Risotto Carbonara: Or, How I Threw Down the Integrale Gauntlet

Okay, so this is a completely shameless move on my part.  Here I am, over a month since my last post, and I come tripping back onto the scene with this.

And what, exactly, is this? you might ask.

This, my friends, is Risotto Carbonara.  Risotto all dressed up with bacon and eggs.  Or, dressed down, as the case may be.  It’s my favorite pasta dish in creamy short-grained rice form.  Only this time, it’s not masquerading as “healthy” because I added some kale or courgettes to pump up the nutritional value.  Nope – this is down and dirty deliciousness.

Now, I’ve done risotto before.  I’ve even done healthy risotto before.  But this is different.  This is part of a Marx Foods challenge featuring their Integrale Rice.  According to the Marx Foods website, Integrale is:

an Italian brown risotto rice. Like all risotto rice varieties, slow cooking integrale rice on the stove top with multiple infusions of stock causes it to absorb the stock’s flavor and release starch into the pan, thickening the remaining stock into an incredibly delicious sauce.

However, because the outer bran is left on, the finished risotto has a nuttier brown rice flavor, distinct grains, and a little more chew to its finished texture. The bran also includes additional nutrients not found in white risotto rice.

Since I’ve done brown rice risotto before, I knew this challenge was right up my alley.  The first round of the challenge asks 15 participants to develop a savory risotto recipe featuring the Integrale rice.  I knew I wanted something that would showcase the creamy, starchy consistency of the finished product, but that would also allow the toasty, nutty flavor profile of the whole-grain rice to shine.

I settled on a carbonara preparation for a few reasons.  First – bacon.  I mean, who doesn’t love bacon?  For this I chose an Italian-style pancetta.  I usually like to use an American-style bacon when I make carbonara because I like the smokiness it imparts.  Pancetta is traditionally not smoked, so it has a milder flavor profile.  I didn’t want the rice to be overpowered by the bacon, but rather complemented by it.  Second – Parmigiano Reggiano.  Nutty, salty, umami goodness.  Seemed like a perfect accompaniment to the nutty nature of this rice.  Third – egg yolks.  In a traditional pasta carbonara, raw eggs are stirred into hot pasta along with Parmigiano Reggiano to create a rich, creamy sauce.  For the risotto, I opted to top the finished product with a barely-poached egg so that the golden yolk could mix in with the creamy rice right at the very end.

The end result was nothing short of delightful.  Salty, creamy, nutty, slightly acidic (thanks to the addition of a dry white wine during the cooking of the risotto) – a perfectly balanced mix of flavors and textures.  The rice maintained its integrity throughout the cooking process, and was left slightly al dente, while still releasing its starches to create a creamy sauce that enrobed each grain.

Before I give you the recipe, let’s just discuss the details of this challenge.  Starting tomorrow (May 30), you can vote for your favorite Integrale recipe over on the Marx Foods website.   I think there are 15 of us, and I would sure appreciate your vote.  10 bloggers will proceed to the next round, which should be fun because it’s all about dessert risotto (and I’ve already got some good ideas up my sleeve for that one – it would really be a shame if I couldn’t share them).  So, you know, if you feel like it, head on over there and vote tomorrow.

