Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake – How I Convinced my Husband to Eat Quinoa

Quinoa 1

It’s no secret I’m a big fan of cookbooks. I have quite a collection that varies depending on where I’m traveling or what is influencing me at the time.

Lately, that influence has been taking a closer look at what we eat with an eye to doing a little tweaking. Although our meals are generally pretty healthy — we try to avoid processed foods and consume a lot of vegetables, there is definitely room for improvement. It was a pretty busy Spring, and with not as much time to cook, those cheat days start slipping into cheat weeks. Plus, we’re going on a Mediterranean cruise later this summer, and it would be really nice to avoid having to buy a new (larger) swimsuit.

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A couple of weeks ago, I was surfing around on Amazon and found a cookbook called “The Dude Diet,” by Serena Wolf. Normally I would skip right over any cookbook with the word “diet” in the title, much less “dude.” However, having just consumed a plate of nachos at Chilis and with that cruise looming, I decided to take a closer look, and I’m so glad I did. This is a book that’s written for my life right now – way too busy to do a lot of all-day cooking and starting to think of nachos as a food group. It’s not a book that I’ll cook from everyday, but when I need ideas for made-from-scratch lunches or dinners for busy weeknights, this is a winner. It’s a nice collection of healthy recipes that don’t skimp on flavor. And the fact that the author is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Paris doesn’t hurt.

The book arrived, and after skimming through it, I decided to start with this post’s recipe – a quinoa casserole with cheeseburger flavors. My husband follows the “Primal Blueprint” a Paleoish grain-free diet. I’m totally on board with that and try to be supportive, but I’m not ready to give up grains entirely. Therefore, finding meals that suit both of us can sometimes be a challenge. So when I found out that quinoa was considered more of a seed than a grain and was now permitted on the Primal Blueprint plan, I was not disappointed. And my husband was not disappointed in the dish, which is really saying something. He would have preferred more burger and less quinoa, but we both liked it, and it was a quick and easy dish to prepare for the week’s lunches.

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Cheeseburger Quinoa Bake

4-6 Servings

This is a versatile casserole that could be changed up in a variety of ways. Just think of your favorite burger toppings – sautéed mushrooms, jalapenos, bacon bits, etc. Feel free to swap out cheeses as well. Pecorino or Swiss come to mind. I used gluten free Panko, but any other type will be fine.

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained

1 1/2 cups beef broth

1/3 cup gluten free Panko bread crumbs

2 teaspoons sesame seeds

1 teaspoon smoked paprika, divided

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound ground beef

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

3 tablespoons tomato paste

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

1 1/4 cups grated cheddar cheese, divided

Combine the quinoa and the beef broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower to a simmer, cover, and cook for 14 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow the quinoa to rest, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff quinoa with a fork.

Preheat the oven to 375. Combine the Panko, sesame seeds and 1/2 teaspoon of the smoked paprika in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and the garlic and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the ground beef, salt, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika to the skillet and cook, stirring, until meat is no longer pink. Add the tomato paste, mustard and Worcestershire sauce to the pan and cook for 3 more minutes.

Stir the diced tomatoes into the meat mixture, then mix in the quinoa and 1/2 cup of the cheese. Sprinkle the top of the mixture with the remaining cheese, followed by the Panko mixture. Bake for 25 minutes until bubbly and the top is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Adapted from The Dude Diet by Serena Wolf

 

Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

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Cilantro, or fresh coriander, is a plant that is popular in Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisines.  Various parts of the plant have different uses and tastes.  The seeds, when dried, are used for pickling or ground and used for flavoring dishes.  The leaves and stems are usually chopped fine and used as a fresh note to add final flavor to a dish.  People who like cilantro love the fresh lemony, lime taste it adds to foods.  But there is another group of people who can’t stand it, saying it tastes soapy or rotten.  I saw this first hand when I lived in Colombia, and believe me, the people who don’t like cilantro really, really don’t like it.  That’s rough for someone who has just been assigned to Bogota, where they put it on just about everything.  But, if like me, you like cilantro, you will love this sauce that I adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking.

