Sunday, February 22, 2009

Brown Butter Quinoa With Pine Nuts

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-WAH) is an amazing grain that is versatile, delicious, and really healthful. It is very high in protein (for a grain, anyway), and is therefore the perfect addition to the vegetarian diet.

An important thing to note about quinoa: it needs to be rinsed extremely well under running water before cooking it. The grain is covered in a soapy/bitter-tasting substance called a "saponin". It tastes HORRIBLE. I once forgot the rinsing step and the quinoa was inedible. I just rinse mine in a fine-meshed colander under a steady spray of water for about a minute, and that does the trick.

Quinoa is very flexible; one of my favorite ways to eat it is just with a little butter and parmesan, with fried egg on top. You can also eat it sweet, almost like oatmeal, with a little brown sugar and milk. You can substitute cooked quinoa for cous cous for a punch of nutrition and flavor.

I normally use this flavor combo for pasta, and it is amazing. I wanted, however, to make the dish a little more nutritious so I decided to substitute cooked quinoa for the cooked pasta... and was thrilled with the results. This could suffice as a main dish for a veg-head (especially if you tossed in some steamed or roasted vegetables), but would be equally at home alongside a roasted chicken or piece of fish.

*ingredient note: please use real parmesan. A block of imported parmesano reggiano is best (should have "parmesano reggiano" printed in dots on the rind), but you can use the american "parmesan" as long as it's not the sawdust-in-a-green can stuff. Asiago also is a good stand-in cheese.


  • 1 cup of quinoa (dry), rinsed and cooked according to package directions (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, usually)

  • 2 TBS butter

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts

  • pinch of salt

  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese*, plus a little extra for garnish

Cook quinoa. I actually do this in a steamer, but on the stovetop is fine. Just read the package. It should take about half an hour. You can do that step way ahead if you need/want to. In a saucepan, heat butter and pine nuts over medium heat until the butter starts to foam and brown a little. You need to stir/toss the nuts often so they don't burn on one side. As the butter browns, the pine nuts will toast nicely in the sauce. Be really careful not to let the butter burn, or it will ruin the entire dish. Just past the foamy stage is about right -- you will notice a toffee/nutty scent to the butter as it starts to turn a golden brown color. Remove from heat. Toss in the cooked quinoa, a pinch of salt, and the grated parmesan. Stir to mix. Season with more salt if needed. Sprinkle a little extra grated parmesan on top.

This will make 2 main dish servings or 4 side dish servings. Can easily be doubled.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Indian Wedding Soup

This post is more one of cooking philosophy than an actual recipe... the reason there's no recipe is because this dish took so much tweaking that I couldn't keep track of all of the amounts of everything. Indian food (when it's done right) is such a balance of sweet, savory, sour and salty. There are times when I think a pot of curry is absolutely ruined, but then I add a pinch of sugar and an extra squeeze of lemon and the entire dish is saved.

This soup was an exercise in re-interpretation of the original version of a dish. Italian wedding soup, for those of you who've never had it, is a chicken broth based soup with small meatballs, spinach, and acini de pepe pasta. Instead of italian meatballs, I used the lamb-burger recipe ( ) that I posted in December to make little tiny meatballs. I broiled them to avoid having to turn little tiny meatballs with little tiny tongs. I browned some onion, then added chicken stock and Indian spices. Rounded it out with some lemon, cilantro, and a little honey. I then added the meatballs to the soup, and threw in a large handful of Israeli cous cous. Simmered for about 15 more minutes, then served it with some crisply baked naan (thanks, Trader Joe's).

This is a great example of how you can take a traditional dish and keep the spirit of the original while completely experimenting with the flavors. I challenge you to take one of your favorite meals and try to re-interpret it... you might just find that you have a new favorite.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cider-Roasted Pork Loin

This is basically an adaptation of the beef roast recipe I posted a few weeks ago. Instead of using a beef roast, it uses pork loin. Hard cider stands in for the beer. It would be great alongside some sauteed cabbage or roasted potatoes.


2 pork loins (you could use just one if you don't want leftovers)
2 TBS olive oil
1 TBS butter
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground preferred
1 bay leaf
1 12 oz. bottle of hard cider - the dryer (less sweet) the better
zest from one orange

In oven-proof sautee pan or dutch oven, brown pork loin(s) in the olive oil over med-high heat until nicely browned. Remove from pan. Add onions and butter, sautee until onions start to brown. Add bay leaf, salt, pepper, and cider. Stir to deglaze pan. Add pork, cover, and bake in a 325 degree oven for about 2.5 hrs or until pork is tender. Remove pork to serving platter, cover with foil to keep warm. Strain cooking liquid, add orange zest, and reduce over med-high heat by about half. Pour over pork. Serve.

I plan on tossing the leftovers with some barbecue sauce for pulled pork sandwiches. Oh, and regular apple cider could of course be used as a replacement for the hard cider.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Everything That's Wrong With the American Diet: Chili-Cheesedog Dip

There are no photos because frankly (no pun intended), this looks like crap in a crockpot. It tastes, however, EXACTLY like a chili dog with cheese. So if you're into that, try this out. If not, my apologies for appearing to have the absolute worst diet on the face of the planet.


2 cans of Hormel Chili with beans
1/2 lb (half of the small box) Velveeta
1 tsp yellow mustard
1 tsp Frank's Hot Sauce
10 hot dogs (Hebrew National are my personal favorite), grilled or pan-fried until dark
1 onion, chopped finely and sauteed in butter until brown

In saucepan, mix first 4 ingredients over low-medium heat until cheese is melted all the way. Chop cooked hot dogs into small rounds and add along with onions to the dip mixture. Stir until combined. Put into crock pot over low to keep warm. Serve with Fritos. Watch your rear end expand before your very eyes.