Sunday, August 21, 2011

Blueberry Basil Quinoa Tabouli Salad

Today was one of those days where I felt like I needed a break from too much rich food.  Too many sweets and indulgence on Saturday was the problem, but luckilly I had lots of fresh produce in my fridge.  Nothing but fresh, cool vegetables or fruit was sounding good to me for dinner.  I had a large container of blueberries from Wisconsin that were some of the best I have tasted in years, plus a large pile of cucumbers from my Grandpa's garden so I decided that those two things needed to be included in whatever I decided to make.  For some reason quinoa tabouli came to mind.  It is a favorite of mine in the summer, classic, or a twist changing up the veggies and dressing.  Although I had some tomatoes from my Grandpa's garden as well, I decided swap them out for blueberries to be a little different and not make classic tabouli this time! 

I threw in basil and toasted almonds, and it was delicious!  It was a little like original tabouli in that it contained mint, cucumbers, lemon and garlic, but it was something a little different as well!  I had used a mixture of black and white quinoa because I enjoy both, but it made the salad a little more appealing to the eyes as well as the taste buds.  It was fresh, and like something you would enjoy at a spa, or a light dinner to leave you feeling healthy.  The berries provided welcome little tart sweet pops of flavor among the savory ingredients! So much for feeling yuck from over indulgence.  Here is the recipe if you would like to try it!

Blueberry Basil Quinoa Tabouli Salad

2 cups water
1 cup quinoa, rinsed (I used a mixture of black and white)
1 cup fresh organic blueberries
1 large cucumber peeled, seeded and diced small
2 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup fresh organic basil leaves, minced
1/4 cup fresh organic mint, minced
3/4 cup toasted almonds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp lemon zest
1 large garlic clove, minced
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Place quinoa and water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until all the water is absorbed about 15 minutes, or when all the grains have turned from white to transparent, and the spiral-like germ has separated. Drain, and let cool. When quinoa is cool, combine with the berries, cucumber, basil, scallions, and almonds. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, and sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Toss dressing with salad, and chill.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Melange of Roasted Summer Vegetables with Poached Eggs and Basil Chevre Cream

When summer is at its peak, I can think of nothing better than a nice big pile of roasted veg.  Eggplant, corn, peppers, zucchini...I love it all, the beautiful colors like confetti on my plate.  A few nights back I raided my fridge, and found lots of veggies to roast.  I tossed them with a little olive oil, threw them in the oven, combined them, and what resulted was an intensely flavored beautifully colored dinner, just what I crave in the summer.  I call it a melange, because it was many different veggies, contributing different delicious flavors and textures. 

I topped my veggies off with poached eggs for protein, because I love the way they ooze silky rich yolks when you cut into them.  They were the perfect accompaniment to my veggies with some crusty bread for dinner.  I also included a bit of creamy chevre to add some richness and textural contrast to the veggies.  It was a delicious hearty meal showcasing local prouce at its best!  This is the way I feel I should eat every night.  Whatever veggies you have laying around you should try this out, feel free to substitute for my list with veggies local to your neck of the woods! 

Melange of Roasted Summer Vegetables with Poached Eggs and Basil Chevre Cream
Serves 3

Olive oil
1 large eggplant, cut into large dice
2 medium zucchini, halved and sliced thickly
1 cup fresh corn kernals
12 crimini mushrooms
2 red bell peppers, cut julienne
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
sea salt to taste
red pepper flakes, to taste
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 Tbsp fresh oregano
2 Tbsp fresh parsley