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I discovered cookbook author Steven Raichlen long before he became the barbecue and grilling guru he is today.  In his former life he wrote cookbooks about “healthy low fat” (remember those days?) cooking with a lot of spice and flavor. I’m not a fan of low fat cooking; however, his recipes are so flavorful, I still have a couple of his older books and still use them.  He has also traveled the world extensively and the knowledge he has gained is put to good use in his cookbooks.

This sauce is one of those recipes that can be used in many different ways.  The first night I made it, I spooned it over some pan-fried salmon.  It’s great with tortilla chips, especially for dinner when you are too tired to cook, as I discovered one evening.  Later that week I added a splash more olive oil and vinegar to create a salad dressing.  I used what was left to marinate some chicken thighs that I cooked on the grill.  That’s just what I did with it.  I’m sure there are more possibilities.

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Puerto Rican Cilantro Sauce

This sauce will keep up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator, so you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with it. I made this in the food processor, but it can be made in a blender.  Place all the ingredients into the blender container at once and blend to desired consistency.  Because the sauce is pureed, you don’t have to meticulously pick off each cilantro leaf.  Just chop the stems off at the base of the leaves and discard them.

1 small onion, peeled and quartered

3/4 red bell pepper, cut into 1” chunks

1/2 green pepper, cut into 1” chunks

2 scallions, trimmed and cut into 1” pieces

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch cilantro, stemmed

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup water

salt and pepper, to taste

1. Combine the onion, peppers scallions, garlic, cilantro and oregano in a food processor and chop.

2. Add the oil, vinegar, and water and puree until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.

3. Transfer to glass jar for storage.

Adapted from Steven Raichlen’s Healthy Latin Cooking

 

Kitchen Basics – Beef or Chicken Stock

Stock post photo

One of the most important things I learned in culinary school was the difference in the quality of my cooking when I made my own stock rather than buying cartons of it at the grocery store. Because stock is made with bones that contain gelatin, real stock thickens when it’s reduced making for a wonderful sauce or soup, unlike supermarket boxes that remain watery no matter how long you simmer them.

School Notes

The bones you use for your stock can be any kind really, but you will get the best results from bones that have a lot of connective tissue. I like to use chicken necks and wings for chicken stock. Sometimes I will even throw in a package of chicken feet. I have, however, made plenty of great stock from a few leftover chicken or turkey carcasses I’ve stored in the freezer. For beef stock, I use oxtails. It’s worth seeking them out for the gelatinous results they produce. If you can’t find them a trip to a butcher for any kind of beef bones they have on hand will also work. The picture below shows 10 pounds of oxtail ready for roasting.

Raw Bones

I make and use a lot of stock, especially chicken. So I keep a plastic box in my freezer in the kitchen for vegetable scraps. Celery going limp? Into the stock box. Mushroom stems? Ditto. The left over green parts from trimming leeks? Into the box they go. You could also use those two leftover scallions or that parsley or thyme that have been in the fridge a week too long. Those turnips you were going to turn into a gratin, but never got around to it. Sound familiar? Just don’t use broccoli or peppers. The flavor is too strong. And celery leaves will make the stock bitter. Of course my method will make your stock taste slightly different each time you make it, so if you are a stickler for absolute consistency, you might not want to do this. If you decide to, you will need to adjust the amount of vegetables you add to your stock accordingly.

I make this stock with these ingredients in a 16-quart stainless steel stockpot. After I make it, I place it in various sized plastic containers and store it in the freezer. If you don’t have a stockpot this large or don’t want to make this much stock, this recipe can be scaled for any amount of bones you want to use. You could even just use a chicken carcass from a roast chicken. Just adjust the ingredient amounts accordingly. Some people prefer to store their stock in plastic bags. I would have a disaster on my hands if I attempted to pour stock into plastic bags, but it does save space in the freezer.

