Pablanos Stuffed with Quinoa, Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms

February 27, 2011 § 4 Comments

I’m frugal. I can’t help it; my parents grew up in the Depression. When I see a deal, a quality deal, I take it.

Pablanos stuffed with caramelized onion mushroom quinoa with a side of sweet potato country fries

For instance, several weeks ago Jennifer and I did one of our super grocery shops. Two or three grocery stores, big carts full of everything from toilet paper to hummus to chicken sausage. We drove our cart by the Island of Misfit Produce—the rack of old artichokes, spotty potatoes, soft pears—in our local Stop & Shop. We don’t normally shop from this spot, but for some reason that day we did. Four artichokes, somewhat soft = $1.88 – and they are usually $2 each. Four humongous pablano peppers = $1.88. $1.88? Amazing.

Okay,  so … the peppers. Normally what we do with peppers is we stuff them. We picked up the idea a couple of years ago from an episode of Guy’s Big Bite. He stuffed them with an arborio-style rice, chorizo and maybe some bell peppers. Instead of chorizo we use shrimp; we’ve also used rice, bulgur and quinoa.

The Misfit peppers had a few spots. Whatever. Spots can be removed. Peel it away, cut it out, chop it up—that’s the Great Depression way. And that’s exactly what I did. I removed anything on the pepper that was soft or wimpy. Some looked pretty good – some looked like they were really mangled in the end. But since they were pretty large peppers to begin with, all four turned out to be a good size, regardless of the chunks I removed. In they went into a Ziploc freezer bag and into the freezer.

Remember a few days ago we made a side dish of quinoa with carmelized onions and mushrooms? That’s what we stuffed into the pablanos. The quinoa is easy—here it is:

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups quinoa

Heat chicken stock to boiling. Add quinoa and a pinch or two of salt. Stir. Turn OFF the heat and cover. Let sit for 15 minutes. Yes, it’s that easy. So, listen to this – quinoa has a protein content of about 12% AND it’s a complete protein source. It’s good for you – no need to add hamburger to this, dude.

Okay, so … to this you add caramelized onions and sauteed shitake mushrooms. What we did – actually, what Jennifer did – was caramelized the sweet onions in a pan with fresh thyme. She then removed the onions and put the sliced shitakes right in all that thyme-y, oniony goodness. Mmm, mmmm, mmm.

We combined the onions and mushrooms with the quinoa. Served as bunch as a side dish with fish tacos.

So, with all that leftover quinoa, we stuffed it into those pablanos. We thawed the pablanos several hours beforehand; and stuck them into a 425F oven for about 10 min. That loosened up the skins a bit – just enough to make them not too tough. While that was happening, I warmed up some of the quinoa in a glug of chicken stock AND I added about 6-7 chopped shrimp (cut shrimp in half lengthwise, the crosswise in thirds). Just tuck those shrimpies into the quinoa and turn heat to looooooow. Cover. Let it sit there for just 5 minutes. Turn heat off – you don’t want to overcook the shrimp!

Pablanos out of the oven. Quinoa warm. Stuff them together. Mmmm…. If you have any quinoa left, layer that into the bottom of a cast-iron pan. Put the pablanos on top. Sprinkle with a bit of freshly grated parmasean.Put into a 425F oven for 10 minutes. Dinner is done. And, it’s yummy.

Fish Tacos Fast and Easy

February 25, 2011 § 2 Comments

Without a doubt, the best fish tacos in Boston can be found at La Verdad on Landsdowne. I am right, people. If you beg to differ, please speak up. But I’ve had my share of fish tacos from coast to coast (actually, only on the coasts), and Ken Oringer’s are tops.

Now, I’d love to head on down to La Verdad every single day and have a plateful of those delicacies, but that’s not possible. And we’re still trying to nail down ingredients and technique to replicate those at home. Meanwhile, to satisfy the fish taco craving, we’ve taken a turn at a Boston Globe fish taco recipe. It’s tasty and pretty darn easy.