Risotto Carbonara

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 45 minutes

Yields: 6-8 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Organic Italian Integrale Rice
  • 1/4 lb. pancetta, diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 cup dry white wine (I used a Portuguese Vinho Verde because that’s what I had in my fridge)
  • 6-8 cups chicken stock, heated
  • 2 oz. Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, plus more for garnish
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 eggs, poached
  1. I like to begin by placing my chicken stock in a stock pot over medium-low heat on a burner next to the one I’ll be using to cook my ristto
  2. Heat a chef’s pan or large stock pot over medium heat
  3. Add the diced pancetta and cook slowly, allowing the fat to render out before the meat gets too brown.
  4. Once the pancetta is brown and crispy, remove it from the pan, leaving the rendered fat behind in the pan.  Reserve the cooked pancetta
  5. Add the diced onion to the pan, sauteeing until translucent
  6. Add the rice to the pan with the onion and fat from the pancetta.  Sautee the rice in the fat, stirring it around to coat all of the grains.  Cook until grains have become to look opaque in spots.
  7. Add the cup of wine to the pan, stirring the rice until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
  8. Begin adding the hot stock a cup at the time, stirring after each addition until most of the liquid has been absorbed.  Keep adding stock a cup a the time until the rice is al dente.  I used between 6 and 8 cups this time.
  9. Turn off the heat and add the grated cheese and all but about a tablespoon of the cooked pancetta (reserve a little for garnish).  Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.  I like a lot of pepper.
  10. Spoon the risotto into flat pasta bowls – it should spread to fill the bottom of the bowl, but not have much excess liquid.
  11. Top with a very lightly poached egg and garnish with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and crispy pancetta.
  12. Enjoy!

Disclaimer:  I received a box of Organic Italian Integrale Rice free from Marx Foods as part of my participation in this contest.  The preceding opinions are my own and I was not otherwise compensated for this post.

Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Quinoa Cakes

I love seed oils.  They’re all so unique – some have a deep,rich, nutty flavor, and others are clean and mild.  I’ve long been a regular user of grapeseed oil, a flavor neutral oil with a high smoke point perfect for high-heat cooking, but also good in light salad dressings.  I also enjoy toasted sesame seed oil, where a little goes a long way in the flavor department.

When I heard that Marx Foods was running a seed oil review contest, I knew I wanted to get in on it.  They have recently begun carrying Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Delicata Squash Seed Oil, and were offering a complimentary bottle of one of the flavors in return for candid reviews.  I submitted my request, and was delightfully surprised when I was chosen to participate.  Within a week, a petite bottle of Butternut Squash Seed  Oil was delivered to my doorstep.

I first wanted to taste it on it’s own, so I uncorked the bottle and sniffed it.  It had a full, round scent – reminiscent of roasted nuts – with a slight vegetal undertone.  I poured a little out onto a plate, dipped the end of my finger in the oil and placed it on my tongue – the flavor was rich and nutty, with a hint of sweetness.  You could definitely taste the butternut squash flavor in the background, but mostly it reminded me of a toasted nut oil (like walnut or hazelnut), or even a mild sesame oil.

According to the Marx Foods website, these oils have a relatively high smoke point, so they’re appropriate for cooking, but are also good as dipping oils or in salad dressings.  I decided to put it to the test on both fronts, using it to fry up some savory quinoa cakes, and in a light salad dressing for a spinach and mixed green salad for dinner one night.

Quinoa Cakes, Fried in Butternut Squash Seed Oil and Clarified Butter

(based on this recipe from The Healthy Foodie, which I found via Pinterest)
prep time: 15 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
yields: 8-10 patties

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups quinoa, cooked in chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 small white onion, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 whole eggs and 4 egg whites, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons ghee
  • 2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil
  1. Combine the quinoa, onion, bread crumbs, cheese, salt and pepper.
  2. Add the eggs and stir to combine.
  3. Allow to sit for a few minutes so the bread crumbs can soak up the liquid.
  4. In a large stainless steel skillet, heat the ghee and butternut squash seed oil over medium heat.
  5. Carefully form the quinoa mixture into patties the size of the palm of your hand.
  6. Place them in the hot oil, cooking them for 4-5 minutes on the first side.
  7. Flip them over once they’ve browned and cook for another 4-5 minutes on the second side.
  8. Keep warm in the oven while you cook the rest.
  9. Serve over a mixed green salad, topped with a poached egg.

Butternut Squash Seed Oil Salad Dressing
prep time: 2 minutes
yields: 1/4 cup of dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon mustard (spicy or dijon)
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons butternut squash seed oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Combine all ingredients in a small mason jar.
  2. Screw the lid on tightly and shake
  3. Toss with mixed salad greens
  4. Enjoy!

