Thursday, May 21, 2015

Charred Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad

I don't know about you, but I love grain salads. They tend to be filling, nicely balanced, and tasty meals, all contained in one bowl. And they usually keep well for leftovers and pack well for taking lunch to the office, so they're a great option if you're a one- or two-person household.

This salad has all the traits I love in a grain salad. You start with quinoa, and add in some roasted corn and poblano for sweetness and a bit of heat. Then toss in some cilantro for freshness and a pop of green, a brightly spiced dressing to coat everything in its tasty goodness, and finish off with a sprinkling of salty feta and cubes of creamy avocado.

Also, this is what charred poblano skin looks like if you get up close and personal with it.

Charred Corn and Poblano Quinoa Salad
Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod
Yield: 6-8 servings as a side, or 3-4 servings as a main

1 cup quinoa
1 poblano pepper
2 cups frozen corn
1/3 cup chopped cilantro
1/3 cup feta or cotija cheese
2 avocados, chopped

1/4 cup olive oil (replace 1 Tbsp. with water for a lower-fat option)
Juice from two limes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander (optional)
Salt and pepper

Cook quinoa according to package directions, except use only 1-1/2 cups water and add a pinch of salt. When it's cooked, remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool.

Roast the poblano pepper: If you have a gas stove, turn a burner on high. Using metal tongs, hold the pepper over the open flame, turning and moving pretty often, until the skin is evenly charred. If you don't have a gas stove, roast it on a grill or in the oven. Place poblano in a paper or plastic bag and seal. Let it steam for 10 minutes to loosen the skin. Then remove to a cutting board and use a knife to scrape off the charred skin. Then cut open the poblano and remove the seeds (or leave them in if you want your salad to be spicy). Chop the poblano. Set aside to cool.

Roast the corn: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn (straight from the freezer is just fine), and spread the kernels out in the skillet. Now, let them cook for a few minutes without touching them so a good char can develop. Then give them a good stir, and let them cook for a few more minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients in a large bowl. (Alternatively, if you don't feel like mincing the garlic and 1 Tbsp. cilantro, give all the dressing ingredients a whir in a small blender or food processor.) To the bowl, add the cooled quinoa, poblano, and corn; toss. Add the 1/3 cup chopped cilantro, feta, and avocados, and toss again. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • If you're planning to save this for later, hold off on the avocado until you're ready to serve.
  • If you have a grill, roast the poblano and corn on that! Use two ears of corn instead of two cups frozen kernels.
  • I've made this a couple times, and one time got lazy and left the cilantro out of the dressing, but it was noticeably better when I didn't cut that corner. I've also eaten it both with and without the avocado, and while it's definitely better with, it's also good without.
  • I almost added cherry or grape tomatoes to this salad but am really glad I didn't. The flavors are so well-balanced, I think the tomatoes could have easily taken over.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Roasted Broccoli

Well, I posted the tomatillo salsa recipe that day after Cinco de Mayo, and I'm posting a grilled cheese recipe after National Grilled Cheese Sandwich Month (April) is over. This, my friends, is one of the reasons I'm not a professional food blogger. However, I maintain that fancy pants grilled cheese sandwiches are good at any time of the year.

What you'll find below is not exactly a recipe. Rather, it's a list of ingredients and some directions on a good method. But when I made this sandwich (twice!) I didn't measure a thing. If you have leftover roasted broccoli, use it as a side dish for another meal--it's great on its own! The original recipe called for onion and red bell pepper to be roasted with the broccoli, and that sounds good, but the sandwiches didn't taste at all like they were missing anything by not having roasted onion and pepper.

Grilled Cheese with Balsamic Roasted Broccoli
Adapted from Cookie and Kate
Yield: 1 serving 

Fresh broccoli florets
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper
2 slices sourdough bread
Dijon mustard
1-3 kinds of cheese, shredded (I used cheddar, gouda, and parmesan)

Preheat oven to 450. Line a baking sheet with foil. Cut broccoli florets into small bite-sized pieces; toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss again. Spread broccoli out on the baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, until broccoli is darkened and roasty.

Get two slices of sourdough bread, and stack them like a sandwich. Spray/brush olive oil on the outsides of the bread sandwich. Then place the slices of bread oil-side-down. Spread a thin layer of Dijon mustard on one slice of bread. Grate one or two kinds of cheese, and sprinkle evenly on both slices of bread. I did cheddar on one slice and gouda on the other.

