quinoa with corn, avocado, tomato, & lime

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Corn and tomatoes.  I don’t know about you, but those are the two foods I absolutely CRAVE in August.  Last Sunday, I made this corn soup recipe again.  One of my favorite things about this soup is that you make your own vegetable broth, with plenty of extra to freeze and save or use right away for a different recipe.  Usually I like to make a risotto with my leftover broth — such as this zucchini risotto with shrimp or this red wine mushroom risotto.  But, lately my mom and I have been on a bit of a quinoa kick.  What we like to do is make a big batch of quinoa salad on Sunday and then take it to work for lunch throughout the week.

This recipe is really great because it is healthy, packed with flavor, and surprisingly filling and satisfying!  The jalapeño and lime adds a southwestern tastiness, and the avocado is what makes it feel like a complete lunch.  I find that without something containing some fat (healthy, unsaturated fat such as in avocado or nuts) in salads that I intend to eat as a meal, I am just not as satisfied!

all chopped up ready to go

quinoa with corn, avocado, tomato, & lime

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion, from one small onion
  • 1 cup tri-color quinoa
  • 1-2/3 cup corn broth (see recipe here) or store-bought vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes
  • corn kernels from 2 cobs (cooked or uncooked, your preference — I used uncooked)*
  • 2 scallions, white and green parts thinly sliced
  • 1 small jalapeño, seeded, membranes removed, and finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley (or cilantro if you like)
  • 2 Tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 avocado, cut into bite-sized chunks

Method

Rinse the quinoa if not pre-washed.  Do this by placing quinoa in a fine mesh strainer (so seeds cannot fall through) and running under cold water until there are no longer suds. This removes bitter-tasting saponins from the seed. Then shake the quinoa dry in the strainer.

suds                                     no suds

Heat olive oil over in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes).  Add quinoa to the pan and stir constantly for 3-5 minutes, until quinoa is toasted and thoroughly mixed with the onions.  Add the corn/vegetable broth and turn up the heat and bring to a boil.  Turn down the heat and cover with a lid, simmering for 20 minutes, until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked. Fluff quinoa with a fork, then transfer to a bowl and cool in refrigerator.

When quinoa is cool, add chopped vegetables.  Make sure to add the avocado last and squeeze the lime juice over it (the acid helps prevent the avocado from turning brown quickly).

*Quick tip on cutting corn off the cob:  Place the fat end of the corn perpendicular to a pie plate and slice down with a large, sharp knife.  The pie plate will catch all most of the flying kernels!

cuttin' the corn                                        kernels

How I eat it: cold for lunch, maybe with some fruit on the side for something sweet!

Recipe adapted from: Once Upon A Chef

quinoa close up

pan-seared scallops in herb butter sauce

So, I planned on blogging weekly this summer. As you can probably tell, that did not happen.  Here’s my excuse: I get things done when I’m under pressure. That’s just the way I am. If I have a million things to do, I will get a million and one things done. This summer I was a big bum with no job. (My excuse here being that I am starting a graduate program in Environmental Toxicology at NYU this fall and after a stressful year teaching high school I deserved a break ..maybe not a 3 month break, but a break!) So basically, since I was a bum, absolutely nothing got done until it really had to.  Even though I truly enjoy blogging, it’s a task, and I didn’t want to complete tasks. Trust me, I cooked A LOT and took a ton of pictures, but I never got around to actually posting everything. Anyway, enough ranting about my summer of extreme procrastination..

I’m sure many of you are feeling a bit grim that it is Labor Day weekend and the school year is upon us, but I am here to bring you one last taste of summer! My family and I first had this recipe at our neighbor’s house last summer and since then we have enjoyed it as a light and fresh sunday summer meal.  The local farmer’s market always has sea scallops (DO NOT use bay scallops – ick!) so we pick up about a pound of those along with a nice baguette and voila! add a salad and it’s a meal.

Pan-Seared Scallops in Herb Butter Sauce

Ingredients (serves 3)

Scallops:

  • 1 lb. large fresh sea scallops
  • 1 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Herb Butter Sauce:

  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbs. finely diced shallot
  • 1/4 c. white wine
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
  • Lemon wedges, for serving

Method

Rinse the scallops under cold water. Pat the scallops dry with paper towel. (If the scallops are not completely dry, you will not get a nice brown sear.) Season both sides of the scallops with salt and pepper.

Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and butter and heat until butter is starting to brown. Place the scallops in the skillet in a single layer about 1 inch apart from each other. Sear until one side is browned (about 2-4 minutes). Using tongs, turn the scallops over and sear until the second side is browned (another 2-4 minutes). Transfer the scallops to a plate.

To make the sauce, lower the pan to medium heat and add half of the 3 Tbsp. of butter. Then add shallots and saute until tender (about 2 minutes). Add the wine and lower the heat to low. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. Add the herbs, lemon zest, and the rest of the butter.

Return scallops and accumulated juices to the pan and coat the scallops in the sauce. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.

