excellent massage therapists. Also, delightful food, like cheesy bacon-stuffed jalapeño and mini cheesecake. We ate far too many of these finger foods.

Tuesday was filled with vendor meetings all day followed by back-to-back receptions. They started on the tradeshow floor at 4 pm (sushi and sake at the Japan booth, tequila tasting at the Mexico booth, countless others) and continued off-site at various locations. We opted for tidbits at Shibuya, followed by drinks at the Hard Rock, capped off by dancing at eyecandy.

On top: tuna on a slice of avocado topped with caviar. Bottom: pickled cucumber (similar to ajad) and tempura rock shrimp. 

The Hard Rock had great little cake pops. I popped one into my beer (for picture-taking purposes only, of course). You aren't choosy at the open bar spots.

There was very little elegant eating after this. A quick tea latte in the morning, a bar sandwich after dancing till  2 am. You know, the usual.

There was delicious Korean BBQ at 3 am somewhere...but you know what you're not doing at 3 am while eating Korean BBQ? Remembering to take pictures under fluorescent lights, that's what.

Next time we'll focus on the liquid aspect of this event. Las Vegas is, after all, a desert. You have to keep hydrated.

On gin & tonics. Or whatever they're serving at the open bar.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Roasted Red Pepper & Chipotle Pesto

When I came across Aida Mollenkamp's recipe for a roasted red pepper pesto, I was intrigued. But as I read through it, I was disappointed by the ingredients.

Don't get me wrong, I love goat cheese. It's my favorite cheese. But the rest of the ingredients lacked oomph. I have a serious disdain for red pepper flakes.

They are fine on pizza, if you're into that. But for my sauce, I wanted a good spice kick blended throughout and not little flakes getting stuck in my teeth. At first I considered adding sriracha, but thought it might be a bit too extreme. I settled on chipotle peppers. And that's when this became a Mexican dish.

I figured chipotle and my beloved goat cheese, both being strong flavors, would compete for attention, but chipotle and queso fresco pair beautifully together. And it crumbles so nicely. Great on refried beans, delicious on chipotle & roasted pepper spaghetti. And since we were already going the Latino route, why not go all the way and use cilantro instead of thyme?

What came out was nothing like what Aida started with. It was so much better. Even without nuts.

The next morning, one of the taste testers mixed this dish with the citrus quinoa, wrapped it in flat bread and called it breakfast. He then tweeted a picture. Boys. They'll eat anything!

I think this sauce might be equally as good as a soup. That's an idea for next time.

print recipe

Roasted Red Pepper & Chipotle Pesto
Adapted from Roasted Pepper Pesto
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 yellow onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 8 roasted red peppers (1 16-ounce jar), chopped
  • 1 chipotle pepper in sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chipotle sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 ounces queso fresco (Mexican white cheese), crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1. Cook the pasta according to the directions. Reserve 1 1/2 cups of the past water then drain the pasta.2. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and cook until just as it begins to take on color, about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic for the last 30 seconds. 3. Add the tomato paste, both types of peppers (roasted and chipotle), chipotle sauce, and sugar (this balances the sourness from the tomato paste). Cook until thickened.4. Transfer the sauce to a blender and process until smooth. Return to the pan with the drained pasta and salt, and stir to combine. Add 1 cup of the pasta water and cook over medium heat until the sauce clings to the noodles. Add more water as needed to thin the sauce. 5. Serve topped with crumbled cheese and chopped cilantro.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Lemon Whisky Apple Butter

Warning: this apple butter will make you drunk.

It's also full of stuff that's good for you, so as you're hitting the point where you're too dizzy to stand up straight, at least you're also getting some fruit in your system. And you know what they say about apples and doctors and such.

I really like apples, which is partially while I'll never die (at least not from seeing a doctor). I also really like applesauce because it reminds me of my childhood. And apple pie. Mmm. I experimented with this twice, both times with a cup full of Highland Park 12. Not bacon scotch, mind you, but a just a good single malt. The house smelled divine.

Making applesauce is pretty easy: chop up a bunch of peeled apples (or unpeeled, if you have a food mill—I don't) and let them simmer in a bit of water with cinnamon until the apples break down into mush. It'll take about an hour. You can liven it up by dropping in some orange zest stabbed with cloves. Also yummy. Or, you can add a cup of scotch and some lemon zest and enjoy the aroma as your apples get drunk. (Pour yourself a shot too.)

That last one is my favorite.