Chevre Cream:
3 oz chevre
goat milk (enough to thin)
2 Tbsp fresh basil, minced

Poached eggs:
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp sea salt
3 cups water
6 large organic eggs
To roast veggies, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line 2 large baking sheets with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss eggplant, zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, corn and scallions with just enough oil to coat and spread out on 2 pans.  Roast for about 15 to 20 minutes, until veggies are tender and starting to brown at edges.  Remove from oven.  Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and add garlic.  Saute for a minute until fragrant, then add balsamic, tomatoes, sea salt, red pepper flakes, and let simmer for 10 minutes.  When other veggies are done roasting add them to the pot, along with the herbs and stir to combine.  Remove from heat and keep warm. 
To poach eggs, heat water to a simmer in a medium saucepan with the vinegar and salt. Crack an egg into a ramakin. Stir water with a spoon to swirl, and carefully pour egg into it. Let cook for 3-4 minutes or preferred doneness, and remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate. Repeat with other eggs.
To make chevre cream, mix chevre with just enough goat milk to make it the consistency of sour cream, then stir in basil.
To plate, spoon the veggie mixture between each of 3 plates dividing evenly, then top each with 2 poached eggs and a little of the chevre cream.  Sprinkle eggs with a little fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper if desired.  Serve!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Thai Tofu Lettuce Cups

I am all for simple things for dinner as of lately as it seems like I never have a free moment to just sit.  So last week when I wanted something fast for dinner, I decided that the tofu I had in the fridge was a good option, combined with veggies I simply needed to chop. 

I have seen lettuce wraps on restaurant menus, but they almost always have pork, beef or some other sort of meat...and being vegetarian I would never try them.  But I would try and make some for myself which is exactly what I did with the tofu. 

I combined it with a sweet savory dressing and some local peppers and scallions, then simply wrapped it in lettuce I had bought at the farmer's market.  Super simple, but that is what was needed and it was delicious!  I don't know why I waited until now to try making them! 

I even made a Thai Pineapple Martini to go along with it...and if you are interested the recipe will be on my other blog, Fragrant Vanilla Cake! 

Happy Monday, and hope you all have a wonderful week, even if it may be busy. 

Thai Tofu Lettuce Cups
Serves 2

10 oz tofu, cut into small cubes
1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp peanut oil

1 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp peanut oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 garlic clove, minced

1 red bell pepper, minced
2 scallions, sliced
6 large leaves of lettuce

To make tofu, preheat oven to 475 degrees, line a sheet pan with foil, and spray with non-stick spray.  Toss tofu with tamari and peanut oil and spread out on pan.  Roast for about 15 minutes until starting to brown and remove from oven.  Whisk together dressing ingredients.  In a bowl, combine tofu, pepper and scallions and toss with dressing to coat.  To serve spoon tofu mixture into the lettuce leaves and eat taco style. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cucumber Watermelon Salad with Pecorino Romano, Toasted Pine Nuts and Basil

Last weekend my Grandpa brought me over a bag of home grown cucumbers from his garden and I have been enjoying them all week.  There is simply no substitute for growning them yourself, the ones from the store never taste the same!  I love to simply eat them with hummus for a snack, or blend them up into a cold soup, they are so good!  I was given a watermelon yesterday, and so I thought, what better to pair it with than the cool cucumbers! 

It has been hot and humid all week afterall, and I think we are all in need of a bit of cooling from the inside out.  Nothing complicated here, just the cukes and melon, to which I added a bit of fresh basil from my herb garden and some pine nuts and pecorino romano for richness.  Then to top it off I drizzled it with a bit of lemon juice and basil oil I had on hand.  So refreshing!  Simple summer produce at its best!  This is a wonderful combination you can only enjoy at the peak of summer.  Here is the recipe if you would like to try some for yourself!

Cucumber Watermelon Salad with Pecorino Romano, Toasted Pine Nuts and Basil
Serves 3

1 medium organic cucumber, sliced into rings
1 1/2 cup organic watermelon, cut into chunks
3 Tbsp pine nuts
3/4 oz pecorino romano cheese, shaved
a few fresh basil leaves cut into chiffonade

1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp basil oil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

On each of 3 plates, arrange cucumber and melon decoratively, sprinkle with pine nuts, pecorino and basil leaves.  In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice and basil oil and drizzle over the salads.  Sprinkle with a little sea salt and pepper if desired.