Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Quinoa Salad

Campus is back in full swing. Classes to take, classes to teach, thesis to write. (And if this weekend is any indication, Madmen to watch. Hey, priorities people. I've got 'em.) I'm on a mission to find deliciously easy recipes that I can make ahead of time and have waiting in the fridge when I get home. Good thing a certain someone bought me the most massive supply of quinoa ever because I have a suspicion many variations on this simple recipe are to come. Busy schedule, please meet Summer Quinoa Salad. You two are going to be great friends, I can tell.

3/4 cup dry quinoa
1 yellow pepper
1-2 tomatoes
1 onion
1 bunch basil
1/2 cup non-fat feta
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon

Servings: 4

1. Bring 3/4 cup quinoa and 1 & 1/2 cups water to a boil. Cover and let simmer for 10 minutes, or until quinoa is tender.

2. Meanwhile, roughly chop pepper, tomatoes, onion and basil.

3. Whisk olive oil and juice from one lemon together with a fork. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Hint: Microwave lemon for 20 seconds for maximum juice extraction. Works wonders.

4. Let quinoa cool for a few moments, then toss it together with the vegetables, dressing and feta. Serve cold. Turn on Madmen. I mean, ahem... grade something. Enjoy.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Fresh Polenta

Did you know you could make polenta fresh from REAL CORN?! I didn't, until I stumbled across this fortuitous little post over at food52. Yes, my friends, apparently polenta can be made without the use of those handy plastic tubes of it that I buy from the miniature (but at least existent, have to give credit where credit is due) organic section of my grocery store and even (gasp!) without a bag of corn meal.

In the summer in particular, this is fantastic news. One, fresh corn is so cheap right now. Not to mention vibrant, yellow, and gleaming inside all its husk-enveloped glory... and, hey wait, did I mention cheap?

And two, no matter what the season, polenta made this way is so delicious that I'm not entirely sure how I survived before I discovered it. (Yes, by eating many of the millions of food items in existence other than polenta I suppose, but just indulge my exaggerations for a mere moment, please.)

The following recipe for fresh polenta includes a bed of greens for it to rest upon, as well as a few poached eggs and some sauteed mushrooms to grace it's delightful presence, but you could just as easily serve it on its own (with a little grated pepper and parmesan cheese, perhaps) alongside a main dish of your choosing. Greens, eggs and mushrooms added, though, I think this makes the perfect weeknight main dish in and of itself. This recipe serves one, so double or quadruple or, I don't know, octuple, as you need to.

2 ears of corn
3 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup roughly chopped sweet onion
1 Tbsp. garlic
1/4 cup chicken or vegetable broth (or water, in a pinch)
1 & 1/2 cup roughly chopped cruciferous greens
1/2 cup sliced portobello mushrooms
a quick grating of asiago cheese
salt and pepper

1. Melt 2 Tbsps. of the butter in a skillet over medium heat, waiting until it begins to bubble and turn brown. Brown butter. Voila. There is nothing tastier. Nothing. (Oh wait... except fresh polenta. Need to learn to keep my story straight.)

2. Husk and then grate the raw ears of corn on the coarse side of a grater, over a large bowl. If you have a big box grater, this will be relatively quick and easy. The results will be a rather pulpy and wet mixture... dump into skillet along with butter, salt and pepper to cut the sweetness, and let cook on medium-low for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in another skillet, and brown the garlic and onion for a few minutes, until fragrant. Add the greens and broth, salt, then cover and let them wilt down to less than half their original appearance in a matter of minutes. We used kale the first time I cooked this with one of my dearest friends, at her wise and knowing insistence, and it was delicious. Back at home, I used mustard greens, as no kale was to be found. Equally effective. Any hearty green will work.