As a cooking oil,  it stood up well to the high-heat test, yielding a super light and crispy exterior on the quinoa cakes.  They had a nutty flavor, but it’s hard to say whether that came from the oil, or from the quinoa itself.  It’s also possible that the clarified butter washed out some of the butternut squash flavor.  Performance-wise, though, it held up – hardly smoking at all, even when I let the pan get a little too hot.

Where this oil really shone was in the salad dressing – you could taste the toasted, nutty flavor and the squash flavor was really nice.  The addition of the honey brought out the sweetness, and the mild champagne vinegar didn’t overpower it at all.  I definitely think this oil is better suited to raw applications than it is to cooked.  Although I could see it in place of a sage brown-butter sauce (or even as an addition to) with ravioli or pappardelle.  It’s nice and mellow, and the flavor can become overpowered easily.  If it’s allowed to stand on it’s own, though, it won’t disappoint.

Note:  While I did receive a complimentary bottle of Butternut Squash Seed Oil from Marx Foods, the opinions in this post are my own.

Let Them Eat Brioche

This recipe may seem a little ill-timed, since tonight marks the end of the Carnival season and tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.  If you’re making any sort of Lenten resolutions, you probably won’t be baking this any time in the next forty days.  However, it was too good not to share, so I thought I’d go ahead and put it out there for you debaucherous souls who might want to give it a go.

Given that today is Mardi Gras, I wanted to treat the family to some traditional gumbo and a Gateau des Roi.  I didn’t grow up eating King Cake, or really observing Mardi Gras at all.  As such, I have no reference for what makes a good King Cake.  As an adult, I’ve seen a number of different (shortcut) variations, including cinnamon roll-based cakes and crescent roll based cakes.  While I knew that these recipes that used processed and pre-packaged ingredients were probably not the most traditional versions, they did give me a basic idea of what a King Cake entails – rich buttery dough, stuffed with a sweet filling and topped with a sugary glaze

With some digging, I discovered that traditional King Cake consists of rich brioche bread, filled with cinnamon, almond paste or cream cheese and glazed with simple icing sugar glaze.  They are often sprinkled with purple, green and yellow sanding sugar to reflect the colors of Mardi Gras.  I figured if I could find a good brioche recipe, the rest would be a piece of cake (ha-ha).

For the brioche recipe, I turned to a trusted and reliable source: Michael Ruhlman.  The tagline on Ruhlman’s website is “translating the Chef’s craft for every kitchen,” and he does a skillful job doing just that.  His recipes are well tested, and you can be assured that you will find success if you follow his instructions.  I knew that any brioche recipe I found on his site would be delightful.  When I saw that it called for five whole eggs and twelve ounces of butter (that’s three whole sticks), I figured it could not disappoint.

Since I followed his recipe almost to the letter, I’ll suggest that you click on over to his site if you want to make it.  I did substitute freshly ground hard white wheat flour for the bread flour that he suggests and I used honey granules in place of the sugar.  I also shortened the second rise, choosing to let the dough rise in a warm oven for one hour instead of in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the brioche into a King Cake, I made a cream cheese filling, combining eight ounces of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of honey granules, one large egg, three tablespoons of flour and the zest of one lemon.  I beat this all together until it was smooth.  After the dough had risen the first time (and doubled in volume – this took approximately three hours at room temperature), I punched it down and rolled it out into a long, thin rectangle.  I spread the filling evenly onto the rectangle and folded the dough over onto itself, pinching the edges to seal the filling inside.  I then formed it into a ring and placed it in a greased tube pan.  I covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm oven (preheated to 150F, then turned off) for about an hour.

To bake it off, I preheated the oven to 350F, baked the cake for 20 minutes uncovered, then 25 minutes tented with parchment paper (to keep it from getting too brown).  Once it was fully baked, I removed it from the oven, turned it out onto a cooling rack and allowed it to cool completely.