Recipe adapted from Fine Cooking

How I eat it: with fresh bread and salad on the side

 So a little note to end the post – enjoy every last bit of summer, but don’t dread the fall. Look forward to pumpkin spiced goodies and apple crisp! Embrace autumn as it settles in. (It’s my personal favorite!)

red wine chicken & mushroom risotto

In my last post I went on about how much I love dinner.  The food, the company, etc.  Well, get ready for more of the mushy stuff. Two weeks ago, my aunt and uncle from Florida came up to visit.  I am always looking forward to their stay because we can count on an adventure into the city, some fun and relaxing nights at home, and this year we spent a day on Fire Island as well.  Considering we only see them once, sometimes twice, a year, it always feels really special to catch up and spend some time together in person. The night they arrived I offered to cook dinner for them, my parents, brother, and grandparents.  I dug this old chicken recipe up as I was putting together my recipe book — a topic for a whole other post! Red wine chicken was probably one of the first things I ever cooked for my family (years ago!).  Before my Food & Wine and Bon Appetit reading days, Allrecipes.com was my source for new dishes and that is where I found this simple and tasteful recipe.

To re-debut the chicken, I paired it with mushroom risotto.  Risotto is one of my favorite sides — you can switch up the flavors to complement almost any meat, fish, or simply veggies! We also had green beans (made special by my dad with his favorite seasoning), and a salad courtesy of my Oma (who always puts together the freshest, most delicious salads!).

        

Red Wine Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

Ingredients (serves 8)

For the risotto:

  • 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. butter
  • 2  lbs. mushrooms, sliced (I used white since they were on sale, but cremini or shitake would add nice flavor)
  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock OR vegetable stock
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the chicken:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I prefer thin-sliced)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup red wine (I always use wines that you would drink)

Method

For the risotto:

In medium saucepan, bring stock to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  In a large saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tbsp. olive oil and 1 tbsp. butter.  Once hot, add mushrooms and a bit of salt and pepper, and allow mushrooms to soften and brown (about 10 minutes).  Remove mushrooms and juices and set aside.  Add the rest of the olive oil and butter to the same pan.  Add the onion and garlic and saute until tender (~3-5 minutes).  Add arborio rice and stir with a wooden spoon, making sure that the rice is coated with olive oil/butter.  This assures that your risotto won’t be clumpy/sticky.  Add the red wine and stir until absorbed.  Add 1 cup of stock and stir until nearly absorbed.  Continue adding 1/2 cup of stock at a time and stirring each time until nearly absorbed. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and coated in a creamy sauce.  Add the thyme, parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.

For the chicken: 

Season both sides of the chicken breasts with salt and pepper. Over medium-high heat, coat a large skillet with olive oil.  Add garlic and saute until tender (1-2 minutes).  Brown the chicken, in batches if necessary (about 5 minutes on each side).  It is okay if the chicken is not cooked through yet — you do not want it to dry out later!  Drain the oil from the skillet and add all the chicken to the pan.  Sprinkle with the paprika and brown sugar and pour red wine around the chicken.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, occasionally basting the chicken with the sauce, until chicken is cooked through.

Chicken recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com

Mushroom risotto recipe adapted from Whole Foods Classic Risotto Recipe

How I eat it: always with a some chicken and risotto in the same bite!

       

roasted potatoes

Roasted potatoes are such an easy, versatile, and delicious side dish – one of my favorites! Some chicken cutlets, skirt steak, or a nice salmon fillet, in my opinion these potatoes are compatible with just about any meat or fish. Also, the ingredients are few and basic, which is always a plus for those weekday nights when you’re trying to put a decent meal together. The key is to not peel the potatoes and to cook them long enough so that the skin becomes a crispy little jacket to each piece of potato. Since they take about 45 minutes to roast, I like to get them in the oven first thing and then take care of the rest of the meal.

Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 5-6 fresh red or white-skinned potatoes, washed, NOT peeled, and quartered
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed through a garlic press
  • freshly ground pepper
  • kosher salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 425°. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and stir so potatoes become evenly coated with olive oil and seasonings. Spread potatoes out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast potatoes for at least 45 minutes, flipping 2-3 times with a spatula. Remove from oven when browned and crisp and serve immediately.

How I eat it: straight out of the oven, picking out all the crispiest pieces =)

Some other ideas for this recipe:

  • When I have fresh rosemary on hand, I like to chop it up and add it into the bowl with the potatoes, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.
  • On occasion, I’ll sprinkle the roasted potatoes with freshly grated Parmesan cheese after they come out of the oven.
  • Also, fresh, chopped parsley makes a nice garnish when serving these potatoes.

gazpacho

Once summer hit, all I wanted was soup.  I don’t know why but despite the heat, I craved vegetable soups.  The summer corn soup I made a month or so ago was more than satisfying, but then my cousin sent me a recipe for another summer soup that renewed my craving: gazpacho.  Gazpacho is a cold, tomato-based soup with Spanish origins.  I had never had it before, but what could be bad about pureeing a bunch of fresh raw vegetables together and letting the flavors meld together overnight.

                                           

Recipe adapted from Ori’s mom via my cousin Rachel

How I eat it: garnished with some fresh basil the next day (the longer it sits, the better the flavor)