Slaw

fish taco

Fish taco with red cabbage and carrot slaw and spicy cream

  • 1/4 head red cabbage, shredded
  • 1 large carrot, julienned
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 small lime, juiced
  • handful of cilantro leaves, chopped
  • salt/pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large shallow bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Let it sit for about an hour.

Spicy Cream

  • 1/4-1/3 cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • zest and juice from half a lime
  • hot sauce of your choice

Whisk together yogurt, zest and juice. If it’s too thin/watery, add a touch more yogurt. Add in a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.

Fish

  • 1+ lb. firm white fish. We use tilapia for our fish tacos. We’ve used cod and that’s fine, too. Tilapia is less expensive. So sue me.
  • evoo/salt/pepper

Cut fish into 1/2-in. pieces and place into a small bowl. Add a swig of evoo – about 1 TBS – and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss. If you want to add another level of flavor, go ahead. The original Boston Globe recipe suggests about 1 tsp of cumin. We tried that. It’s fine. Although it gives the fish an off-putting grey-brown color when prepared.

To cook the fish, we take about half of the fish, place it on the tray that comes with your toaster oven, and just broil it in the toaster oven for about 5 minutes. And that’s it – done!

To Assemble

Heat a whole-wheat fajita wrap (the 8-in. size) in a dry pan of medium heat. Fill with about a third of the broiled fish. Top with the cream sauce and slaw. The first batch of broiled fish will make about three tacos. For a dinner for two, have one each, share the other (no, there’s nothing gross about that), and have a side of something like caramelized onion and mushroom quinoa.

While you’re cleaning up the dinner dishes, pop the other half of the fish in the toaster oven for 5 min. It heats up well for a lunchtime fish taco the next day.

Bulgur with Tomatoes and Kale

February 22, 2011 § 1 Comment

Sometimes dinner is just a bowl of gussied-up bulgur. Not that bulgur is meaningless or anything. Not in the least. It’s a whole grain, high in fiber, packed with good nutrition—it’s awesome just for that. Throw in its great taste and texture, it’s a real winner.

But when I say “sometimes dinner is just a bowl of gussied-up bulgur,” I mean some days you just don’t want to put a lot of effort into the evening meal. Aside from pulling a box of frozen somethin’ out of the freezer, fancified bulgur is an easy solution.

Two weekends ago at the Somerville Winter Farmers Market, one of the vendors—she sells Middle Eastern prepared foods—shared a quick-and-easy bulgur recipe with Jennifer and I. Having just come home from a long weekend in Vermont, we decided to take mealtime easy and whip up the bulgur. Jennifer prepped the dish, I stood by and watched. Full credit goes to my favorite chef.

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet onion
  • 1 TBS evoo
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 small bunch kale, washed and roughly torn
  • 1 cup bulgur
  • feta cheese

-Chop onion. In a medium pot, saute onion in olive oil over medium until somewhat translucent. Add tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Heat until bubbling, then turn down to a simmer. Let simmer gently while you prep the kale.

-Add kale to tomato onion mixture, and try to combine with tomatoes, but don’t try too hard. Cover. Let simmer away for 15 minutes.

-After 15 minutes, kale should be mostly cooked. Stir in a cup of bulgur. Cover and let stand for 15 minutes. The bulgur should soften and expand during that time.

-Dish up in bowls as a light meal or spoon alongside an entree. Top with a sprinkling of feta cheese if you wish (and I wish).

 

Peanut Butter Cookies a la Flour

February 19, 2011 § 4 Comments

I have a new baking strategy. About once a week I walk over to the nearby Flour Bakery, scan the luscious goodies within the glass case, and pick something. Just one thing. The intention is try my best to replicate Joanne’s tasty treats.

The first was the oatmeal raisin cookie. If you didn’t get the low-down on this oatmeal experience, look over there in the previous posts. It was an unscheduled lesson in the importance of expiration dates.