4. Using the remaining Tbsp. of butter, quickly saute the mushrooms with a little salt and pepper.

5. Poach two eggs.

6. Layer the greens onto the plate first, spoon the polenta over top and make two small indentations with the spoon, nestle the poached eggs inside, and add the mushrooms right beside them. A final grating of asiago (or parmesan) cheese over the whole thing, with perhaps a final shake of pepper, and there you are - a quick and easy budget-conscious, incredibly filling, weeknight dinner that you (and by you, I do mean me) could eat every night.

And really, aren't those owl salt and pepper shakers irresistibly cute?! I, ahem, speak from experience when I say they were. But for $5 at Pier 1 with a $10 off coupon, I can't feel too guilty.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Rustic Buttermilk Boule

I debated what to name this bread for far too long. Nutty Oat Bread? But they're not really nuts so much as seeds in there, so... Seedy Oat Bread? Sounds like it belongs in a back alley, not your kitchen counter. And what about the buttermilk? The extra buttermilk about to go bad in the fridge is what got this lovely little loaf started in the first place. Ah yes, and the wheat, that's important. Buttermilk Wheat Bread a la Oats and Seeds and Things. Oh, but then there's that maple syrup that got thrown in there when I realized the honey was gone... Mildly Maplesque Pumpkin Seed Oatmeal Buttermilk Bread it is!

And then, because I couldn't say all that in one breath, I picked an entirely new and conveniently vague word to throw in there that perhaps encompasses all (or none) of these things, you decide. What's in a name anyway, right? Rustic Buttermilk Boule by any other name would taste JUST AS FREAKIN GOOD.

I may not be Shakespeare, but I AM an English major, just go with me on this one.

1 tsp. sugar
1 pack active dry yeast (1 pack rapid rise or instant is fine too)

1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup oats (old fashioned, quick, no matter)
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (or another seed/nut you prefer)
2 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. maple syrup

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 cup wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda

Yields: 1 medium sized boule loaf

1. Proof the yeast by mixing it in a small bowl with 3 tablespoons warm (NOT hot) water and a pinch of sugar. Set it aside while you keep working.

2. Mix buttermilk, oats, seeds, butter (melted), and maple syrup in a large mixing bowl.

3. Mix white flour, wheat flour, salt, and baking soda in a medium mixing bowl.

4. Stir* 1 cup of the flour mixture into the wet mixture until combined. Stir in the yeast water. Stir in another cup of flour, then another. The dough will start to feel a little stretchy and become difficult to keep stirring. Don't feel like you have to use quite all the flour up now if you can't stir it all in... you can knead it in a minute.

5. Place the shaggy mass of dough on your lightly floured counter. Keep a little extra flour at hand to work in as you knead. You don't want your dough to stick to your hands, but it IS ok if it seems a little stickier than dough sometimes does... those oats will keep soaking up any extra liquid as the dough rises, so no worries. Knead for 10 minutes or so, until you have an actual, cohesive ball of dough.

6. Rub olive oil into the bottom of a large mixing bowl, place dough in it, flip over to coat both sides, cover with cloth, and let sit one hour. It will rise to at least twice its original size

7. Take dough out, pound down gently, knead a few more times, shape into ball, place on cooking sheet. Let rise at least 45 more minutes, OR as much as 4-5 hours. The longer it sits, the more the flavors deepen. So they say.

8. Cut three deep slashes across the top of your boule (that's just fancy for round-ish ball of dough) and brush a little more olive oil on top.

9. Bake at 350 for 55 minutes.

10. Wait at least 10 or 15 minutes, cut into it, eat IMMEDIATELY with butter. Seriously. Right then and there. You think I'm kidding. I'm not. This was totally my dinner tonight because I couldn't stop eating it.

* You do not HAVE to stir and knead this by hand. Use a stand mixer and dough hook if you so choose, or a processor, or whatever your favorite method is. I like the stir and knead by hand method, especially when I'm trying a new recipe, because its easier to tell when the dough feels ready.

Also because there just isn't much I love more on a Saturday morning than a good solid workout of dough kneading. See that laptop in the background there? Yeah, it's playing my bread kneading playlist. What, not everybody has one of those? Oh. Well then.