Category Archives: Pasta and Grains

Beet Roundup

From pancakes to muffins, smoothies to salads — steamed roasted and raw — beets and beet greens been the subject of lots of posts this year. I didn’t start 2013 with the intention exploring this deeply pigmented root from every possible angle. In fact, on a few occasions, I made a small determination to rein in my new-found fervor, and then I’d end up asking myself, “why stop now.”

The bottom line, I’ve barely just begun. Next on the docket: beet chips, assorted borscht recipes, pickled beets, and a beet cake. In the meantime, here’s a brief recap of the fun that we’ve had with beets for the first 8 months of 2013.

Beet Pancakes with Fresh Blueberry Syrup

Beet Apple Walnut Muffins

Beet Green and Kale Frittata

Yogurt, Blueberry and Beet Green Smoothie

Beet Green and Strawberry Smoothie

Hummus with Roasted Beets

Beet Carrot and Apple Slaw

Beet Pecan and Feta Salad

Beet and Garbanzo Bean Salad

Spinach and Beet Salad

Beet and Blueberry Salad

Moroccan Beet and Carrot Salad

Borscht Lite

Root Vegetable Hash

Roasted Roots

Quinoa with Roasted Beets

Beet Greens and Portobellos over Pasta

Beet Green Quiche in a Brown Rice Crust

 

Quinoa Beans and Greens

Quinoa has been the go-to grain around here for most of the year. Faster and fluffier than rice, a complete protein — and then there’s the whole Inca connection. Back in the day, when in doubt, I’d steam some rice, saute an onion along with any vegetables that were on hand, add a little salt, pepper and cumin, and call it dinner.

Last night, I switched it up a bit, with quinoa and then raised the superfood bar with a few cups of chopped arugula and spinach.  We had it as a main course and everyone was happy. This dish could also stand in as a side dish, or served cold as a salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1/2 red or yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup black beans rinsed
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups tightly packed spinach and arugula, or other greens

Directions

  • Rinse quinoa and add to 1 1/2 cups of water in a medium saucepan. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer until water is absorbed. About 15 minutes.
  • Saute onions and pepper in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Add rinsed black beans and cumin.
  • Rough chop greens and add to the saute pan along with cooked quinoa. Salt and pepper to taste.
  • When quinoa is cooked, add to the saute pan. Serve warm as a main course or side dish, or chilled as a salad.

 

Kale Salad with Quinoa and Feta

A good salad dominates the dinner conversation. When it doubles as a vegetarian main course, that’s even better.

kale quinoa feta red pepper

That was the case last week with this Kale, Quinoa, Feta, Avocado, Cucumber and tomato creation that we enjoyed at my sister’s house in Iowa. As soon as we got back to Austin, I had to have it again, and made the mistake of steaming the kale for too long. It’s a whole different thing when the leaves all clump together without any of the that  robust kaleness that we have learned to love. So rule No. 1: Only steam the kale leaves for a split second — just long enough for the green to become deeper.

kale leaves

Otherwise, this salad is a sure hit. First time around, we had discussion about whether or not to go with the quinoa once all of the other ingredients were tossed together. It seemed perfect already without tossing in a grain when a grain did not seem necessary. We took the leap of faith. Turns out, it was a good leap.

kale and quinoa

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 large bunch of kale, rinsed and torn into small pieces
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions

  • Rinse quinoa and add to a small saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer until water is absorbed — about 15 minutes. Stir and set aside to cool.
  • Using a steamer or a metal colander, steam kale for 45 seconds. Remove from the steam and allow to cool.
  • Transfer kale to a large salad bowl and top with avocado, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, feta cheese and quinoa.
  • Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, salt and pepper. Drizzle over the salad and toss.

 

Pesto Fest: Summer’s Best Staple

Broccoli Pancakes with Pesto. Seriously, these were delicious. One of my favorite blogs, Beyond the Peel, came out with a recipe for 3 Ingredient Savory Pancakes, and I had to try them immediately, largely out of disbelief that

  • 2 cups chopped broccoli,
  • 4 eggs and
  • 2 Tbsp. of ground flax

zapped together in a food processor could turn into a game-changing pancake batter. They cooked up in a skillet with a little oil, just like a regular pancake.

Topped with warm pesto, we had the pleasure during dinner of  experiencing something truly new under the sun. Gluten free to boot. Great for dinner, I can’t wait to serve these for a brunch and convert a whole new crew of doubters to the concept of a broccoli pancake.

No where is pesto more perfect than on a broccoli pancake.

