Thursday, February 18, 2010

Whole Grain Mix

In our pantry we have all sorts of glass jars from IKEA that hold the items I buy from the bulk foods section: jasmine rice, brown rice, lentils, pecans, pistachios, dried apricots, bulghur, etc. The Chef decided to cook a bunch of grains we had on hand, mixed them together once cooked and cooled, and stored them in the refrigerator. We have been having amazing meals using this Whole Grain Mix all week long.

This particular combination included brown basmati rice, barley, quinoa, and wild rice. I love all of these grains on their own but can assuredly say I have enjoyed them even more as a mix.

Don't try and cook the whole grains all in one pot. Even though it's a pain and creates more dirty dishes, cook them separately since their cooking times vary so much. It seems like a big production having four pots boiling at once but it's really not that much trouble at all. I'm quite sure there are all sorts of little tricks for the best possible cooking method for each grain but I just cover the grains with a few inches of cold water and boil the hell out of them until tender but still chewy. Cool the grains on a sheet pan and then combine in a large bowl. Store, covered in the refrigerator for a week.

Below are some ways we've been using up the Whole Grain Mix.

  • Add milk, currants, raisins, and dried figs to the whole grains. Heat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warm. Drizzle maple syrup over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon.

  • Heat a bit of peanut oil in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Saute some chopped broccoli, garlic, red pepper flakes, and edamame. Beat together an egg or two and quickly stir-fry that as well. Add the whole grains and drizzle with soy sauce, stirring all the ingredients together well.

  • Use the whole grains as a base for a variation on the Baked Eggs recipe.

  • Cube some cooked beets and add them to the whole grains. Stir in a tablespoon or two of a balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkle with feta and toasted pine nuts.

  • Stir-fry some spinach in a little oil, add the whole grains and some baked or fried tofu and stir in some hoisin sauce. Garnish with sesame seeds.

  • Make a whole grain rice pudding by combining milk and sugar with the grains in a saucepan. Stir together until thick. Add a small amount of almond extract and some orange zest.

  • Mix together the whole grains with diced mozzarella, a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, salt and heat in the microwave until the cheese melts. Top with a spoonful of delicious.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chickpea Crostini with Orange, Cumin and Mint

I had one of those weeks where I hadn't gone grocery shopping in ages, I was having strange dinners consisting of apple slices, pickles, some cashews and chocolate milk (sort of delicious in a secret way), and the fact that I hadn't done a blog post in over a week was just LOOMING over me. Something had to be done and thankfully, I came up with this.

This might not look all that pretty but in this case, looks aren't everything. The combination of flavors really works and is both healthy and interesting. The nuttiness of the chickpeas is livened by the zest and mint. The raisins add a subtle sweetness and the last-minute sprinkling of goat cheese imparts a nice richness.

This literally took no time at all to make--probably about 15 minutes, yet I think if this were served to guests they'd eat it up quick and ask for the recipe later.

For about 20 crostini:
  • 1/2 a multigrain baguette
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • The zest of one small orange
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons finely minced shallot
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese, for garnish

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut the baguette into about 20 slices. Put two tablespoons of the olive oil in a small bowl and brush each side of the baguette slices with it. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 5 minutes per side until golden and toasty. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine the chickpeas, the remaining 4 tablespoons of the olive oil, golden raisins, orange zest, mint, cumin, and shallot. Stir together well and season to taste with salt and pepper. With a potato masher, lightly mash about half of the mixture.

Spoon the chickpeas onto a crostini and sprinkle with a little goat cheese. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Red Curry Sweet Potato Croquettes

I was looking through one of the classic vegetarian cookbooks, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison and came across a recipe for Quinoa and Potato Croquettes. The croquettes were infused with Mexican flavors and I was inspired by the concept. I poked around my kitchen and saw that I was all out of quinoa but did have some brown rice and a sweet potato.

I used the same basic method for making my version of these croquettes, adding red curry paste and fish sauce for a Thai-inspired dish. They turned out quite nice with sweet/spicy flavors, a hint of salty sourness from the fish sauce and a little nuttiness from the brown rice. I served them with the Asian Pear Slaw which was a nice counterpoint.

I must warn you, these aren't the easiest to work with. The "batter" is pretty delicate and was particularly hard to flip without breaking them in half. My advice is to keep the croquettes small, and don't flip them before they're ready. I found they were like pancakes, I really screwed up the first two but got the hang of it after that. I refrigerated the rest of the croquettes and they reheated perfectly in the microwave the next day.

For 4 servings:
  • 1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato
  • 1 cup cooked short grain brown rice
  • 1/2 cup mashed extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup chopped shallots
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs

In a bowl, combine the sweet potato and brown rice. Blot the mashed tofu with some paper towels to remove the excess moisture and add it to the potato mixture. Add the curry paste, egg, fish sauce and brown sugar. Taste the mixture and add more curry paste if desired.

In a small skillet, heat the peanut oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the shallot and oil to the bowl containing the rest of the ingredients. Stir thoroughly so that everything is well-combined.

Place the panko in a bowl. Take a heaping 1/4 cup of the croquette batter, gently form it into a round patty and coat in the panko. Repeat with the remaining batter.

In a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, add enough oil to lightly coat the bottom. When the oil is hot, place the croquettes in the skillet in batches, without overcrowding, and cook for 5 minutes per side, adding more oil if needed.