For the glaze, I combined 2 cups of powdered sugar with a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, stirring to combine.  I added a 1/2 a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, then glazed the cake once it had cooled completely.

Even if you don’t make a king cake, I highly recommend this brioche recipe – it practically melts in your mouth it’s so buttery.  I can imagine using it for breakfast in french toast, or making a decadent croque-monsieur (or even more decadent croque-madame) with it.  In this instance, stuffed (albeit unevenly) with slightly sweet cream cheese and smothered with creamy vanilla glaze, it was the perfect way to top off our family Fat Tuesday celebration.

Now, what to do with the leftovers tomorrow?

Hen House Drama, a Timely Pardon, and Cornmeal Pancakes

Before I get started, I want to give a warm welcome and sincere thank you to any of you who found life, in recipes through Freshly Pressed.  I was completely surprised (pleasantly so) when I saw that one of my posts had been featured the other day.  I am beyond grateful for all of your thoughtful comments and words of encouragement.  If you like what you’ve seen so far, I invite you to keep up with the blog through Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed.  You can also follow me on Pinterest

In the spirit of full disclosure, our adventures in backyard poultry rearing have not been without, um, shall we say,  challenges.  We started back in April with three Rhode Island Reds – Fred, Tweety and Sally.  Things seemed great at first – we were getting three eggs a day, the chickens seemed happy (we let them free range during the day, and put them back in the coop at night), and it wasn’t a tremendous amount of work.  We made sure they had food, water, and fresh air, and they provided us with a dozen eggs every four days. It seemed almost too good to be true.

And that’s because it was.  We lost Fred in August to what we believe was a black widow spider bite, and we lost Tweety in October to a predator of some sort or another.  We didn’t want Sally to be lonely, so we found her four new friends – Spot and Dot, two lovely black and white Barred Rock hens, and Fred, Jr. and Tweety, Jr., a couple of Ameraucanas.  We promised to keep them safe, well fed and watered, in exchange for eggs.  We were looking forward to four or five eggs a day, perhaps enough to share with our friends and neighbors.  This was in November.

At first, Sally wasn’t terribly keen on her new coop-mates.  In particular, she decided that Tweety, Jr. was her nemesis.  Every time that poor hen would get close to Sally, she would peck at her and pull her tail feathers out.  Tweety, Jr. became scared to leave the corner by the nesting boxes – she would huddle there, trembling, trying to make herself as small as possible.  Sally was like the schoolyard bully, exerting her dominance over the new kid on the block.  I’m not sure what it was about poor Tweety, Jr. (maybe it was her name), but after a while Sally left her completely devoid of tail feathers.

In addition to this little pecking-order drama, the egg production was not what we’d hoped it would be.  For a while, it was only Sally laying.  Then occasionally one of the Rocks would lay – either Spot or Dot.  We know it wasn’t an Ameraucana because all of the eggs were of the brownish variety – Ameraucana eggs are greenish blue (part of the reason we chose the breed).  From late October to late January, there was nary a green egg to be had.  We’d been told that the hens were 8 months old when we got them, so they should have been of prime laying age.  Had we been swindled?  Were these gals completely infertile?  Was the trauma being inflicted upon them by that bully Sally too much to handle?  We weren’t sure.  What we did know was that they were eating an awful lot of feed and not producing anything in return.

Over time, the drama subsided, and Tweety Jr.’s tail feathers began to fill in again.  Both Rocks began laying regularly, and things seemed to be on a more even keel in the hen house.  When the weather began to get cold (for those two days back in January) we decided we need to put a heat lamp in the coop to keep the water from freezing overnight.  The light seemed to make things even better – the egg production from Sally, Spot and Dot increased.  Tweety, Jr. and Fred, Jr., though?  Not so much.

My mother and my husband have “joked” on more than one occasion about sending the Ameraucana’s to the stew pot.  I chose to ignore them.