 It’s fairly recently that I’ve  started pushing the envelope of pesto possibilities, stirring in a tablespoon of pesto here, spreading it liberally there, and discovering more and more reasons to love pesto.

Pesto is simply amazing.  Packed with more flavor per square centimeter than any other item on the savory shelf, it also serves as a vehicle for some of the finest superfoods out there — garlic, olive oil, fresh herbs, walnuts, lemon juice. One could almost make an argument for popping a pesto capsule on days when it did not make it onto the plate.Basil, parmesan, garlic, olive oil, lemon

What we’re talking about here are dishes that incorporate pesto — not recipes for pesto. But first, a few words on pesto itself. Earlier this year, I experimented with a Basil Arugula Parsley Pesto, which became my standby.  Recently, I took a crack at a Basil Almond Pesto, and even though I’m thinking that might be my new  go-to, I’ll never tire of  new pesto possibilities. My only rule when making pesto: make a lot. A refrigerator that’s stocked with this wildly versatile standby tends to spark the creative juices.

Lots of Pesto. Lost of Possibilities.
Lots of Pesto. Lots of Possibilities.

Here are some more of the ways that pesto has managed to spice up our lives lately.

I bought a few ears at the Farmer’s Market. Shucked them. Immersed them in boiling water for a few minutes and was about to bring them to the table with a stick of butter and a shaker of salt — like I’ve done since I was 10 years old — and I stopped myself in my tracks thinking, “I wonder what a little pesto would be like instead.”  There are those who would advocate mixing half butter and half pesto, and that’s one way to go. We went for straight pesto and loved it.

A new twist on a 4th of July favorite.
A new twist on a summer favorite.

Pesto Pilaf. A side dish doesn’t get much easier (or better) than this: One cup of brown rice, 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the water is fully absorbed. Stir in 2 Tbsp. of pesto. Top with toasted, sliced almonds. Perfect.

A little pesto and a 30-second rice makeover
A little pesto and a 30-second rice makeover

Cheese and Pesto Sandwich. A cheese sandwich began as a very blah lunch-on-the run until I eyed some pesto in the fridge, spread some pesto on a slice of whole wheat bread, and added a slice of cheddar along with a few arugula leaves. The transformation to an entirely new sandwich stratosphere was immediate.

The next day, Sarah took the same concept and grilled it. Even better.

A cheese sandwich is something entirely different when pesto enters the picture.

Pesto/Lemon Dressing. Equal parts pesto and fresh squeezed lemon juice. That’s all it takes to unseat the standard Dijon vinaigrette.

A fresh and flavor-intense salad dressing with a twist
A fresh and flavor-intense salad dressing with a twist
A perfect summer salad
A perfect summer salad

 

Pesto Frittata. Fun with frittatas — brunch, lunch or dinner — is a big theme around our kitchen these days. A recent addition of a tablespoon of pesto into five beaten eggs, took a  potato, onion and tomato frittata up several notches.

The tastes of summer in a simple frittata
The tastes of summer in a simple frittata

Pesto Omlette. And next we have the obvious extension of the pesto frittata. Two large eggs, a tablespoon of pesto spread in the center, and about a half tablespoon on top.

2 eggs, a little pesto and a perfect start to the day

Baked Salmon with Pesto. Once again, pesto comes to the rescue. 30 seconds is all it takes to transform a plain plank of salmon into a perfectly moist and flavor-packed filet.  Spread about 2 Tbsp. of pesto across the skinless side of a 1 to 1 1/2 pound salmon filet. Wrap in foil and bake in a preheated 450 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Preparation time: less than a minute
Preparation time: less than a minute

Pesto Salmon Cakes. I’m a big proponent of always having a can of wild-caught sockeye salmon on the shelf  (as well as a container of pesto in the fridge),  because it means that Pesto Salmon Cakes will always be an option. One 14 1/2 oz. can of red salmon, 3 Tbsp. of  pesto, 2 eggs and 2 slices of whole wheat bread ground into crumbs, and that’s it.

Canned red salmon and pesto are the basis for the best-ever salmon cake.
Canned red salmon and pesto are the basis for the best-ever salmon cake.

Pesto Croutons. Bill could not be a bigger fan of homemade croutons and pesto couldn’t be a more perfect crouton mix. Combine 2 cups of cut up cubes of bread with 3 tablespoons of pesto mixed in with additional olive oil to ensure that the pesto spreads evenly. Toss gently until all of the bread cubes are coated and toast in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20 minute. Toss again after about 10 minutes and monitor closely to ensure croutons don’t burn.