1 Jar

Beef or Chicken Stock

Yield: 5.5-6 quarts

The technique for making any type of stock is pretty much the same so I am combining both beef and chicken here. Differences between the two are noted, but basically the differences are that I roast the beef bones and use tomato. When I make chicken stock I do not roast the chicken bones. You can certainly do so. The results will be a darker more robust stock. Chicken stock also cooks for less time – 4 hours versus 6 hours.

10 pounds beef or chicken bones

3 pounds onions, peeled and cut into chunks

2 pounds carrots, cut into chunks

1 pound of celery, cut into chunks

3 bay leaves

3 garlic cloves, peeled

3 sprigs thyme

1 teaspoon peppercorns

1 handful fresh parsley

2-3 tomatoes, cut into chunks (beef stock only)

To roast the beef (or chicken if you desire) bones, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a large roasting pan and place the bones in it in one layer. Roast the bones for 1 hour. Place the bones in your stockpot. Add just enough water to cover the bottom of the roasting pan and use a spatula to scrape up as much of the fond (brown bits) off the bottom of the pan as you can. Pour the water with the fond into the stockpot with the bones.

Add enough cold water to the stockpot to cover the chicken or beef bones but still leave room for the vegetables. Bring the bones and water to a boil over high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer. You want the liquid to be barely bubbling. Use a slotted spoon to skim the scum off the surface as it bubbles up.

When the liquid is fairly clear of scum add the remaining ingredients to the pan, but do not stir them in. They just go in a big pile on top of the bones and water.

Raw Stock

Keep the stock at a simmer for 4 hours for chicken stock and 6 hours for beef stock. Do not stir the stock, or it could become cloudy. Do not boil the stock for the same reason. You don’t need to watch it constantly, but check on it periodically to make sure it’s still simmering or has not become too hot. I find I am adjusting the temperature slightly throughout the cooking process.

Cooked Stock

When the stock is done strain it through a fine strainer into a very large bowl. Skim the fat off the stock. Or, you can do as I do and refrigerate the stock overnight and just scoop the fat off the next day. Your stock is now ready to use or freeze in containers of your choice.

 

Ribollita Soup

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The days are getting longer, and after the blizzard of 2016, I think we are all ready for Spring. As I was returning from walking the dogs earlier today, I saw a first sign.

Flower

I’m so glad I planted these teardrops last fall. How nice to see a Spring flower − a sign of things to come − when the sky is dark and the trees are bare. We’re not there yet, however. There is still plenty of time to enjoy a few more pots of soup.

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We eat a lot of soup, especially in winter. So, I’m always looking for something new to try. Years ago my husband and I attended an Italian cooking class where one of the featured dishes was Ribollita. To be honest I wasn’t that enamored with it. It seemed to contain some broth, some over-cooked vegetables, and a chunk of some kind of meat that, after stewing for hours, tasted like it had seen better days. Not a good start for my future with Ribollita, until I discovered a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that featured Italian sausage. I had to try it out, and I’m so glad I did.

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Ribollita means reboiled in Italian. This soup, from Tuscany, is traditionally made the day before it is to be served. I don’t know what sort of magic happens while this soup is sitting in the fridge overnight, but the difference in taste the next day is amazing. It’s definitely okay to eat it the day you make it, but you’ll be missing out if you don’t save some for the next day.

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Ribollita is usually made with bread. I decided to skip the bread for a lower carb version. If you want a heartier soup, prepare some slices of Italian bread by toasting them and brushing them with olive oil. Place the toasts in each serving bowl and pour the soup over the top of them.

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Ribollita

6 Servings

This soup is on the spicy side. Vary the amount of heat by cutting the amount of crushed red pepper flakes in half or eliminating them all together. Or, if you really like to spice it up double the amount of pepper flakes or use hot Italian sausage in place of mild.