The first time I made this, I didn't mash the apples up much so the texture was a bit more chunky. As taste tester Whisky Guy Rob ate it, he fantasized about putting it on waffles or ice cream. So I had that for breakfast. It's a hot toddy on a plate!

The second time, I opted to use the food processor and get the consistency down to a smooth apple butter. Then I served it to a bunch of food bloggers. The reviews were hilarious.

  • Kim Burnell of Rustic Garden Bistro: Delicious. Amen.
  • Dorothy Reinhold of Shockingly Delicious: That was some dang fine whiskey apple butter. I needed a designated driver to get home!
  • Neha Mathur of From My Heart: Mmm...That was so good...I still have a hangover.

Don't say you weren't warned!

Next time I'm baking this into a pie. Drunken apple pie!!

print recipe

Whisky Apple Butter
A decidedly adult twist on the standard comfort food.
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped (about a 2-inch piece)
  • 2 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
  • 3 medium Gala apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest (tied in a muslin pouch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup quality single malt scotch whisky, such as Highland Park 12
1. Brown the butter in a large saucepan. Once you can smell the slightly nutty aroma, add the ginger and sauté for one minute. 2. Add remaining ingredients: apples, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, lemon zest in its pouch, and bourbon. Simmer uncovered until apples are very tender and liquid is almost all gone, about 60 minutes.3. Remove lemon zest pouch and mash the apples for a chunky consistency. Or, puree in a food processor until desired consistency is achieved.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6-8 servings

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Citrus Quinoa

I've been feeling stuck in the creative doldrums lately. I haven't been taking pictures, haven't been cooking, and certainly haven't been blogging. I have been working like a mad woman on that event planning thing that pays the bills, so that's partially to blame. To combat this, I forced myself back into the kitchen this past weekend, behind the stove and lens, and ran tests on three separate dishes.

It was good to be back. I even removed the safety net of food experimentation and invited friends over to taste what could have been three separate disasters. Turns out I might actually know how to cook, so not only did I not burn my house down, I scored a home run on all three.

Or, maybe three touchdowns? I had football on the entire time. I have three fantasy teams to keep track of, after all! There's a theme here...

The most popular dish was a riff on a Food 52 recipe. Instead of couscous and olives I opted for quinoa and capers because why the hell not? I really had no other reason.

There's something elegant in simplicity. A handful of simple ingredients + 20 minutes = a big explosion of deliciousness in one's mouth. Those little green capers will do that to you. They're like teeny bombs of sour awesomeness.

I'd actually made the original recipe a few months back. It's good. This was better. Capers kicked it up a few notches.

And it's not the first time I've played with cooking quinoa in unconventional ways. Quinoa for breakfast, anyone? Cooking it in orange juice didn't seem like too far a stretch.

I was also testing a recipe full of roasted red peppers, so I cut one up and threw it in this dish for a nice dash of color. But you could just as easily use pimento for a sweeter kick. That's what would probably be stuffed in your olives anyway. Life is full of choices.

Thank you to my wonderful buddies Elise, DeShawn, and Rob for their input. To quote one of them, "the capers and orange juice did a dance on my tongue as they co-mingled together." How great is that? You can make your tongue DANCE with this!

And thanks also to my mom for this cute little dish. I love it.

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Citrus Quinoa
A flavor combination that will make your tongue dance.
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 3/4 cup orange juice (no pulp)
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon capers
  • 1 tablespoon roasted red pepper, minced
1. Rinse the quinoa until the water runs clear (this removes the bitterness), then place in a pot with the orange juice. Cover, bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, until fully cooked.2. While the quinoa is cooking, sauté the minced shallot in olive oil until translucent. 3. Once the quinoa is finished cooking, fluff with a fork and fold in the shallot, capers, and pepper. Serve warm.
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 2 cups

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Cheater’s Sriracha Cheese Bread

My dear foodie friend Oakley, who I mention  often, hosted a dinner party. After we had our fill of tandoori chicken and a half-naked Ryan Reynolds on tv, there was gifting!

I came away with a cookbook dedicated to all things sriracha, aka rooster sauce. I put this on everything, when I’m not using (or—gasp!—out of) salsa verde. So it was only natural that I’d want to make little vittles with it too. Well, it turns out the book is a bit simple (add sriracha to whipped cream cheese and voila! A new dip…?), but the one recipe that intrigued me was a loaf of sriracha cheese bread. 