So tasty that they may not make it onto a salad or into soup.
So tasty that they may not make it onto a salad or into soup.

Pesto Pasta. Serving as the poster child of this blog’s Auto Pilot page, pasta with pesto is where my love of pesto began — and the point from which is did not stray for many years.

Back to the pesto basics: Pasta, pesto and a little parmesan
Back to the pesto basics: Pasta, pesto and a little parmesan

Broccoli Pesto. And for a variation on the basic pasta with pesto, steam broccoli for a good seven minutes and mash it with a fork along with a few tablespoons of pesto. Mix with hot pasta and top with parmesan.

Pesto mashed in with a few tablespoons of well steamed broccoli and voila: broccoli pesto
Pesto mashed in with a few tablespoons of well steamed broccoli and voila: broccoli pesto

 

Greek Week Superfood Recap

A very shallow dive into the Mediterranean Diet over the past week or so revealed that it does not require knowledge of the fish that swim in the Mediterranean Sea or the produce that grows near the shores of Alexandria or Morocco. That’s a good thing, because I did a little Google search on the fish that swim in the Mediterranean and found neither tuna nor salmon. What I did find was a very long list that included the Monrovia Doctor Fish, the Mediterranean Sand Eel, the Highfin Lizardfish and the Blackmouth Splitin — all of which sound scary and none of which are available at a fish counter in Austin.

Last week was indeed a big week for learning. After writing about some of my favorite foods, I’ve learned, once and for all how to spell tzatziki and spanakopita. So I’ve got that going for me.

Best as I can figure, aside from the absolute requirement of olive oil (cold pressed extra virgin) the Mediterranean Diet is fairly open ended, and just calls for a diet that’s centered around

  • Nuts, legumes and seeds,
  • Whole grains,
  • Fruits and vegetables,
  • Fish, and of course,
  • OLIVE OIL!

It seems a given that we also need to add to the list: LOTS OF GARLIC.

Here’s a list of the recipes that I had fun with over the past week or so, along with a few other recent posts that appear worthy of inclusion in the Mediterranean Diet.

 Quinoa Burgers (or Patties) with Tzatziki

Delicious on a salad or as a burger: quinoa with tzatziki
Delicious on a salad or as a burger: quinoa with tzatziki

 Walnut, Feta and Grape Salad

When purple grapes stand in for kalamata olives, a Greek salad takes on a whole new vibe
When purple grapes stand in for kalamata olives, a Greek salad takes on a whole new vibe

A Salad Nicoise Variation

 

A salad where simple ingredients all sit distinct in their own little corner is a very appealing concept --especially among kids.
A salad where simple ingredients all sit distinct in their own little corner is a very appealing concept –especially among kids.

An Olive Oil, Parsley and Garlic Spread

 

Garlic, Parsley, Olive Oil and a little salt: More flavor per square cm. than almost any spread out there.
Garlic, parsley, olive oil and a little salt: More flavor per square cm. than almost any spread out there.

 A Lentil, Rice and Vegetable Salad

A lentil recipe that's fresh and colorful -- versus the all-too-often stodgy status of the lentil
A lentil recipe that’s fresh and colorful — versus the all-too-often stodgy status of the lentil

A Phyllo-Free Spanakopita with Kale

Lighter than a quiche and packed with not just any dark, leavy greens -- but Kale, the king of the greens..
Lighter than a quiche and packed with not just any dark, leavy greens — but Kale, the king of the greens..

 A Citrusy Variation on Rice Pilaf

A Zesty Rice Pilaf with Orange Zest, Raisins, Green Onions, and Almonds
A Zesty Rice Pilaf with Orange Zest, Raisins, Green Onions, and Almonds

A Spinach Salad with Strawberries and an Orange Vinaigrette

 

A festive and refreshing strawberry and spinach salad with red onions and feta.
A festive and refreshing strawberry and spinach salad with red onions and feta.

A  Tomato Soup with Fresh Herbs

 

A hearty blend of tomatoes, vegetables and herbs in a soup that takes the basic tomato up a notch.
A hearty blend of tomatoes, vegetables and herbs in a soup that takes the basic tomato up a notch.

A Pasta Salad of Tuna, Kalamata, Olives and Feta

 

A salad to jump start your Mediteranean diet
The entire Mediteranean diet in one salad: fish, feta, olives, olive oil, tomatoes, greens

A Roasted Salmon over Greens and Roasted Vegetables

Elegant and easy salmon with roasted vegetables
A colorful, crowd-pleasing and easy mix of salmon and vegetables