Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Curried Pineapple Chicken Quinoa

Whenever a friend asks me to "teach" them to cook, I feel at a loss because I am not quite sure how to do so.  Teach them lingo?  Tell them what the different types of knives are? Tell them how to cut different fruits and vegetables? The one thing I consistently come back to is sharing that the best way to learn to cook is to follow recipe after recipe until you learn what works, and then you will eventually learn to vary them slowly, until you one day will feel able to develop your own recipe.  You have to learn the rules so that you can break them. This year I have found myself more often than any other ever googling recipes with ingredients I have on hand, considering, adjusting, and making things outside of my tried-and-true basics.

Tonight, I had pineapple and I had quinoa. I googled and found a few different recipes, but ultimately decided upon this one, which I found here. I followed the beginning and changed it up near the end. Being the resident carnivore on this blog (even as my title has officially been changed to Happy Omnivore),  I also grilled up some chicken and added it in as well, though it would have been just as delicious without.  I served mine hot rather than cold, so here is the recipe I landed upon, with which I was quite happy.

    1 1/2 cups veggie or chicken broth
    3/4 cup quinoa
    2 teaspoons curry powder
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1 cup pineapple chunks
    A quarter of a red onion
    1 chicken breast

Bring broth, quinoa, curry powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. 

Dice onion and sauté with olive oil until tender.  Add bite sized pieces of chicken seasoned with more curry, pepper, salt and garlic to your taste. Sauté until almost cooked through, add pineapple chunks.  Let the chicken cook in the juices until fully cooked, and pineapple is softened.

Mix chicken and pineapple with cooked quinoa, serve hot.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


In quotes b/c I have no idea if this is how one actually makes ricotta.  But you can't beat the level of effort:

Bring 1/2 a gallon of whole milk and a cup of cream to a boil with 1/2 a tsp of salt.  As soon as it reaches a rolling boil, toss in 4 TB fresh lemon juice, bring down to a simmer, and stir for a minute or two to make sure everything curdles.  (Fascinating!)  Drain in a cheesecloth-coated strainer for an hour.  Keep the whey for smoothies if you're into that kind of thing.  Eat.

Spring Pasta with Grapes, Ricotta, Parsley and Grilled Bread

I mean.... I don't even know what to say if I didn't have you at "grapes, ricotta, parsley and grilled bread."  Swoon.  (This recipe is kind of an entree-scale flavor rip-off of this one, btw.)

1 bunch asparagus (I used purple!)
Sugar snap peas
Thin spinach pasta
1 bunch red grapes, halved
1.5 cups ricotta
1/2 a bunch of parsley leaves, roughly chopped
Lemon olive oil
Crusty bread cut into crouton-sized chunks
Lemon juice

In a large frying pan, heat olive oil (lemon flavored if possible) on high heat.  Chop snowpeas in half and chop asparagus spears into small bite-sized pieces.  Toss those and some salt into the hot oil, cover, and cook on high heat until very tender, shaking the entire pan occasionally to prevent burning.

Meantime, get your pasta water boiling, and whenever it boils, make your pasta.  Preheat oven to 225 so that whatever gets done first can go into a big serving bowl to stay warm.  When pasta is done, drain, toss with a bit more olive oil to prevent sticking, and put in bowl in oven.

Add veggies to bowl when they are done.  Use frying pan (without rinsing), with a little additional oil and salt if needed, to grill chunks of bread - not as hard as for croutons, but somewhere in the middle! Set bread aside to top each bowl of pasta.

Finally, use same pan, with more oil if needed, to grill grape halves and parsley.  The grapes should give off juice and become slightly translucent.  Toss them into pasta bowl before they lose shape.

Finish by tossing in ricotta, salt and lemon juice to taste, and top each bowl with bread chunks.

Chiles Rellenos

Turns out it is extremely fun to make chiles rellenos at home.... don't believe me?  Behold:

There, now that you are completely persuaded....

You will need a poblano for each person you are feeding, some kind of gas flame (gas stove? flame thrower? welding torch?  gas grill?  broiler? sky's the limit here, really), and the following (for 4 poblanos):

3 cups shredded Jack cheese
salt & pepper

4 eggs, room temperature
another 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup evil vegetable oil

That is ALL!

Now for the harder parts.

First, you need to blister your chiles, like you see above.  Basically putting them right in the gas flame and turning them with tongs every so often worked out just dandy.  They snap and crackle as you roast their skins, it is jolly good fun!  Takes awhile though, so leave some time.

When they are black on the outside and tender, take them away from the gas.  Split each one up the side and carefully remove the seeds without ripping the pepper anywhere else, and rub the outer blackened skin off.  Then season with salt & pepper and stuff with cheese.

Second, you need to mix up your batter.   Separate the eggs. Beat the egg whites with salt until stiff peaks form. Mix the yolks up with a fork, then gently ever so gently fold them into the whites.  Voila!

Now, heat the oil in a large frying pan.  The internet teacheth that the oil is hot when you put a wooden spoon handle in it and it sizzles.  When hot, here's what you do:

Make a chile-sized little island of batter in the oil.  Flatten it a little with wooden spoon and then let it brown some.  When it seems like it will hold its shape, gently plop a chile atop it.  Start another little island going.  When the first one (the chile-containing island) is brown enough to eat, flip the whole thing over on top of Island #2, so that now the chile is totally encased in batter, and let that brown until it matches the topside.  Then, put that chile on a metal rack and stick it into a 250 degree oven.

Do the same with yr remaining chiles, bake them a bit longer all together, and eat with delicious toppings!

English Pea Risotto

I found some English peas at the store awhile ago and this seemed the only proper thing to do with them!  It tasted like spring, and in particular, the mint flavor (from some very sharp dried spearmint) was really nice.

Finely chop a medium onion and sautee in butter until translucent.  Then add your arborio rice, cook it until the grains are chalky, add a big splash of white wine, and then add your broth in batches (for more detailed risotto instructions refer to google!!).

While the risotto cooks, bring the shelled peas to a boil in a saucepan, boil for 2 minutes, drain and bathe in ice water, then drain again.  When the risotto is done, add the peas, salt, pepper, finely grated parmesan to taste, perhaps a splash more white wine, and 2 tsp finely ground dried mint (or to taste depending on how strong your mint is - be cautious as too much mint would not be a good thing!).