1 pound mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 cup dry red wine

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 carrots, peeled and finely chopped

2 celery stalks, finely chopped

2 anchovy filets, packed in oil, drained and finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 bunch Lacinato kale, ribs removed and leaves torn into 2-inch pieces

1 15-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 15-ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed

8 cups beef stock or broth

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

4 ounces parmesan or grana padano, shaved

Use your hands to crumble the sausage in a bowl and then thoroughly mix it with the wine to create a paste. Cook the mixture in a large sauce pan or dutch oven over medium heat until the sausage is cooked through, about 4 minutes.

Add the onion, carrots, celery, anchovies, and red pepper flakes to the pan. Continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, but still retain their shape, about 20 minutes.

Add kale, tomatoes, beans, and broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and continue to cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. The kale should offer no resistance when bitten into.

Stir in the vinegar. When ready to serve, place soup in bowls and top generously with cheese shavings.

Adapted from Bon Appetit magazine, February 2015

 

Kitchen Basics – Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

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It’s almost the end of January. How is everyone doing on those resolutions? I actually decided to do something different this year and just not make any. Bring on the cookies! Actually, I decided that rather than set specific goals, I would just try to live each day in as healthy a manner as possible. I know… all those diet gurus with their intentions and affirmations would totally disagree, and I’m sure writing down goals works for some, just not for me. And, you know, my definition of “healthy” differs from day-to-day depending on what is going on in my life. Lately it’s been a lot of intense, all-day snow shoveling resulting in ravenous hunger. In that case I think it’s okay for a treat or two. Other days, rather than tackling that plank workout, some restorative yoga may be a better choice.

One thing we don’t neglect, however, is our commitment to what we consider a healthy diet. For us that means pretty much no processed food, as much as possible prepared from scratch, and a LOT of vegetables. I’m here to tell you that’s not easy sometimes, especially after a long day at work. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and there are days that I just can’t face it. I cook extra so there is always something in the freezer, but sometimes even that is not enough. That’s when we say “oh well,” and pull out the Chinese take out menu or order wings or pizza. The tomatoes in the pizza sauce count as a vegetable, right?

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Actually, I’m okay with ordering out on occasion, especially if I’ve had my usual huge salad for lunch. One thing that is super easy to make and keep on hand and takes your salad to a whole new level is homemade salad dressing. I use bottled dressing too, but much prefer to make my own, when I remember to do so. I usually have a vinaigrette of some type in the fridge as well as a creamy mayonnaise and buttermilk based one.

I’ve decided to start doing a section on Jeannine’s Cuisine called Kitchen Basics. These will be recipes that everyone should have in their hip pocket. These are foods that are the building blocks of how I cook. Vinaigrette seemed like the ideal choice for the first one.

The proper ratio for a vinaigrette is three parts oil to one part acid. For one cup that means 3/4 cup of oil to 1/4 cup of vinegar, lemon juice, etc. I have seen countless salad dressing recipes that call for half oil and half acid. In some cases, when someone is trying to produce a low fat salad dressing, the ratio is even switched – pucker up! Just don’t go there. I almost always add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for flavor and to help with emulsifying, and then I add herbs and other extra flavors. For this recipe I decided to go with strictly dried herbs. That might have something to do with the fact that my fresh herb garden is currently buried under about 3 feet of snow, but I also wanted to see how it would taste. I was pleasantly surprised, and I think you will be too.

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Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

1 to 1 1/2 Cups Dressing

The amount of dressing will depend on if you use dried or fresh herbs, or even a combination. I generally allow one teaspoon of dried herbs for a tablespoon of freshly chopped herbs. The red pepper flakes add a bit of a bite and some nice color to this dressing. Feel free to decrease the amount or leave them out.

3/4 cup olive oil

Juice from 1 lemon (approx. 2 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or 4 teaspoons dried

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried

1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/2 to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a 1 1/2-2 cup mason jar and screw on the lid tightly. Shake the jar vigorously to blend the ingredients. If using dried herbs allow the dressing to sit for 15 minutes and shake again.