The other day I went out to the coop, as I do in the afternoon, and I lifted the door to the nesting boxes.  There, nestled in the straw, were four eggs.  Three brown and one green (!).

And there was much rejoicing.

The (theoretical) trip to the stew pot has been stayed.

This morning I used that beautiful green egg in some cornmeal pancakes I’ve been wanting to tell you about.  I made them for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve been thinking about them ever since.  I make whole-grain pancakes all the time – usually a mixture of rolled oats and freshly ground wheat – but this is the first time I’ve really delved into the cornmeal variety.  I think it’s because I’ve been getting all of this lovely freshly ground meal from Rockin’ S Farms – I really want to showcase it.  The sweetness of the corn lends itself really nicely to a pancake application.  Together with some local raw honey, cultured buttermilk, and those coveted eggs from our backyard flock, they make for a delightful breakfast. 

Honey, Buttermilk and Cornmeal Pancakes
prep time: 5 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
yields: 16 4-inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 2/3 cups buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup honey (I’ve also used molasses here, for a deeper flavor)
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, honey, eggs and melted butter
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir to combine.  Do not overmix.
  4. Ladle by quarter-cupfuls onto a hot griddle.  Allow to brown on the first side before flipping to the second side.
  5. Serve warm with warm maple syrup, honey or fruit compote (I used some warm blueberry jam).
  6. Enjoy!

Why I Love Southern Food; A{nother} Hash Recipe; And a Giveaway Winner(!)

Lordy, Southern food has been in the news a lot lately.  From Paula Deen to Trisha Yearwood to Hugh Acheson, there’s been a lot of talk about what southern cooking really is. I know I’ve written about it before, but I thought it warranted a bit more discussion.  I mean, I’m a southerner, and I cook, so I guess you could say I’m a southern cook.  I grew up watching other southerners cook, both men and women, and I’ve learned a thing or two from each of them.  Mostly what I know is that, for the most part, southern food is simple.  It’s based on seasonal foods that come from the land, and it’s highly flavorful.

I love the tradition of southern food.  I love that it’s based on an agrarian lifestyle, one where food is grown within a community and consumed within that same community.  And while the fats of choice in southern cooking have traditionally been animal fats in the form of lard, butter and tallow, I’m okay with that too.  There are more and more studies every day that show that fats from pastured animals are actually good for us in moderation.

Moderation is also a common thread in southern cooking (and eating).  I can remember being at my grandparents’ house in Mississippi when I was young.  Supper was often a simple bowl of white beans spooned over cornbread.  Or a plate of garden vegetables to accompany a few fried fish that had come from the lake earlier that day.  And yes, the fish were fried (probably in Crisco, because that was all the rage those days), but they were small and the majority of the meal was made up of vegetables in the form of green beans, tomatoes, green onions and peppers.

To this day, this is how I prefer to eat.  A little bit of protein, accompanied by some farm fresh vegetables.  In my mind, this is the epitome of southern food.  Simple, fresh, seasonal.

Even when those seasonal vegetables might not be my favorite, I’m making an effort to learn to like them.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about a rutabaga hash that I’d made for breakfast one morning.  In that post, I mentioned that I’ve never really been a fan of rutabagas (also known as turnips) because of their bitter, earthy flavor.  The problem is that they are in my CSA bag every week.  And I am beyond grateful to have the resource of a local farm that brings me farm fresh vegetables on a weekly basis, so I’m not about to complain.  So I just have to make every effort to embrace the rutabaga

This time, I shredded them using the large shredding blade on my food processor.  Then I salted them and let them  sit for five minutes or so.  The salt drew out a lot of the liquid, which also removed much of the bitterness. I placed them in a clean kitchen towel and twisted it tightly to squeeze out as much of the liquid as  I could.

