Quinoa, Perfectly Cooked

A fun story for today: I made quinoa at 1 am.

Let me elaborate. I got home late Thursday, and feeling restless, was suddenly compelled to cook 2 cups of quinoa.

For any of you new to Quinoa, here’s the greatest lesson I can ever teach you — don’t follow the recipe on the box/bag. It calls for a 1 to 2 ratio of quinoa to water, and that is too much water. You will make Quin-mush.

I discovered Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe, which I now use exclusively, and it changed both my quinoa life, and my life as a whole. I’ve never looked back.

So I cooked my quinoa at 1 am, and when I opened the lid after the requisite 18 minutes of simmering, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had crafted quinoa of the perfect consistency. Fluffy, light, just mushy enough without actually being mushy. I almost shed a tear.

Was this perfection was owed to rare and spectacular barometric conditions? My affectionate anthropomorphizing of an otherwise inanimate grain? Really good measurements? We may never know. All I know is that I made some righteous quinoa early Friday morning.

Of course, perfect quinoa needs some toppings to truly blossom.

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Footage from the scene of the crime

The following things went into my quinoa: 1 can of corn, 1 can of pinto beans, 1 can of black olives, the juice from three limes, olive oil, chili powder, salt. Nothing more. Nothing less.

What resulted was a simple, delicious, and fantastically healthy meal, which I placed in my fridge. It would be my protein filled snack for many days. I still have a bowl or two left.

 

 

 

 

Pro Tip: Smush a Cucumber

I once again had the pleasure of dining at the home of my culinary sensei Pam Saindon, where I ate a stunning array of lasagna, Italian sausage, garlic bread, and salad with creamy Italian dressing.

But the best part of the salad was the vegetables — cucumbers and apples — which were dense, and uniquely flavorful. How did our chef achieve this? She smashed slices of cucumber and apple in a large press. Seasoned with only salt and subjected to a lot of pressure, they became much more flavorful. The texture which I could describe as “densely wilted” was also a delight.

I will have to do more investigation into just the pressing device that was used, but anyone looking for a new spin on vegetables should look into this ingenious process.

The Dip Dr. Presents: Crab and Artichoke

I went looking for a delicious and outside of the box dip for my Super Bowl Sunday, and I found something special.  A gut busting, dairy packed, pile of goodness called Crab Artichoke dip. This is the stuff toasted baguettes were made for.

I won’t waste much time opining about the flavors. Instead, I’ll give you the recipe.

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It began with the cheese.

It all starts with the cheese. In a good sized baking dish I piled up one cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, one cup of shredded fontina cheese, and 3/4 a cup of shredded parmesan cheese.

And then it was time to get gooey. Onto the pile went half a cup of mayo, a cup of sour cream, and half a cup of cream cheese.

With my dairy bomb at the ready, I added two cloves of minced garlic, and 42 ounces of artichoke hearts, chopped small.

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I call it: Pile of Food at 45 Degree Angle.

This health food was almost ready for the oven, but we needed one final ingredient.

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Yes that beautiful sight you are witnessing is one cup of dungeness crab. It went into the dip and after a thorough mixing, I layered the top with more mozzarella and parmesan.

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Lookin good

And the rest was simple. I preheated the oven to 325, made an appointment with my cardiologist, and baked the dip for 40 minutes.

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Served with some choice crackers, it was just as delightful as you might imagine.

Butter: Not Just For Peanuts

At a christmas party last year I was rampaging my way through a cheese plate when I stumbled upon a strange orange spread. It wasn’t a cheese from the looks of it, but it wasn’t any kind of jam either. Just what was this mysterious orange mush?

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There was only one way to find I out. I grabbed my trusty crostini and began an investigation.

It turns out that this miraculous substance was Carrot Butter. A magical substance that was rich but not too heavy, sweet but savory in the way only a caramelized vegetable can be. I ate almost all of it. I was too pleased with the carrot butter to be concerned with social disgrace.

So now, over a year later, with the Super Bowl looming, and inventive dip thereby a necessity, I decided to make my own. I reached out to the original creator, my culinary sensei Pam Saindon, for the recipe.

It turns out the secret to crafting rich carrot butter is nishime, a Japanese method of cooking vegetables. The object of nishime is to cook the vegetables through without them losing their form, and in the process you want lots of water to condense into the vegetables. I set out to master the japanese technique, and make some damn good carrots.

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I began by chopping my carrots to a reasonable size (in retrospect I should have chopped them smaller). I then piled them up in a sauce pan with enough water to almost cover them (in hindsight this was too much water). I started simmering them, hoping to cook all the water off, or into, the carrots.

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Meanwhile, I sautéed a red onion until it was clear, but not too soft. Once the carrots started to soften a bit, I threw these onions into the pan.

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My problem at this point was that I had too much water. As I understand Nishime, your water should be constantly simmering off, and you should keep adding just a little bit until the carrots are soft. By contrast, I was making onion and carrot soup, and my carrots were getting more than a little mushy.

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I dutifully waited until all the water had boiled off. The carrots were somewhat richer, and a lot softer, but not like they should have been. This is one of those recipes I will have to make a few times to get right.

Undaunted by my underwhelming carrots and onions, I took them to the food processor, where I pureed them with olive oil, salt and dill.

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The result, thought not quite the rich butter I was looking for, was quite delicious. Carrots have such great flavor and so much natural sweetness that even a little onion, olive oil and salt can make them a force to be reckoned with.

So thats the story of how I turned a bushel of carrots into a dip worthy of my Super Bowl table. It will be a nice light offset to my  Cam Newton sized portion of sour cream and potato chips.

Do the Splits

The banana split is a simple concept — cut a banana in half, place three scoops of ice cream on top, give each scoop a topping, then whip cream, nuts, and a cherry. It gives delicious ice cream the solid, fruity backbone that we all silently cry out for. It’s a truly excellent dessert.

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The true success of this dessert lies in the fact that it’s simple to explain but endlessly customizable. The flavors of ice cream, the toppings, and the arrangement are all subject to heated debate when I order a split. (Usually this debate arises because I am ordering with another person. You see, banana splits are a huge commitment when taken on by one man, but when you split the split, its the perfect amount of ice cream.)

I have a go to three ice cream flavors that I like to see on all of my banana splits — Chocolate, Strawberry, Coffee Bean. I like to get the sweet and light with the strawberry, the rich with the chocolate, and an aromatic middle ground with the coffee.

The toppings I go back and forth on. I almost always put hot fudge on the strawberry — it’s the classic combo. On chocolate I tend to go fruity, with a raspberry or cherry topping. On the coffee, it’s caramel or bittersweet. In the future I plan on ordering extra nuts, because I never feel like I get quite enough crunch.

But this is the beauty of the banana split. Like any work of art, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. It can be any combination of flavors you can dream up. It has as many potential permutations as the Rubiks cube (don’t fact check that).

One bite of will inevitably leave you…. with an ear splitting grin.