I’ve stopped saying that I don’t bake, but I’m still not in love with getting flour all over my kitchen. When you have tile countertops, cleaning flour particles out of the grout is a huge pain in the ass. But you could cut 15 steps out of the recipe by simply using pre-made pizza dough and I’m all for shortcuts! Trader Joe’s sells pizza dough for all of $1.50. With that, a quarter cup of rooster sauce, and a cup of cheese, you’re done!

Homemade bread!

Of course, flour still gets all over the kitchen because you have to roll said pizza dough out to a 9-inch rectangle, so it’s still a pain in the ass. But it wouldn’t be baking if we missed this crucial step.

Spread about a quarter cup of the sauce out, leaving a 1-inch border. Cover with shredded cheese (I used cheddar—but you can substitute your fancy sriracha cream cheese dip…?), roll it up jelly roll style, and bake for 20 minutes in a bread pan at 400 degrees. You will want to slice the top to give the bread room to puff up. And give it a good egg or olive oil wash, to crust the top. You’ll have a spicy bread within the hour (once you let it cool, lest burning your tongue is on your agenda).

I didn’t do the wash part and my loaf looked a bit albino in the end. Note for next time.

For the original recipe, check out The Sriracha Cookbook.

Look at me. I bake. Huh.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dulce de Jicama

The same day I tested the Mexican chocolate cookies, I tested a recipe courtesy of The Sweet Life.  Vianney has spent more time in Mexico than I have, and I was excited to taste this dish I’d never even heard of.

The only way I’ve ever eaten jicama is raw, cut into sticks and sprinkled with chile for pico de gallo. I really like it this way, so I was intrigued by the sweet turn.

Jicamas are ugly on the outside. They look like dirty roots. But you know what your mother said about judging books by their covers. They’re similar to potatoes in firmness, but blander in taste. They actually don’t have much flavor at all, which is why you often see them with the chile! Or with lime juice (or both).

Apparently my sweet tooth is of a Mexican variety, given I made this and the chocolate cookies at the same time. But I really liked this recipe. It's simple, as cooking should be. And I love Vianney's stories. Of course, I had to make modifications, because when do I ever take the easy route? I couldn't find unsweetened coconut, so that's where it started.

The orange juice took far longer to boil off than Vianney’s recipe stated. Maybe she boiled at a higher level of heat. I was being overly cautious, not wanting to burn this. And since I was using sweetened coconut, I simply left out the sugar…though it still came out tremendously sweet. This is something you eat in small quantities, like a tiny bit on ice cream.

The G+F taste testers were all on board. Luckily none of them hate coconut, like some people who confound me. I love coconut! Especially the fresh coconuts we’d have in Mexico when I visited as a child. The street vendors had huge green ones they chopped open with machetes and then stuck a straw in for your slurping delight. Such good memories of visiting family.

Maybe next time, we’ll all indulge in this dulce!

Original recipe over at The Sweet Life.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Ajad – Thai Cucumber Salad

For the last 25+ years, my family has been frequenting the same Thai restaurant in Burbank. To pass it on to the next generation, my brother’s family orders take-out from it regularly. I have always ordered the chicken satay. I love slathering the chicken skewers with peanut sauce and then sprinkling on the sweet vinegar from the cucumber salad before popping it in my mouth. To this day, it reminds me of being seven years old.

But what is that sweet and sour relish filled with cucumbers and onions? Oh, it’s known by many names, but the proper name is ajad. Or ajat, ached, or อาจาด. My Thai friend Oakley, she of the Oakmonster food blog—and the catalyst for the bacon scotch we always keep on hand in the G+F kitchen—told me ajad is correct. And because she will play tour guide on my eventual trip to Thailand, I believe her. She’s also originally from Bangkok, so she should know.

And who knew it was the easiest dish to make? Certainly not seven year old me, who believed this sweet and sour concoction must be magical. I was always afraid to finish it for fear that there would be none the next time. The innocence of childhood!

But it truly is so simple. Cut up a cucumber, some shallots, a pepper (I prefer red Fresnos for color, as do the folks at Saveur), boil some water, mix it with vinegar and sugar, toss in some cilantro, and you’re done. Waiting for it to cool enough to eat is the hardest part.

This keeps well in the fridge for quite some time, given the preservative qualities of the vinegar (and sugar). I now consistently keep it on hand. Because it IS magical. And I never want it to disappear!

Saveur’s recipe calls for a LOT of shallots. I rarely use more than one small one for a large cucumber. Your mileage may vary.

Original recipe on Saveur's site.