Then I sauteed them in some clarified butter with some kale and pulled pork.  The earlier version of rutabaga hash was good, but it wasn’t great.  The cubes never got good and crispy the way I like, they just kind of got soft and mushy and wet.  They tasted alright, but I felt like they needed a little tweaking.  The shredded version?  Crispy, brown, tender, flavorful – really great.

I served it over some heirloom pencil-cob grits and topped it all with a couple of poached eggs.  It was a quintessential southern dinner – local, seasonal and fresh. 

Pork, Rutabaga and Kale Hash

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 15 minutes

serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 3 small rutabagas, shredded
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup kale, shredded
  • 1/2 cup pulled pork (could also use pot roast, corned beef, or leave out meat altogether)
  • 2 teaspoons clarified butter

  1. Place shredded rutabagas in a stainless steel bowl, and toss with 1 teaspoon salt.  Let sit for five minutes to draw out the water.
  2. Place on a clean kitchen towel, pull ends of towel up to create a little pouch.  Twist tightly to squeeze out as much water as you can.
  3. Heat an iron skillet over medium heat.
  4. Add clarified butter  to pan and melt.
  5. Add the kale, pork and rutabagas.  Cook over medium heat, stirring periodically until crispy and brown.
  6. Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper as necessary.
  7. Enjoy!

If you, like me, are not a fan of the humble turnip, give this method a try.  The salting and draining really mellows out the flavor, and it helps in the crisping process.

And finally, for the announcement you’ve all been waiting for, the Whole Foods gift card giveaway winner.

There were 32 entries into the contest.  I wrote them all down in the order in which I received them, and then I went to random.org to choose a winner. 

Congratulations, Natalie!  Email me your address at lifeinrecipes[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll arrange to have the gift card mailed to you. You’ll be making over your pantry in no time.

Thank you to Harry’s Farmers Market Alpharetta for partnering with me on this generous giveaway!

Subscribing to a CSA Is Like Being on Chopped

For about four years now, I’ve been looking for a meat CSA in my area.  I’ve also looked into (but have never committed to) buying whole and half cows, purchasing pastured pigs and goats, heritage chickens and turkeys, all of which require a fairly large financial commitment and can result in a substantial amount of meat to store.  What I really wanted was a subscription service where I could pay monthly, quarterly or bi-annually and be assured a certain quantity of meat without having to commit to any one type or cut.

Finally, after much research and years of buying from a variety of local and regional farms either at the farmers market or at Harry’s, I decided to bite the bullet and test the waters with a local meat CSA.  Riverview Farms is a farm in northwest Georgia, about 50 miles north of where I live.  They offer both produce and meat subscriptions, but right now I’m only taking advantage of the meat (our garden is still producing, so we’re going to utilize that as long as we can).  They are a certified organic farm and they specialize in Berkshire pork and grass-fed beef. And they have a drop-off point that’s about four miles from my house.

We received our first box last week.  We pay $68 a month for 10 lbs. of meat.  This month we got a chuck roast (about 2.5 lbs.), two pounds of ground beef, two pounds of breakfast sausage, four bone-in pork chops (totaling a little over 2 pounds) and a pound of chorizo.  I love that we don’t know what we’re getting ahead of time, because it forces me to be creative with my dinner menus.  You can also place orders for certain items to be added to your box if you know there’s something you want.

lettuce, spinach and an egg from our own backyard

Tonight, I was struggling to think of something to make for dinner.  I knew I wanted to use some of the chorizo, and I’d pulled some spinach from our garden earlier in the day.  I also had some quinoa in the pantry.  I was drawing a blank, though, when it came to putting all of those things together into a cohesive meal – it was like a Chopped chef’s worst nightmare (although, on Chopped they probably would have thrown in peanut-butter or some kind of terrible fruit candy just to screw with me).  I decided to google those three ingredients, on a whim, and was delighted to find a recipe that fit the bill perfectly.  It even utilized those eggs I’d gathered.

I changed things up slightly by using fresh chorizo rather than dried (since that’s what I had), and I baked everything in the same pan I used to saute the chorizo, onion and spinach which resulted in a nice crisp brown crust on the bottom and edges.

