Thursday, March 29, 2012

Salmon-and-Potato Cakes with Mixed Greens

The idea to make salmon and potato cakes first arose when a recipe appeared in a Food and Wine newsletter some weeks back. Although this isn't the particular recipe featured, the notion really got stuck in my head and started me on a search that led me to this lovely meal. This recipe utilizes a classic collection of flavors to great success, particularly reminding me of just how much I adore fresh dill. Poaching the onion, potato and salmon together infuses the cake with a delicious flavor base which is then accented beautiful by the scallions, dill, Dijon, and vinegar folded gently into the cake. Using an adequate amount of oil is critical to creating a satisfying crust, so don't skimp when frying the salmon cakes. Plated gently on top of a generous bed of fresh greens, this meal needs nothing more than a glass of wine and slice of crusty bread to complete it. Sophisticated enough for date night but easy and quick enough for any weekday, this fresh and healthy meal is the perfect addition to your spring dinner table.
Salmon-and-Potato Cakes with Mixed Greens
from Food and Wine
serves 4

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons cooking oil
1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (about 3), peeled and sliced thin
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 onion, grated
1 pound skinless salmon fillets
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup heavy cream
4 scallions, white bulbs only, chopped
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red- or white-wine vinegar
1/2 pound mixed salad greens (about 4 quarts)
1 lemon, cut into wedges (optional)

1. Brush the bottom of a large deep frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Put the potatoes in the pan and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Top with the onion and then the salmon. Sprinkle another 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper over the salmon. Add the water to the pan, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the salmon and potatoes are done, about 15 minutes.

2. Remove the salmon and flake. Drain the potatoes well and put in a medium bowl. Add the cream and mash, leaving the potatoes fairly chunky. Add the salmon, another 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper, the scallions, and 2 tablespoons of the dill. Form the mixture into eight cakes; they needn't be perfectly symmetrical or smooth.

3. Wipe out the frying pan. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat over moderately high heat. Add half the salmon cakes to the pan and brown well on both sides, about 5 minutes in all. Drain on paper towels and repeat with another tablespoon oil and the remaining salmon cakes.

4. In a medium glass or stainless-steel bowl, whisk together the mustard, vinegar, and the remaining 1 tablespoon dill and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Add the remaining 1/4 cup oil slowly, whisking. Add the greens, toss, and put on plates. Top each salad with two salmon cakes and a lemon wedge.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers

While I've taken a temporary hiatus from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way recipes, I've come across an unexpectedly wonderful new source of veggie burger recipes-Martha Stewart! While I can't say I'm a fan of Martha Stewart as a person, her brand rarely disappoints, this recipe being no exception. Quinoa is something that I keep around all the time-it cooks quickly, is a complete protein, and I've come to really love its unique texture and flavor. Combining quinoa with beans make these burgers filling, but the carrot and scallion keeps them from being too dense. The crisp cucumbers and acidic lemon yogurt dressing are the perfect fresh contrast to the smoky, hearty patties and need only a side salad to become the perfect meal. I thought I'd be taking a longer break from weekly veggie burger experiments, but I found myself missing the easy, healthy lunches at work in just the first week I failed to make a batch of veggie burgers during the weekend. Even though this warm weather has already necessitated many meaty burgers on the grill, I won't be turning my back on veggie burgers any time soon.
Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers
from Martha Stewart
makes 4 burgers

1/2 cup rinsed quinoa
1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
6 scallions, thinly sliced
15 ounces great northern beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Coarse salt
Ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 pitas (each 6 inches)
1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced diagonally

1. In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup water to a boil; add quinoa, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes; set aside.

2. In a food processor, pulse carrot until finely chopped. Add cooked quinoa, half the scallions, beans, breadcrumbs, egg, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; pulse until combined but still slightly chunky.

3. Form mixture into four 3/4-inch-thick patties (dip hands in water to prevent sticking). If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes to firm. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium; cook burgers until browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes per side.