But, this is a new day. And a new cookie. Peanut butter. Mmmmm … peanut butter. Hers is a big, wide cookie. Dotted with bits of peanut. Crisp. A hint of salt and, surprisingly, a tad greasy. And a nice peanut butter flavor.

What baking lesson will I learn this time?

I’m happy to report that no catastrophes occurred with this recipe. I followed the recipe to the “t.” All the ingredients were fresh. And the cookies turned out fabulously.(Want the recipe? Buy the Flour cookbook!)

Mmmmm .... peanut butter cookies

But, did I replicate the cookie? No. My batch was lighter in appearance, a bit softer, less salty, and not as greasy. And they didn’t spread as much.

A Flour peanut butter cookie and one of my own

Why? Two reasons. First, the baking process. The recipe says to bake 18-20 minutes (as I recall, I don’t have the book nearby). But because ovens are always fickle things, I prefer to go by the look of the cookie. Joanne says to remove cookies from the oven when the just start to turn golden around the edges, with the middle remaining lighter (again, I don’t have the book with me, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she recommends). And because I prefer a slightly undercooked cookie, I took them out the millisecond I saw the edges browning up.  Yes, I crouched on the floor staring through the oven’s window.

Second, and what I account as the major factor in the differences between the two cookies … the peanut butter. The recipe called for a chunky peanut butter. I happened to have smooth. And unsalted. I had a jar of Teddie natural peanut butter, which tends to be thicker and less oily than those childhood favorites Peter Pan and Jiff. Whatever is in those brands that make them smooth and creamy, Teddie doesn’t have it. And I’m kinda glad it doesn’t. Those cookies rocked.

Dainty Rates: Snickers Peanut Butter

February 17, 2011 § 1 Comment

Snickers Peanut Butter

Bleh. Save your dollar.

I’m a HUGE fan of Snickers from back in the day. Hungry? Grab a Snickers. The original power bar. Chocolate, nougat, caramel, peanuts—it’s all right there and in great proportion. And, it gives your molars and jaw something to really get workin’ on. They aren’t kidding when they say Snickers really satisfies.

So, I’m thinking a peanut butter version of Snickers, let me have it, right? This is gonna be awesome. I LOVE peanut butter.

It’s a dollar I’ll never get back.

Thumbs down, and here’s why:

  • The nougat was too … too … what’s the word … whipped. More like a Musketeer than a Snickers. It didn’t have that Snickers nougat density.
  • And was that nougat supposed to taste like peanut butter? Because that flavor hit me like bad cooking oil.
  • Hello? Peanuts? Did you forget to jump in?
  • Something had a crystalline texture to it. Was it the chocolate? The “caramel”? Whatever it was, I had a mouthful of tiny crystals. Like when you bit into some bad candy. Was that texture there on purpose? Who’d want that?
  • There was no satisfying chew. My jaw was disappointed.
  • It left me feeling heavy. Like I had just too much oil. Not a good feeling.

As a life-long Snickers fan, I was looking for and expecting a Snickers with peanut butter. What I found was nothing like a Snickers. Take the name off it and call it something else, folks, and save your brand.

Dainty Rates: 0 Dots

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

February 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

I’m taking this time while getting an oil change to tell you about this AMAZING soup. This soup is so friggin’ easy and so friggin’ good, you’re gonna scream with the pain of realizing how dumb you’ve been for not making it before. That’s exactly what we did. Actually, we slapped ourselves.

Before I move on, I’m gonna give credit where credit is due. What’s that Mexican show on the Food Network? Mexican Made Easy or something? With the cute bubbly Mexican gal. She cooked up something similar one Saturday morning. In her case, it had a chipotle cream somethin’ somethin’ added at the end. Not needed, especially if you’re hoping to limit unnecessary calories.