Note: You will have to shake the dressing to blend it each time you want to use it. Alternatively you can place the acids and the mustard in a bowl and whisk in the olive oil a bit at a time before adding the remaining ingredients. This will better emulsify the dressing and prevent it from separating as quickly; however, it does take more time.

Adapted from The Homemade Pantry:  101 Foods You Can Stop Buying and Start Making by Alana Chernila

 

Greece on My Mind — Fish with Ouzo

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During my military career I had a wonderful opportunity to live in Athens, Greece, for 3 years.  I remember Athens as a big city with lots of traffic and lots of angry drivers.  But I didn’t care.  It was Greece! 

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Greece has been in the news quite a bit lately and it hasn’t exactly been portrayed in a positive light; however, during my time there, I made friends who are still special to me to this day.  I experienced a culture unlike any I had ever encountered.  But, most important, I discovered a cuisine that has pretty much driven the way I cook and eat since that time.  When people ask me what my “specialty” is, I usually reply: I don’t really have one, but I cook Mediterranean food more often than not. 

Ouzo Fish 2

I love Greece and Greek food.  Even when living there and eating it almost everyday, I never tired of it.  And as for that terrible traffic?  I learned to drive and shout at the other drivers just like the locals.  Besides, where else can you eat “small fishes fried” (smelts) washed down with an ice-cold Mythos beer while gazing upon the blue ocean and equally blue sky?

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Years later I became friends with a man who was encountering some personal difficulties.  I advised him to think about what he wanted to be doing 5 years later and use that goal to formulate his decision. A couple of weeks later he told me he had decided what he wanted to be doing 5 years down the road.  When I asked what that was, he told me he wanted to be discovering Greece with me.  Say what?    

Ouzo Fish 3

I wasn’t exactly looking for a mate at the time — I’d just returned to the U.S. after a long period overseas, had just bought a house…excuses, excuses.  Well, he did something right, because in November we will have been married 13 years.  And yes, we did go to Greece together.

Nafplion

Today’s recipe reminds me of everything that I love about Greek food, but it’s not as heavy as some of the typical dishes can be.  It’s wonderful for summer and is ideal for a weeknight meal, as it’s a snap to make.  This dish can be served over rice or with some hearty bread to soak up the delicious sauce. 

Ouzo Fish 4 Fish with Ouzo

4–6 servings

I used halibut for this dish, but any white fish filet will work, such as cod, tilapia, or even catfish.  Ouzo is an anise-flavored Greek liqueur that is usually diluted with water until cloudy and served as an aperitif with a bowl of olives.  It really is the ingredient that sets this dish apart.

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 onion, diced

2 bay leaves

1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, not drained

8 ounces mushrooms, sliced

1 red bell pepper, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup water

2 pounds halibut filets or other white fish

juice of 1/2 lemon

1 bunch dill, chopped

1 tablespoon Ouzo

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the garlic until fragrant, but not brown. Add the onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes, then add the bay leaves.  Add the tomatoes, mushrooms and bell pepper, and season with salt and pepper.  Add the water and simmer for two minutes.

Season the fish with salt and pepper and place on top of the simmering vegetable mixture, nestling the filets down into the sauce.  Simmer for 4 minutes.

Add the lemon juice, dill and ouzo to the pan and simmer an additional 2 minutes.  The fish should flake easily with a fork.  Taste the sauce for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Inspired by Culina Mediterranea by Daniel Rouche

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Roasted “Bunny” Carrots with Honeyed Mustard

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I hope everyone is enjoying a beautiful Spring day with friends and family. When I wrote this the sky was blue, the sun was shining, and the birds were chirping as I sat next to an open window taking it all in. I was smiling indeed.

Carrots 1

I’ve wanted to do a roasted vegetable recipe on the blog for some time. It is actually my absolute favorite way to cook and eat vegetables – drizzle with olive oil, roast at 400 until fork tender, sprinkle with sea salt, and eat. Then while the husband is out walking the dog, sneak a few more pieces of the leftovers, mmm. Food eaten on the sly just tastes better, don’t you think?