4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, and the remaining scallions; season with salt and pepper. Serve burgers in pita topped with cucumber and yogurt sauce.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars

After how much I enjoyed Crunchy Peanut Butter Granola Bars from America's Test Kitchen, I felt it only natural to try out the chewy version. While this recipe requires a bit more finesse because you're making a caramel to bind the bars together, it is most assuredly worth the effort. A candy thermometer makes the process a lot easier, but I still think it's best to judge when the caramel is done by smell and appearance. Caramel can go from beautifully caramelized to irrecoverably burnt in just a moment, so it's critical to pay close attention, especially in the final stages. But if you trust yourself and have enough patience, you'll be rewarded with a big pan of chewy, sweet, salty, and healthy granola bars. I've been happily munching away on these for a few weeks now, and even though the extras I froze don't have quite as delightful texture as freshly prepared ones, all the flavor is still there. If you've got a bit of extra time this weekend, I hope you'll take the opportunity to whip up a big batch of these delicious granola bars for healthy snacks at your fingertips any time.

Chewy Peanut Butter Granola Bars
adapted from America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook
makes 16 bars

2/3 cup unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts, chopped coarse
1/4 cup unsalted pumpkin seeds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups (6 ounces) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups Multigrain Cheerios
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup water
1 cup (7 ounces) sugar
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter

1. Line a 13 by 9-inch baking pan with an aluminum foil sling and coat lightly with vegetable oil spray. Toast the peanuts and pumpkin seeds in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until fragrant and golgen brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the toasted nuts and seeds to a large bowl.

2. Add the butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat. Stir in the oats and cook, stirring often, until golden and fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer the toasted oats to the bowl with the toasted nuts and seeds and stir in the Cheerios and salt.

3. Pour the water into a clean heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Pour the sugar into the center of the pan (don't let it hit the pan sides) and gently stir with a clean heatproof spatula to wet it throroughly.

4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, without stirring, until the sugar has dissolved completely and the caramel has a faint golden color (about 300 degrees on a candy thermometer), 4 to 8 minutes.

5. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring only as needed, until the caramel has a dark amber color (about 350 degrees on a candy thermometer), 1 to 3 minutes. Off the heat, whisk in the half-and-half (the caramel with steam and bubble vigorously) until smooth and just barely bubbling, 30 to 60 seconds. Whisk in the vanilla and peanut butter.

6. Working quickly, stir the hot caramel into the nut-oat mixture until thoroughly combined. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking pan and pack very firmly into an even layer. Let the granola cool completely, about 30 minutes. Remove the granola from the pan using the foil, cut into 16 bars, and serve.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pea and Parsley Pesto with Linguine

This is definitely a meal that feels like spring. Although the recent temperatures may be fooling us into thinking summer has already arrived, the calendar tells us that we've just barely passed the vernal equinox and I certainly don't want to skip over the quintessential flavors of spring. Although it's still a bit too early for farmer's market peas and parsley (though I have seen the first broccoli!), this dish is full of fresh flavor and definitely honors the spirit of spring dining. Pesto purists may balk at the idea of using anything other than pine nuts and basil, but my open mind and palate was more than delighted by the balanced combination of peas, parsley, and walnuts with de rigueur Parmesan and olive oil. You'll only use about half of the pesto in this recipe, so I recommend portioning the pesto into ice cube trays and freezing for a delicious sauce at your fingertips any time. If you're serving carnivores that simply can't enjoy a meal without meal, grilled chicken breast would be a great addition to this recipe, but it is completely satifying as is. Fresh, salty, nutty, and savory, this pasta is sure to please anytime from busy workday to romantic date night.

Pea and Parsley Pesto with Linguine
adapted from Everyday Food
serves 4

2 cups frozen peas (from a 10-ounce bag)
1 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
2/3 cup grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
12 ounces whole wheat linguine or spaghetti

1. Cook 1 cup peas according to package instructions. In a food processor, combine cooked peas, parsley, walnuts, Parmesan, garlic, and 1 tablespoon water. Pulse until a paste forms. With machine running, slowly add oil, processing until blended; season with salt and pepper.

2. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook pasta according to package instructions, adding 1 cup peas 30 seconds before end of cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and peas. Return pasta and peas to pot; toss with 3/4 cup pesto (reserve remainder for another use), adding enough pasta water to create a sauce that coats pasta. Serve pasta with more Parmesan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Baked Falafel Burgers

This, sadly, is the last veggie burger recipe I have to share from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way, at least for now. It's not to say there still aren't a few more bookmarked recipes I'm anxious to try, but for most of the remaining recipes I'm waiting for the principle ingredient to come into season so I can really do it right. Luckily for me, this delicious burger is not dependent on seasonality (there's no way chickpeas are even coming into season in Wisconsin), but still bursting with flavor. Smoky cumin delights the taste buds with each bite, complemented by bursts of fresh lemon and parsley. A bit of forethought is required to soak the chickpeas, but putting the burgers together takes just a few minutes and everything can be cleaned up in the time it takes for the burgers to cook. Although not the indulgence of traditional deep-fried falafel, baking these burgers creates a crispy crust without adding too much fat, but don't skimp too much if you want a nice crust. A decidedly delicious and satisfying lunch, they could also make a delightful appetizer if shaped into 12 to 18 patties and served with a yogurt dipping sauce. Although I'm a little sad to be done with this treasury of veggie burgers for now, I know I'm going out with a great recipe and I'll be back to Veggie Burgers Every Which Way before too long.

Baked Falafel Burgers
adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
makes six 4-inch burgers

1 cup dried chickpeas, rinsed thoroughly
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon toasted cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chickpea or all-purpose flour, if needed

1 .
 Cover the chickpeas by 4 to 5 inches water in a bowl and let sit for 24 hours. Drain thoroughly.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

3. Combine the chickpeas, onion, garlic, parsley, lemon zest and juice, cumin seeds, baking soda, salt, black pepper, and cayenne in a good processor. Pulse until coarsely combined. If the mixture is struggling to come together, add a bit of water, but no more than 2 tablespoons. (The mixture will fall apart when cooking if there's too much liquid). If water is added, stir in the chickpea flour. Adjust seasonings. Shape into 6 patties (it will be a fairly wet dough).

4. Place the patties on a liberally oiled baking sheet. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them once halfway through, until golden and firm.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Seeded Whole Wheat Scones

I had no idea how much I would like the scones when I first stumbled across the recipe. I've made lots of scones in my day, including many whole wheat ones, and I thought these would be, like most I've made, tasty and nutritious, but not extraordinary. I was so very happy for that assumption to be proven wrong. They have the slight sweetness and tender crumb common to most of my scones, but the mix of seeds performs an alchemy that makes these scones unbelievably delicious. While nuts get all the glory, seeds remain tragically underutilized in baked goods, but these scones are doing their part toward remedying the situation. While I've been happily chowing down on these for breakfast, their savory qualities would also make them a wonderful companion to soups and salads. If you feel the need to gild the lily, a healthy slathering of butter would not be unwelcome, but they definitely stand on their own, as any good pastry should. More than any other baked good I've made in recently memory, I urge you to try this unique and unexpectedly wonderful recipe.

Seeded Whole Wheat Scones
adapted from the New York Times
makes 12 scones

5 ounces (1 1/3 cups) whole-wheat pastry flour
2 ounces (1/2 cup) all-purpose flour (or more whole wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 ounces (1/2 cup) raw brown sugar
Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons mixed seeds (for instance, sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, flax and poppy)

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. Sift together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar and salt. Dump anything remaining in the sifter into the bowl with the sifted ingredients. Place in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and cut in the butter until the mixture is crumbly.

3. Combine the buttermilk and vanilla and, with the machine running, add to the flour mixture. Stop the machine and add the seeds. Pulse a few times to combine.

4. Flour your hands and a spatula, as well as your work surface, and scrape out the dough.  Gently shape into a rectangle 1 inch thick. Cut into 6 squares, then cut the squares diagonally to give you 12 triangular scones. The dough will be tacky but should not be too sticky to work with. If it is, add a little more flour.