Ingredients

  • 1 medium-large butternut squash (2-3 lbs)
  • olive oil
  • salt/pepper
  • 2 medium-large carrots
  • 1 large stalk celery
  • 1 small-medium sweet onion
  • 4+ cups vegetable or chicken stock

-Heat oven to 400F.

-Cut squash in half lengthwise. Leave seeds and such in for now. Sprinkle a bit of olive oil over each half and rub in. Season each half with a pinch of kosher salt and a twist of fresh cracked pepper. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until knife inserts into squash easily. Remove from oven. Let sit until it’s cool enough to handle.

roasted butternut squash

Roasted butternut squash - roasted goodness

-Meanwhile, chop onion, carrot and celery into 1/2-inch pieces. In a 4-quart pot, season vegetables and saute in about 1 tbs olive oil until they start to loosen up a bit – 5 minutes or so.

-When squash is cool enough to handle, scrape the squash from the skin and add to the vegetables. Add enough veggie stock or chicken stock to cover everything. It usually takes about 4-5 cups. Bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for about 30 minutes.

All the goodness cooks together.

-When time’s up, get our your trusty immersion blender and whir away until it ‘s nice and smooth.

Taste that? Good, uh? It’s sweet and savory. Rich and deep. And all that flavor from just those few ingredients. Yup, you and we have been missing out on some serious goodness. Don’t worry, we all feel really stupid about now.

Somerville Winter Farmers Market

February 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

The Somerville Winter Farmers Market has been up and active since January 8th, and why haven’t we been before this weekend?? Maybe because we’re South Enders, and making it all the way over the river and through traffic can be rough-going. Or, maybe it’s been the weather. Or … maybe we just didn’t know what we were going to find. With “farmers markets” you just never know what you’re going to get—sometimes it’s not even food-related, you know? Screen-print shirts, artwork—come on, dude.

We’re happy to say we found lots of food-related stuff in the Armory Building, which is a great place to hold an event like this. Not too big that the vendors get lost. Just large enough to encourage a good traffic flow on the floor. And an upstairs space for overflow vendors and chillin’ and listening to the musicians (Rodriguez someoneorother? Good choice).

Considering the heavens have dumped loads of snow upon us all winter, and spring harvests just seem so far off, it was really refreshing to see farmers and their produce. One farm looks like they have a connection with an organic farm down in Florida—they were selling fresh greens and even squashes that were shipped up from there. Do I have a problem with that? Not really. One cannot live by turnips alone all winter.

The Winter Farmers Market is also way more than veggies. Our first purchases, in fact, were unpasteurized apple cider and maple syrup. And there were seafood vendors, pork/beef producers, wineries, cheese makers, bakeries, orchards and prepared foods chefs in the house, as well. Lots to choose from.

All in all, we were happy with the hour we spent shuttling from booth to booth.

Our bounty from the Somerville Winter Farmers Market

Our loot: scallops, two varieties of apples, maple syrup, unpasteurized apple cider, kale, baby spinach, Rainbow Lights Swiss chard, mussels, two kinds of soft cheese (burrata and fresh mozzarella) two kinds of semi-soft cheese (swiss and hardwick stone), and a watermelon radish. I told Jennifer there had to be at least one thing we purchased that we didn’t have experience with—that would be the watermelon radish. Spicy sweet with a gorgeous dark pink coloring inside (the “watermelon” part), we julienned it and put it on a spinach salad with apple slices and goat cheese with a shallot balsamic vinaigrette. That salad accompanied our mussels last night. Yum. Yum. Yum.

Spinach salad with apple, watermelon radish and goat cheese

Spinach salad with apple, watermelon radish and goat cheese

We’ve also already used the rainbow chard, which accompanied Saturday night’s sea bass and mango cous cous.

Sea bass with mango cous cous and rainbow chard

Sea bass with mango cous cous and rainbow chard

The scallops are our Valentine’s Day meal. Can’t wait for that.

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