Category Archives: Cooking

Cooking with Quinoa

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is a light, fluffy, edible seed. I like its slightly nutty taste. Eating quinoa makes me feel healthy, too, knowing it is extremely nutritious. It’s very high in protein, so for you guys (and gals) looking for a meat substitute for Meatless Mondays or the Lent season, make some quinoa.

Cooked red quinoa
Cooked red quinoa

The usual variety of quinoa is white. There is also a red variety that is nice for added color such as in salads. Cooking quinoa is easy and quick. Here’s my basic recipe: 1 cup quinoa; scant 2 cups water (slightly less for cooking al dente such as for salads); a touch of salt.  Bring to boil. Cover and simmer until water is absorbed (about 15 minutes).

The main ingredients - parsley, green onions and quinoa
The main ingredients - parsley, green onions and quinoa

Here’s one way I’ve used quinoa for a healthy salad. The idea was spawned when I saw a lovely, huge bunch of flat parsley at the local German Coast Farmer’s Market. I paired my purchase with a bunch of spring onions, then headed home while wondering the best use for these goodies.

The idea for Tabouli Salad popped into my head. I had never myself made Tabouli, but had it at a Chicago restaurant a few years ago. I love parsley anyway, so loving Tabouli is not a stretch given that its main ingredient is chopped parsley. I did a few quick Google searches to review recommended recipes. Then per my usual cooking style, ad libbed with what I had on hand.

The cooked quinoa along with other ingredients
The cooked quinoa along with other salad ingredients

I basically followed the Tabouli Salad recipe at food.com, substituting red organic red quinoa for the bulgur (cracked wheat) and added fresh mint. Then there were a few other minor changes because of what I had on hand (see photo). I also took it up a notch by adding some cayenne pepper and extra freshly ground black pepper. (I have totally adopted the taste for spicy hot food here in Louisiana.)

Tabouli Salad with Quinoa
Tabouli Salad with Quinoa - Healthy and Delicious

Why not plan a meal with quinoa sometime this week?

 

Brussels Sprouts with Indian Seasonings

We’re not only in Lent season, but today is also Meatless Monday. So I wanted to tell you about another tasty vegetable dish I concocted. I call it Brussels Sprouts with Indian Seasonings.

I actually made this dish a little while back, but just had not gotten around to pulling the photos and a blog article together to show you. That means you might have to use frozen instead of fresh Brussels sprouts due to seasonal availability, but I think that should work out similarly. Before beginning the cooking, I slice the Brussels sprouts in half so that the flavorings can more easily permeate them during the later stir-frying. I also thinly slice a medium-sized onion and set that aside.

The cleaned and cut Brussels sprouts
The cleaned and cut Brussels sprouts

I can’t claim much creativity in concocting this dish, as it basically is Madhur Jaffrey’s “Stir-Fried Green Cabbage with Fennel Seeds” from page 94 of the book Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. After all, Brussels sprout is in the same family as cabbage. I actually liked this recipe used with the Brussels sprouts better than shredded cabbage, maybe because there is more ‘body’ to the Brussels sprouts.

I always love the balance of seasonings in Jaffrey’s recipes, so I used the proportions in her recipe for the flavoring ingredients: fennel seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds, salt, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and garam marsala.

After heating up a couple of tablespoons of peanut oil in a wok, I sizzled the spices briefly to release their aromas. I just love this part. I like to have all the seasonings measured beforehand, as this part of the assembly process goes very fast. Then add the thinly sliced onion and stir-fry a couple of minutes until the “just browning stage”. Then toss in the Brussels sprouts and stir-fry to the degree of doneness you prefer.

Ingredients assembled in the wok
Ingredients assembled in the wok

Total cooking time goes quickly — about 10 to 12 minutes total, including time for sizzling the spices and browning the onions. You might like to cook the Brussels Sprouts longer, but I personally find they taste better when not overcooked and mushy. If you start with previously frozen Brussels sprouts, the cooking time might be even less.

The finished dish - Brussels Sprouts with Indian Seasonings
The finished dish - Brussels Sprouts with Indian Seasonings

Yumm. For other savory meatless dishes, check out my February 6th article Meatless Doesn’t Have To Be Tasteless.

p.s. A shout-out to my fellow bloggers in this month’s challenge.

V7N Blog Challenge with a Twist

Meatless Doesn’t have to be Tasteless

It’s been a while since I’ve revisited the cooking section here. On this “leisure Sunday”, I thought I’d introduce a couple more savory vegetarian dishes I’ve made recently that I really liked, and re-share others that I think are outstanding. In fact, if you advocate Meatless Monday, this might be just in time for you to plan for a different kind of dish tomorrow.

It’s not that I have anything against meat … I just have found that I haven’t had the desire to eat meat as often, or in as large quantities, as before. During the summer, I love salads and there are all kinds of great ways to make them interesting and never boring. But during the colder weather, I’m more inclined to hot cooked vegetable dishes.

If you’ve been following my previous posts, you know that I have been going through recipes in Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking. There are recipes for meat dishes in this cookbook, but what is especially appealing for me are all the fantastic ways of making flavorful vegetable dishes without the addition of a zillion calories or cholesterol. (Yes, I admit that before this discovery of such tasteful Indian-spiced vegetable recipes, I would just add butter, cheese and … well you get the idea.)