5. Place the scones on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart and bake 15 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove from the heat and allow to cool, or serve warm.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Potato-and-Broccoli Soup

In an average March in Wisconsin, it would definitely still be soup weather. And although this week of 70+ degree temperatures may have made it seem like it's going to be summer from here on out, sadly, this is unlikely to be the case. But if it has to return to seasonable temperatures at least I can happily indulge in cool weather dishes like this tasty soup. For whatever reason, I had a profound craving for broccoli potato soup before these unseasonable temperatures arrived, stumbling across this easy recipe with just a quick search of one of my favorite recipe sources, Food and Wine. Yet another example of a simple recipe with high-quality ingredients producing fantastic results, this simple vegetable soup is absolutely sublime. Fresh broccoli is the perfect partner to hearty potatoes, blended together in a swirl of Parmesan-induced umami in a bath of flavorful stock. Splurging a bit on broth (if you can't make your own) and Parmesan (I adore Hook's) will not only bring out the best qualities of this soup, but elevate every other dish you use them in, making it truly worth the investment. Farmers' market veggies are of course your best bet, but you certainly won't regret making this even with supermarket has to offer. Even if you're longing for the dog days of summer, seize the opporunity to enjoy a last few hearty bowls of soup in the first days of spring.
Potato-and-Broccoli Soup
from Food and Wine
serves 4

2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 3/4 pounds broccoli, thick stems peeled and diced (about 2 cups), tops cut into small florets (about 1 quart)
1 1/2 pounds boiling potatoes (about 5), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cups canned low-sodium chicken broth or homemade stock (or vegetable broth)
3 cups water
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

1. In a large pot, melt the butter over moderately low heat. Add the onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.

2. Add the garlic, broccoli stems, potatoes, broth, water, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are almost tender, about 10 minutes.

3. In a food processor or blender, pulse the soup to a coarse puree. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the broccoli florets and simmer until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir 1/4 cup of the grated Parmesan into the soup, and serve the soup topped with the remaining cheese.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Sweet-and-Sour Shrimp

The more sophisticated my palate becomes as I age, the more I crave dishes with strongly contrasting flavors with sweet-and-salty (like dark chocolate or caramel with sea salt) and sweet-and-sour being two of my favorites. As a kid I couldn't get enough electric orange sweet and sour chicken, but as an adult I prefer more authentic and less disturbing-colored Chinese food like this sweet-and-sour shrimp. I'm definitely not calling this a heritage recipe, but it is an easy-to-prepare and vibrantly flavored dish that uses a suite of common Asian ingredients. Although the shopping list for this dish may seem excessive, all of the components are used frequently in Asian cooking and definitely worth purchasing if you enjoy cooking Asian cuisine at home. This recipe turns shrimp into a delicious main with only a quick sauce and stir-fry in a large skillet or wok. This sauce expertly balances sweet ketchup, salty soy sauce, acidic vinegar, and fresh ginger with a satisfying punch of heat from chili sauce, hitting all of your taste buds. Served over a bed of brown rice and steamed snow peas, this meal will make you forget all about take-out menus and realize that you can have a tasty, healthy home-cooked meal, even on busy days.

Sweet-and-Sour Shrimp
from Food and Wine
serves 4

2 tablespoons ketchup
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3/4 cup chicken broth
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Chinese chile sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp, peeled

1. In a small bowl, whisk the ketchup with the soy sauce, chicken broth, sugar, chile sauce, cornstarch and vinegar.

2. Heat a large skillet until very hot. Add the oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the ginger and garlic and cook for 10 seconds, until fragrant. Add the shrimp and cook until curled, but not cooked through, 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk the sauce and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring, until the sauce is thickened and the shrimp are cooked through, 3 minutes.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

My mid-morning snack focus has turned from cookies to granola bars lately, so I've been holding on to this recipe for quite some time. This cookie rides the line between healthy and indulgent, and is a wonderful way to sneak in some nutrition while still feeling like you're treating yourself. Whole wheat pastry flour keeps the cookies light and tender and gives them a slightly nutty flavor, old-fashioned oats add a nice chewiness, coconut lends a touch of richness, with just enough sweetness from the brown rice syrup. These cookies make an excellent snack with a cup of tea or a delightful light dessert with a small scoop of vanilla ice cream. It won't be too long before summer temperatures arrive and firing up the oven will sound less than appealing, so use these first days of spring to indulge in some delicious baked goods.

Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
makes about 2 dozen
adapted from Whole Foods Market

1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup fine unsweetened coconut
3/4 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon  extract

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Combine flour, coconut, ground oatmeal, soda and salt in a medium sized bowl. Blend oil, rice syrup and barley malt together in a small bowl. Add egg, vanilla and orange extract. Combine liquid ingredients with flour mixture. Batter will be stiff.

2. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Press cookies with a fork to about 1/2 inch thickness. Bake for 12—14 minutes or until bottoms are golden.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Spicy Steak and Corn Soft Tacos

After I made salmon tacos, a half-empty package of tortillas lingering in the fridge demanded to meet their taco destiny as well. And with a lonely steak hanging out in the freezer, the solution was obvious-steak tacos. It would have been simplest just to slice some onions and peppers and make fajitas, but I was looking for something a little special while still quick and easy, both requirements satisfied by this taco. The sweet corn and slightly caramelized onions and peppers are accented by smoky cumin and fresh cilantro, with as much heat as you'd like from the chili powder and jalapenos. These tacos can be  indulgent and filling or healthy and light, depending on much sour cream and cheese you load on top, and can make for either a cozy meal for two or easily and affordably scaled up to feed a crowd. As delicious as this meal was made on the stove, it's sure to be even better in summer with fresh corn and peppers from the farmer's market, charring beautifully on the grill next to a gorgeous steak. Not a carnivore? Try out this brilliant flavor profile with black beans or tofu for a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Spicy Steak and Corn Soft Tacos
from Bon Appetit
serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 pound round, flank or skirt steak, cut into 1/4-inch-thick, long narrow strips
3/4 cup frozen whole kernel corn, cooked according to package directions, drained
1 jalapeño chili, minced with seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro

Corn or flour tortillas
Grated cheddar cheese
Chopped fresh tomatoes (or salsa)
Sour cream

1. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and bell pepper and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to plate. Add steak to skillet and stir until no longer pink, about 1 minute. Return onion and pepper to skillet. Add corn, jalapeño, cumin and chili powder and stir until heated through. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Remove from heat and mix in cilantro. Transfer steak mixture to heated bowl and keep warm.

2. Cook tortillas over gas flame or electric burner until they just begin to color. Transfer to napkin-lined basket.

3. Serve tortillas, steak mixture, cheese, tomatoes and sour cream separately, so diners can assemble tacos at the table.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baked Quinoa Burgers

Last week I said that my veggie burger obsession was almost to an end, and I only had one more recipe that I was ready to share. As it turns out, I was wrong. I was inspired to make one more veggie burger this past weekend and even though it retroactively made me a bit of a liar, I have zero regrets that I made these delicious quinoa burgers. I absolutely love quinoa for its flavor, texture, versalitility, and because it is a complete protein and it makes frequent appearances in my meals. I've made lots of quinoa pilafs and salads, both hot and cold, and I love quinoa's ability to harmoniously coexist with both savory flavors and slightly sweet ones. And as it turns out, quinoa makes an absolutely fantastic burger as well. One of the most difficult parts of creating a successful veggie or grain burger is keeping it from falling apart, and although these are fairly wet burgers, they hold together quite well while still maintaining some texture. A very simple creation, the aroma of these burgers is still inticing enough to warrant unsolicited praises of my lunch at work, the simple seasoning combination of garlic, shallot, salt, and pepper mingling happily with the spinach and quinoa. Although I chose to eat these as a burger, they would also be delicious as an appetizer (in smaller portions), side dish, or salad topping.

One of the key elements to success when cooking quinoa is making sure to rinse it well before cooking. Quinoa is naturally coated in saponins, which will give the grain a soapy taste if not removed, and can turn people off to this otherwise spectacular grain. Once you get comfortable with this nutritious, quick-cooking grain, try substituting it anywhere you would ordinarily have rice, couscous, or maybe even pasta. Whether as part of a burger, main dish or side this amazing grain is a pantry staple and one I hope will find a treasured place in your kitchen, as it has in mine.

Baked Quinoa Burgers
from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way by Lukas Volger
makes six 4-inch burgers

1 cup quinoa
5 ounces spinach, fresh or frozen
1 small shallot, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg, beaten
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch red pepper flakes or freshly grated nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa. Bring the quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan. Reduce the heat and add a pinch of salt. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed. Transfer to a mixing bowl and allow to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the spinach: If using fresh spinach, steam it for 3 to 4 minutes over an inch of simmering water or blanch it for 30 seconds in a pot of boiling salted water. Transfer to an ice bath to halt the cooking. Squeeze dry and finely chop. If using frozen spinach, allow it to thaw then squeeze dry.