My husband probably would not mind me eating these leftovers in their entirety. His dislike of cooked carrots is notorious. His mother used to say that carrots were only good for horses, and I believe it rubbed off on him. But, these carrots are so good, I think he’ll even eat them.

Carrots are part of the “umbrella” family of vegetables and are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin, and dill. They are said to lower chances of cardiovascular disease, probably because of the gajillion vitamins and antioxidants they contain.

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These beauties would probably be even nicer if you used the multi-colored bunches of carrots that are turning up in the stores these days. They make a nice side for an Easter meal, or any other time of the year for that matter.

Carrots Recipe Header Roasted Carrots with Honeyed Mustard

6 Servings

When I roast vegetables I usually just put them in the bare pan and let the olive oil keep them from sticking. Because of the honey in this recipe be sure to use foil in the pan, and spray it well.

2 pounds “bunny carrots” with green tops, tops trimmed and cut in half lengthwise

3 tablespoons whole grain mustard

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

salt and pepper

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 400. Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray well with cooking spray or oil.

Stir the mustard, olive oil, and honey together in a large bowl. Toss in the carrots and mix well (hands really work best for this) until thoroughly coated. Place in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.

Roast the carrots in the oven until they are fork tender, approximately 25 minutes.

Sprinkle the carrots with the parsley and serve.

Adapted from Cuisine at Home magazine

Buckwheat-Feta Burgers with Parsley Sauce

Buckwheat Header

 

Today’s recipe is gluten-free and vegetarian — a far cry from Paleo or Primal. So it seemed a good time to discuss my food philosophy a bit. What else should we do when ice is falling out of the grey sky?

Since starting Jeannine’s Cuisine (the blog, not the personal chef business), I’ve often toyed with the idea that I should have some sort of brand, or theme, or specialty. Actually, when people find out I went to culinary school and cooked professionally, one of the first things I’m asked is what I specialize in. Huh? Okay, I love all things Mediterranean; after all, I lived in Greece. But I love a good Asian meal as well. Let’s not forget the French influence from culinary school and trips abroad, and then there’s the pastry. So I guess my brand is just what it says…Jeannine’s Cuisine. This is the way I cook and eat. Sometimes, I prepare a totally Paleo meal for my husband. Other times he fends for himself while I have macaroni and cheese.

Buckwheat 1 cake

There are a million diets/eating plans out there. Hardly a day goes by without hearing about a new one. I want to be healthy and happy just as much as the next person, but I am of a mind that as long as I focus on lots of good produce, some healthy, i.e. grassfed/organic protein, and, for me, some whole grains, I can afford the occasional indulgence. I’ve done a lot of reading on nutrition, both the low fat (remember those days?) and the low carb camps. I’ve read the testimonials and think for many people, especially those with autoimmune issues or food allergies, the Paleo diet can be a lifesaver. I’m just not one of them.

Buckwheat Stack light

So what can you expect on Jeannine’s Cuisine? Real food. We avoid processed food as much as possible, buy organic when we can, and aside from some whole grain bread from Whole Foods and a stash of Greek yogurt, we generally try to make everything from scratch. But there are limits. I don’t have a dairy cow or goats to make my own cheese, nor do I raise chickens and don’t intend to start. And yes, after a long day at work, I’ve been known to order pizza or Chinese. Gasp! But you won’t find recipes calling for packaged foods or cans of mushroom soup here. What you will find is a variety of good food. Some recipes are easy and suitable for a week night, others take a little (or a lot) more work. But they are so worth it.

Buckwheat Top down 1

I’ve been trying to add more whole grains into my diet, without feeling like I’m having cereal for lunch or dinner. These burgers hit the nail on the head. The buckwheat cooks up just a little bit crunchy on the outside then you bite into the creamy center flavored with feta cheese and thyme. The parsley sauce is a little bit like Argentine chimichurri – tangy and little bit citrusy, a nice contrast to the nuttiness of the buckwheat.