Here’s a quick run-down of my favorite vegetable dishes from this cookbook so far:

Cauliflower with Ginger, Garlic, and Green Chiles
Cauliflower with Ginger, Garlic, and Green Chiles

Cauliflower with Ginger, Garlic, and Green Chiles. We’ve made this twice already, so you know it’s got to be good. I don’t even miss the cheese sauce! Instead, I used (as pretty much called for in the recipe)

  • a bit of vegetable oil for releasing the spice fragrances and browning (I used peanut oil)
  • cumin seeds
  • yellow mustard seeds
  • garlic, peeled and chopped
  • fresh ginger, peeled and shredded
  • fresh cauliflower broken apart into florets
  • green hot chiles, sliced including seeds
  • a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • garam marsala (this is a common Indian spice which is actually a combination of fragrant spices; this Wikipedia article will help you substitute if you don’t have a source; I’m still using some from Williams & Sonoma because I had it on hand, but will be mixing my own in the future)
  • a touch of cayenne pepper (you can adjust this to your liking, but I tend to go heavy on cayenne because my adopted New Orleans taste likes it hot!)
Garlicky Mushroom Marsala
Garlicky Mushroom Marsala

Garlicky Mushroom Masala Omelet. This is not strictly vegetarian because of the eggs. But I wanted to include it because I think you would enjoy it if you allow eggs in your diet. I am not sure why this recipe is titled “garlicky”. I do not consider it to have a lot of garlic in it, but then again I am used to our New Orleans cooking where we are known to often use tons of garlic. This is probably the prettiest omelet that I have made that actually held together, lol. I used

  • eggs (of course)
  • a bit of salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • a bit of vegetable oil for releasing the spice fragrances and sautéing (I used peanut oil)
  • black mustard seeds (you could use yellow)
  • garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • sliced scallions (green onions)
  • green hot chile, sliced including seeds
  • cilantro
  • grated fresh ginger
  • chopped fresh Roma tomatoes

Also, here are other vegetarian dishes from last month if you didn’t catch them at that time, or just want to review:

Mushroom Curry

Whole Green Lentils with Cilantro and Mint

Stir-Fried Green Cabbage with Fennel Seeds

Hope this has helped give you some more ideas to spice up your menu. I’d love to hear how you bring variety to your vegetable dishes, too.

A bounteous harvest of Thai peppers

I feel like singing a jingle something along the lines of “pick a peck of peppers”. Amazingly, my single Thai pepper plant I grew this summer, was still going strong all through the fall and into winter. It was approaching 5 feet tall and was huge around, just loaded with dense peppers everywhere. I’ve had such a bounteous harvest! Yes, these slim little guys grow upwards like this. Aren’t they cute?

Thai peppers grow upwards to the sky
Thai peppers grow upwards to the sky

Do you need any Thai chili peppers? I have plenty, plenty to share.

Picked dried Thai peppers (with stems removed)
Picked dried Thai peppers (with stems removed)

I don’t actually have a peck, but it certainly has felt like I was reaching that quantity after picking, and picking, and picking some more. In case you do not know, a peck is 2 gallons = 8 quarts i.e. 1/4 bushel. At just about 2 inches in length, these slim peppers pack really tight into a container … meaning a peck of them would be … well, way more than I am willing to count. Here’s a photo comparing a U.S. quarter to the size of these peppers.

The peppers average about 2 inches long
Even just one of these small Thai peppers can impart an incredibly hot, spicy punch to your favorite dish

Even a small container will probably last anyone quite a while, because just one can really spice up a dish. These things are hot-hot. Good thing we like hot, spicy food here in New Orleans, lol.

It was a bonus that I enjoyed a colorful plant all through the summer, fall and even into the winter. The cut stems of plant while the peppers are drying make colorful decorations, too.

Thai peppers are colorful decorative plants
Thai peppers are colorful decorative plants

I’ve now cut back the plant to the ground, but am already seeing new growth. Looks like there could be even more hot peppers from this same plant in the future. I guess I should name it Pick-A-Peck-O-Peppers.

“Curry”-less Mushroom Curry

I misspoke yesterday when I said I was going to make a dish with “fresh mushrooms, curry and other Indian spices”. It just dawned on me that I never got out the curry powder when I was making this last night. I re-checked the receipe (“Mushroom Curry” on page 84 of Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking) and sure enough, there is no ingredient called for by the name of “curry”.

Ah! Ah! I searched around and found this on Wikipedia:
“Curry … is a generic description used throughout Western culture to describe a variety of spiced dishes, especially from Indian or other South Asian cuisines.”

So if you have thought like I did, that curry meant something hot and spicy, that is not necessarily the case. It is similar to the term ‘stew’ in that there does not have to be any particular ingredient, or even one that is named curry!

After I’ve been going on and on about this Mushroom Curry dish, you probably are wondering what I am talking about.

Here is a photo where I am stir-frying the paste of fresh ginger, onion and garlic. I couldn’t continue taking pictures during this stage because I had to be diligent in moving the mixture around until it reached the stage of golden brown. This reminds me of the process of making a rue that is fundamental to so many of the cajun and creole dishes here in southern Louisiana.

Stir-frying the rue
Stir-frying the rue

Then other ingredients are added: some plain yogurt, a bit of tomato paste, ground coriander, salt, a touch of cayenne pepper, water and mushrooms that had previously been lightly stir-fried. Simmer covered for a few minutes, then garnish with a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.

Mushroom Curry - Cooked in the wok and ready to go
Mushroom Curry - Cooked and ready to go

I served it on the plate over some Basmati rice.

Mushroom Curry served over Basmati Rice
Mushroom Curry served over Basmati Rice

Delicious, imho. Wish you could have been here to enjoy it with me.