4. Combine the cooked quinoa and spinach with the shallot, garlic, egg, flour, baking powder, salt, black pepper, and red pepper or nutmeg. Shape into 6 patties and place on the prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and firm.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Cinnamon-Carrot Muffins

Sometimes simple flavor combinations can surprise you with how great they are, and for me, this muffin is a prime example. This is a very simple muffin, flavored with just cinnamon, carrots, and brown sugar, but somehow the sum of those parts is so much more than the ingredients themselves. Moist, sweet, and tender, these muffins are reminiscent of carrot cake, and could be made much more so with the addition of raisins, walnuts, and a bit of nutmeg. Except for special occasions, I'm not a fan of super-sweet breakfast foods and these muffins had just enough sweetness to feel a bit dessert-like without leaving the realm of things I'd eat for breakfast any day of the week. Like most baked goods, these are the best piping hot, fresh from the oven, but also freeze exceptionally well so you can stock your freezer with healthy breakfasts. An easy way to incorporate vegetables into your breakfast even when you're in a rush, these superbly simple and tasty muffins are well-worth a place in your repertoire.

Cinnamon-Carrot Muffins
adapted from Whole Living
makes 12 standard muffins (or 6 jumbo muffins)

1 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup buttermilk
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups finely grated carrots (4-5 carrots)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line a standard muffin tin with paper cups.

3. Whisk flours, wheat germ, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Whisk remaining ingredients in a separate bowl. Fold dry ingredients into wet and mix until just combined.

4. Spoon batter into cups.

5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Cool in pan for 15 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grilled Salmon Soft Tacos

It's hard to believe there was a time in my life when I didn't like fish. As a kid, the only seafood I would eat was shrimp, tuna salad, and my dad's homemade cornmeal-breaded fish sticks. Now my freezer is well-stocked with fish fillets, I eat fish at least once a week for dinner, and have an insatiable appetite for sushi. A lot of fish fillets find their way onto my dinner table, but after picking up a package of corn tortillas, I couldn't get fish tacos out of my head. Fish tacos are traditionally made with white fish, so I had to do a little digging to find a salmon taco recipe (to use up the fish I already had) that seemed worth the effort, which this recipe definitely was. Smoky ancho chile powder coats the luscious salmon, turning into an intensely flavorful crust on the grill and playing beautifully against the fresh and crunchy cabbage slaw and cool, creamy cilantro crema. Since ancho chile powder isn't spicy, this is a great recipe for those who don't like a lot of heat (my husband); throw on a few pickled jalapenos to punch it up if you're a capsaicin addict like me. These light and fresh tacos invoked a small taste of summer, taking me away from the frigid winter winds of February into the sunny days of July. Although a complete meal on their own, I added a side of refried beans to satisfy my ravenous appetite, washing it all down with a cold beer while trying to forget about the snow.

Grilled Salmon Soft Tacos
adapted from Eating Well
serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon ancho or New Mexico chile powder
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 4-ounce wild salmon fillets, about 1-inch thick, skin on
8 6-inch corn or flour tortillas, warmed
Cabbage Slaw, for serving (recipe follows)
Homemade or store-bought salsa, for serving
Cilantro Crema, for serving (recipe follows)

1. Preheat grill to medium-high.

2. Combine oil, chile powder, lime juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub the spice mixture liberally over salmon. Grill the salmon, skin-side down, until it is just cooked through, about 8 minutes. Cut each fillet lengthwise into 2 pieces and remove the skin.
3. To serve, place 2 tortillas on each plate. Evenly divide the fish, Cabbage Slaw, and Cilantro Crema among the tortillas and top with salsa.

Cilantro Crema
1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon minced scallion greens
1 teaspoon seeded and minced serrano chile
1/8 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

1. Combine sour cream, cilantro, scallion greens, chile, salt and pepper in a small bowl until smooth.

Cabbage Slaw
2 cups finely shredded green cabbage
1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1. Toss cabbage, bell pepper, onion, vinegar and oil in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss again to combine.