Buckwheat stack dark

Buckwheat-Feta Burgers with Parsley Sauce

4 Servings

You will need to find raw buckwheat groats for this recipe, not kasha, which is toasted buckwheat. You might be able to find it at the larger Whole Foods stores, but you can definitely buy it online from Amazon. The parsley sauce that accompanies the burgers can stand on its own. I imagine it would be delicious with pan-roasted salmon. Or, you could also dilute it with a little oil and vinegar and use it for salad dressing. I prefer the burgers plain, but you could also serve them in lettuce leave or on a regular bun with lettuce, onion, and tomato.

1 1/4 cups water

1 cup buckwheat groats

3/4 teaspoon fine salt, divided

1 cup clean, dry lightly packed fresh parsley leaves

Juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

4 cloves garlic, peeled

1 teaspoon dry oregano

1/4 teaspoon, plus a large pinch red pepper flakes, divided

a few drops Tabasco sauce

5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)

1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1/2 medium onion)

6 tablespoons quick cooking oats

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or 1 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Prepare the buckwheat by placing the water, buckwheat and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes. Place buckwheat in a large bowl and set aside for 20 minutes while you make the sauce.

Place parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic oregano, red pepper flakes and Tabasco in the bowl of a mini food processor. Pulse until chopped; then, with the machine running slowly, add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and blend until combined.

Make the burgers by adding the feta cheese, onion, oats, egg, thyme leaves, and peppers to the buckwheat in the bowl. Use your hands to thoroughly combine the ingredients. Use a table knife to divide the mixture (it will be thick and sticky) into four portions. Using wet hands, divide each of the four portions into two and form into burgers, approximately 3 inches in diameter. Place them on a sheet pan or large plate.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Add four of the eight burgers and cook approximately 4 minutes per side until golden brown. Repeat with 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and the remaining four burgers. Serve warm or at room temperature with the sauce.

Adapted from Ancient Grains for Modern Meals by Maria Speck

 

 

Celebrating the Last of Summer – Grilled Burgers with Avocado and Parsnip Fries

Burger Closeup 1

I love fall – going outside that first crisp morning when the temperature is in the 50s in complete contrast to the 80s and 90s we’ve previously experienced in the DC area. This year has been different, however. We’ve had such a mild summer that now that the temperature has dropped, I find myself almost thinking I can’t appreciate it, because it just hasn’t been that hot. Wow, Jeannine. The one summer on record with decent temperatures and you think it needs to be hotter. Let’s throw in some heavy-duty humidity while we’re at it, shall we? So, I guess what I’m getting at is that, on this last day of summer, I’m not ready to throw in the towel on summer yet. There will be plenty of time for braises, pumpkin, soups and all those foods that signify fall later down the road.

One of the stops on the Explore Asheville Foodtopia tour during the recent Food Blogger Forum was a visit to Hickory Nut Gap Farm.

Farm 1We were treated to a sample of their delicious grass-fed beef before touring a section of the farm, led by Jamie Ager, one of the co-owners of the farm.

Farm 3

These hamburgers were inspired by the visit to the farm. I think you’ll agree when you taste these is that there is just no substitute for grass-fed beef – it just tastes, well, beefier. And you can’t argue with the health benefits of eating meat that provides essential Omega 3 fatty acids.

Farm 4

I’ve been following Juli Bauer of PaleOMG ever since my husband and I first started experimenting with the Paleo/Primal lifestyle 3 years ago. Although neither of us is completely Paleo, I still follow Juli’s blog and find it a great source of healthy recipes, no matter what eating program you follow. I’ve really enjoyed seeing how she has grown as a cook over the past few years. This burger recipe is a perfect example. They are incredibly juicy and have a really nice flavor without being too over-the-top. The burgers are served wrapped in a bibb or romaine lettuce leaf, as I’ve pictured here. However, if you must have a bun for your burger, I recommend having the parsnip shoestrings on the side rather than on the burger.