Baked Quinoa with Chorizo, Spinach and Cheese
adapted from A Foodie’s Footnotes: Baked Quinoa with Spinach, Cheese and Chorizo
prep time: 20 minutes
bake time: 25 minutes
yields: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/2 pound fresh chorizo
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 3 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 oz. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Cook quinoa according to package instructions
  3. Remove chorizo from casing and saute in a large heavy skillet or saute pan until browned. Break up the sausage as it cooks.
  4. Using a slotted spoon, remove chorizo from the pan and set aside.
  5. Add chopped onion to the fat rendered from cooking the chorizo and saute until browned and translucent.
  6. Add chopped spinach and stir around until wilted.
  7. Add the sausage back to the pan and remove from the heat.
  8. Drain the quinoa and place it back to the pan you cooked it in.
  9. Scramble the eggs and add them to the cooked quinoa along with 3/4 of the cheese and 2 teaspoons of the sage.  Stir to combine.
  10. Add the quinoa mixture to the sausage mixture and mix to evenly distribute the ingredients.  Spread it evenly in the pan.
  11. Sprinkle the remaining cheese and sage over the top
  12. Bake at 400F for 25 minutes, or until top is browned
  13. Enjoy!

Y’all, it was delicious.  I went back for seconds and my husband went back for thirds and fourths.  The kids were kind of indifferent, since the chorizo was spicier than what they’re used to, but I don’t think that will keep me from making this again.  I might try it with a milder sausage next time, but I’ll definitely be revisiting this recipe.  And I hope you’ll try it, too.  You could even do this as a vegetarian meal, eliminating the chorizo and spicing things up with some chipotles or chile de arbol.

If you try it, let me know.  I’ll be knocking on your door right around dinnertime.

Nice: Salade Niçoise

Yesterday, before the sun had risen too high in the sky and pushed the temperatures into the stratosphere, I wandered down to the garden, toddler in tow.  As the 18-month old chased the chickens (bock-bocks as he calls them) in and around the cypress trees, I examined the various plants to see if any were bearing fruit.

Two of our ten tomato plants are laden with green orbs, and the two jalapeno bushes are weighted down with inch-and-a-half long pods.  The butternut squash vines are in full bloom, and many of the blossom ends are beginning to swell with the promise of delicious golden flesh.  Our infant asparagus patch has successfully gone to seed, and our cucumbers are rife with fuzzy little fingerlings.  The lacy tops of the rainbow carrots are waving in the breeze, and the melons are creeping along the ground stealthily, their little yellow flowers smiling smugly in the sun.

Continue reading “Nice: Salade Niçoise”

Grilled Angel Food Cake (fat-free, but who cares?)

She was a freshman in college: a little overweight, introverted and shy. She was excited, but a little unsure of herself in this new situation.  As an only child, she had never really shared a room with anyone else, let alone a perfect stranger.  She wasn’t even sure she really liked people all that much (sometimes, she still feels that way – true confession).  All she knew was that she was glad to be out of high school, away from all that pressure – pressure to be liked, pressure to be thin, pressure to have a boyfriend.  A new place with new people might be just the thing.

Mill at Berry College - image courtesy of millpictures.com

Surprisingly, she made friends relatively quickly and easily – and the friends she met in those first weeks at school are still some of her best friends today (nearly 20 years later).

She was determined to buck the trend of the dreaded “freshman-15”.  She would go to the dining hall with her new friends, but she would eat off the salad bar or order turkey sandwiches on whole-wheat bread – hold the cheese and mayo.  The fat-free trend was in full swing (this was long before the idea of “good fat” vs. “bad fat” – all fat was bad, so you should avoid it altogether).  Occasionally she would nuke a potato in the microwave in her dorm room and slather it with fat-free sour cream and butter-flavored spread.

Continue reading “Grilled Angel Food Cake (fat-free, but who cares?)”