Heat a skillet over medium to medium-low heat. Using a spatula, carefully transfer each slice of bread into the skillet. Cover and cook on medium-low until cheese is melted. Check the bottoms of the bread; if they're not yet toasted, raise heat to medium and continue cooking (uncovered) until bread is toasted. Remove both slices of bread to a cutting board.

Layer some broccoli on top of one of the sandwich halves. Be generous with the broccoli. If desired, sprinkle a little more cheese in with the broccoli to help it stick together. I used parmesan. Place the other sandwich half on top and smoosh it slightly. Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the sandwich in half. Transfer to a plate to serve.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa

Remember when it was a goal of mine to make something with fresh tomatillos? Wait, you mean you don't remember my food goals as well as I do? Well, it finally happened!

This tomatillo salsa tastes bright and fresh, and the recipe is quick, simple, and summery. It has just a few ingredients to whir up in the food processor, and my friends absolutely loved it. In fact, that's why there is so little salsa in these pictures--I made it, took it to a shower, we ate most of it, and then I photographed it the next day.

It seemed odd to me that the recipe didn't call for any lime or lemon, but I'm glad I trusted the recipe. The fresh tomatillos add plenty of brightness to the salsa--so much so, that my friends almost didn't believe that there was no lime juice in it. Also, the amount of jalapeno was perfect for me. It added flavor, but the salsa was still very mild. If you want more heat, use more jalapeno and/or keep the seeds in.

Fresh Tomatillo Salsa
From Rick Bayless, as seen on Annie's Eats
Yield: 1-1/2 cups salsa

8 oz. fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered
1 large garlic clove, peeled and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and roughly chopped
1/2 to 2/3 cup cilantro leaves
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
Tortilla chips, for serving

In a food processor, pulse all ingredients into a coarse puree without over processing. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve with chips.

Don't have a food processor? Simply mince the tomatillos, garlic, jalapeno, and cilantro by hand, then combine everything in a serving bowl.

The salsa keeps very well in the fridge. I made mine a day ahead of time and just kept it in a mason jar in the fridge until time to serve it.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Persian Carrot and Apple Salad

In continuing the Persian theme, here is a far simpler recipe than the jeweled rice. It consists of just one veggie, one fruit, one kind of nut, and a simple dressing. The recipe is pretty self-explanatory, so let me share a few pictures and a rundown of our full menu from House Church Persian Night a few weeks ago!

Pardon the quality of the pictures. My living/dining room does not have awesome photography-worthy lighting after the sun goes down.

Here's what we ate, starting with the platter of naan next to the cute little boy in the second picture, and moving clockwise around the table:

  • Homemade Naan with Ghee
  • Sabzi Khordan (an herb and cheese plate; this one had feta, walnuts, radishes, and fresh cilantro and mint)
  • Bademjan (a beef and eggplant stew, served over brown rice)
  • Iranian Chicken with Turmeric, Saffron, and Lemon Juice
  • Jeweled Rice
  • Homemade Hummus
  • Carrot and Apple Salad (recipe below)
  • More Naan
  • Persian Salad Shiraz (a tomato/cucumber salad)
  • Not pictured: Doogh (a beverage made with yogurt, club soda, and mint) and chocolate birthday cake

If your appetite is sufficiently whetted and your interest sufficiently piqued, and you now find yourself wanting to make some Persian food yourself, I'd recommend exploring this site. Since I'm far from an expert, I can't speak to how authentic the recipes are. But there's a nice variety of types of dishes and beverages. And most of the recipes have a picture, which is especially nice when dealing with unfamiliar recipe names!

Persian Carrot and Apple Salad
Slightly adapted from
Yield: 6-8 servings

1/2 cup slivered or chopped almonds, toasted
1 lb. carrots, peeled (4-5 medium to large carrots)
1 large granny smith apples, peeled
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. sugar.

Toast the almonds and set them aside to cool. Grate the carrots and apples. I did it by hand with a cheese grater. If you have a food processor with a grating/shredding blade, that would be most handy! You could also probably get away with finely chopping them with a regular food processor blade.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat well. Refrigerate for an hour or more to let flavors marry. Toss again before serving.

My assembled salad sat in the fridge for 3-4 hours, and it was great (as were leftovers a couple days later). I was worried that the almonds would lose their crunch, but they were fine. Softer after a few days, but just fine the day of.