Burger 5

Hamburgers on the Grill with Avocado and Parsnip Shoestrings

Serves 6

 Instead of mashing the avocados for the garnish, you can also use 1 cup of your favorite guacamole. I really like the fresh guacamole from the local Whole Foods.

2 large parsnips, peeled

2 pounds ground beef

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup coconut oil

6 romaine or bibb lettuce leaves

1 red onion, thinly sliced

2 avocados, peeled seeded and mashed

Preheat the grill to medium high.

Cut the parsnips into long shoestrings with a julienne peeler or spiral slicer. Set aside.

Combine the ground beef, onion, mustard, garlic and salt and pepper in a large bowl. Divide the meat mixture into 6 patties, making a small indentation in the center of each one.   Grill the burgers to desired level of doneness. We found that 6 minutes covered on the first side and three minutes covered on the second side resulted in a medium-rare burger, but your grill might be different. Do what works for you.

While the burgers are cooking heat the coconut oil in a saucepan until one of the shoestrings sizzles when dropped into the oil. Fry the shoestrings tossing with a fork until golden brown. Remove them from the oil and place on a paper-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt while hot.

When the burgers are done, allow them to rest for 5-7 minutes. Place the burgers on a lettuce leaf, top with red onion, avocado or guacamole and parsnip fries.

Adapted from PaleOMG.    I think this recipe is also included in Juli’s latest book, The Paleo Kitchen.

 

 

Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

Tomato Soup 4

Some people may question the sanity of posting a soup recipe in the “dog days” of summer, especially those in places where the temperature normally exceeds 90 degrees. We’ve been fairly lucky this year in terms of having a hot summer. The Washington, DC, area can usually be compared to a steam bath around this time, but this year has been different, and, I must say, there will be no complaints from me. I love fall and it’s usually this time of year that I start thinking about that first morning I walk outside to discover a telling crispness in the air.

Tomato Soup 2

Meanwhile, we still have a couple of summer months left and lots of summer produce to use up – tomatoes anyone? Tomato soup is one of my favorite foods, and if you pair the soup with a grilled cheese sandwich, it’s a total win, win. How do you like your grilled cheese sandwiches? I prefer a fairly dense country style bread because it can hold more cheese that way. I spread the bread with a combination of mayonnaise and strong mustard and then add the cheese, usually whatever I have on hand. Lately it’s been cheddar slices, but any kind will do. I also add some ham, if I have some and maybe some thinly sliced pickles. Butter up the outside of the bread and fry it until crispy. Yum, yum!

Tomato Soup 3

In this soup recipe, you roast all the vegetables before making the soup, which adds a wonderful smoky flavor. Don’t be afraid to get some char on the vegetables; it adds to the depth of flavor.

Tomato Soup 1

 Roasted Tomato and Fennel Soup

I kept this soup on the rustic side, by just giving it a spin in my Vitamix. But if you prefer a smoother creamier soup, you can put it through a fine strainer before adding the cream.

2 pounds ripe red tomatoes

1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, approximately 1 pound

1 yellow onion, cut into 8 wedges

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper, to taste

4 cups vegetable broth

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds and place cut-side up on half of a sheet pan or baking sheet. Trim the stalks and fronds from the fennel, reserving some of the fronds for garnish. Cut the fennel in half lengthwise then in half again and remove the core. Add the fennel and the onion pieces to the other half of the sheet pan. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to coat. Roast the vegetables for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and carmelized. Remove pan from the oven and allow to rest for 10 minutes.

Place the vegetables and the broth in a blender and puree until smooth. You may need to do this with half the vegetables and half the broth at a time.

Transfer the vegetable mixture to a large saucepan. Add the bay leaves and more salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat then lower heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes. Hint: Now is the time to prepare your grilled cheese sandwich if you are making one. Remove the bay leaves and stir in the cream, if using it.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls and garnish with fennel fronds.

Adapted from Vibrant Food by Kimberley Hasselbrink