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Quinoa Salad

24 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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The quinoa salad recipe that I’m going to share is one that came to me by way of Sarah, though it’s kind of a funny story. Last March Alex had his annual St Paddy’s day party – a party that is also a celebration of home brewed beer and good food as well. Late in the night a few of us stumbled across a giant bowl of this incredible salad that had obviously arrived after the initial “food rush” earlier in the evening, because there was still a lot left. A few of us stood around devouring the salad in awe, like it was the most amazing thing we’d ever eaten. I think it actually was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten!

I knew it was quinoa and vegetables, but I couldn’t really identify all of the flavors. So, the next day I told Sarah she had to find out who made the salad and get the recipe. Sarah knows everyone – and if she doesn’t know someone, she makes it a point to meet them. She also seems to know everything else about what’s going on at almost any party she is at… such as who brought what. Thus, asking her to get the recipe resulted in my getting my greedy hands on it within about a day!

I have made this a few times since, but certainly the best rendition of it was the batch I whipped up last Friday night for a Saturday housewarming party thrown by our friends Lauren and Eric. This salad is very versatile, in that you can basically throw in any veggies you like, but the key to the over all taste is really the feta and lemon. I’ve made it with chevre before, but it’s just not the same.

And, I have to admit, though I used the word “recipe” above, this is really more of a description of what I used in the salad recently, feel free to stray from this list of ingredients… just don’t forget the feta!

Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (red or white, or a mixture of both, which is my favorite)
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese, crumbled (or more/less, to taste)
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Diced vegetables, I used about a half cup each of: un-waxed, seeded cumber, purple bell pepper, and carrots
  • Huge handful of baby spinach, sliced into ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons minced sweet onion (or red onion – and you may use more, I like only a small hint of raw onion flavor in my salads)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (added just before serving, otherwise they don’t stay as crunchy)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Some other items that might be a great addition: chopped tomatoes, blanched green beans, olives, toasted chopped pecans, celery, fresh herbs…

Rinse your quinoa. It’s a bit annoying (I wasn’t being very careful and ended up with quinoa ALL OVER my house last weekend), but it’s really important in removing any trace of bitterness from the grain. The easiest method I’ve found is to put it in a very large bowl, fill the bowl with water and swish the quinoa around for a bit. Then slowly pour the water off into a very, very fine sieve (I use a gold coffee filter – it has to be very fine, raw quinoa is tiny!).

Bring two cups of water to a boil (I add a tiny splash of olive oil to mine, to ensure against boil overs), add quinoa, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for about 12 minutes.

Making the quinoa the night before is normally a good idea, as it needs to cool off before mixing with the other ingredients and it seems to take quite a while to cool down in my experience. Once it was cooked, I put mine in the fridge over night.

In the meantime, I chopped the vegetables and mixed them with the rest of the ingredients, including feta and lemon, in another bowl to cool over night – then combined the quinoa and vegetable mixture in the morning.

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Warm Bruchetta

9 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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Plum tomatoes that I’d picked up at a farm stand earlier in the week were calling out to me. They were reaching the “use it or lose it” stage quickly. I paid a pretty penny for them, with no real idea as to their purpose  – totally an impulse buy.

I didn’t have enough to make a real tomato sauce, plus I think plum tomatoes are best served warm, due to their meaty flavor. So, I threw together a very tasty warm bruchetta, which I had with the fresh loaf of poppy sunflower seed bread I’d baked earlier in the day. You’ll think I’m losing it, after all this talk of cheese on my blog lately – but this bruchetta doesn’t need any sort of cheese at all. The butter adds in enough flavor to satisfy. However, feel free to grate some romano or asiago over this before serving… cheese will only make it better.

Warm Bruchetta

Serves two – you could easily double or triple this recipe to serve more. I won’t lie, I ate the entire thing myself!

  • 1/4 cup diced sweet onion (or yellow onion)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (if you’re crazy like me, use your own homemade butter)
  • 5-6 diced plum tomatoes (preferably in season and ripe)
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme (1 tablespoon fresh thyme)

Sauté onion in butter on medium-high heat until the onion and butter just start to turn brown. I like to add in my spices now – I feel like the high heat without extra liquid ups the flavor. There is no science behind this! So, if you’re like me, add in the thyme now.

Add in the tomatoes and bell pepper, quickly stir around for about 2-3 minutes. The idea is to warm the tomatoes and pepper to bring out the flavor, but only cook until they are just barely tender.

Remove from heat, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve with pieces of toasted bread! If you want to be really fancy: peel a clove of garlic and rub it on your bread prior to toasting it.

Green Bean Salad (and how I blanch green beans)

26 Jul

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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Green bean salad (basically blanched green beans and any number of vegetables with a vinegar/oil dressing) is one of my summer favorites. I bring it to parties, make it at home for dinner or for barbecues. It always goes over well and tastes great left over!

The trickiest part to this salad, for me, was getting the blanching process right. Following directions found in cookbooks or online, I’d always blanch the beans for too long and they would be mushy. I like my green beans to still have a definite snap to them, for the blanching to only take the very edge of rawness out.

I’ve developed a process that seems to work every time:

Bring a large pot of water to boil while removing the ends of the beans and filling a large bowl with cold water and ice cubes. As soon as the water reaches a rolling boil, drop the beans in. Immediately set a timer for 2 minutes (or even just 1 minute 30 seconds if you’re not blanching a large amount of beans). The water will begin to boil again, usually about 30 seconds later they are ready. I use a large strainer spoon (that I picked up for a failed attempt at donut making, but has served me well for BOTH cheese making and vegetable blanching ever since!) to quickly transfer the beans from boiling to ice water. Let them cool for a few minutes, then transfer to a towel-lined plate to dry.

Normally I’ll blanch the beans earlier in the day, refrigerate them, then throw the salad together right before serving. Yesterday, for a family barbecue, I made a balsamic reduction dressing – basically I had some balsamic that has never tasted sweet enough to me (the sweeter and syrupy the better – but this bottle was cheap!), so I simmered it about 15 minutes to bring out a sweeter flavor. I think it could have used a bit more time, but it did taste sweeter. I mixed that with a splash of olive oil, basil and black pepper to make the dressing.

To the green beans I added: sliced campari tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta cheese and toasted sunflower seeds, then poured the dressing over, letting it sit about 15 minutes before serving.