Fresh Summer Quinoa

When it gets hot outside, I often crave something simple, fresh, and light for lunch. Quinoa fulfills all these cravings, with the added bonus that it is super healthy. It’s very similar to rice, except it has much more flavor; I’ve always found plain white rice to be quite bland. But like rice, quinoa is a dish to which you can add whatever veggies you have sitting around. I happened to have some baby kale, onions, and tomatoes, and together they made a delicious and fresh summer lunch.

You’ll need…

One onion

1 cup baby kale

1 tomato

1 cup quinoa

olive oil

salt and pepper

About 4 servings

Bring 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of water to a boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat to low, cover the quinoa, and leave it to cook, stirring every few minutes.  Add 1 teaspoon of salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper.

In total the quinoa should take fifteen to twenty-five minutes to cook, and you should check it frequently.  If the quinoa starts to stick to the bottom of the pan, add more water; do the same if all the water is gone but the quinoa is still hard.

While the quinoa cooks, place a pan over medium heat.  Peel and chop the onion.  Add olive oil to the pan when it has gotten hot, and when the oil has heated add the onions to it.  Next, chop the kale into small chunks.  When the onions have started to brown, add the kale to the mix and let it cook.  Season with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Once the quinoa has finished cooking–it should be light and fluffy and the water should be gone–move it off of the heat.  Add the onion and kale mix to the pot of quinoa, then chop your tomato into small chunks and add it as well.  Stir well, then taste to see if the quinoa needs more salt.  Enjoy!

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Italy and Potato Kale Stir-Fry

I feel a bit silly, having written such an inspired post at the beginning of the summer and then neglected to post a single thing until the end of July.

To be fair, most of July was spent in Italy.  After our usual visit to my dad’s parents’ house in India, we met up with my mom’s sister and her family in Rome.  We explored the city for two days, then drove down to the beautiful region of Abruzzo, known for its stunning views and its wines.  Then we drove further south to Puglia for a few days, after which we visited Pompei, spent a few days in Positano, and returned to Rome for a day and a half.

It was a beautiful trip–the weather was perfect, the people were friendly, and we ate some wonderful food.

This last picture is of an appetizer we ordered on our last night in Rome.  It was a sort of stir-fry with potato, kale, onion, tomato, and an egg.  Simple as that sounds, it was delicious–so I decided, as soon as I got home, to attempt to recreate it.

You’ll need…

1 potato

1 tomato

Two to four handfuls of baby kale

1 large onion

1 egg

olive oil, salt, and pepper

rosemary

oregano

About three servings

Place a pan on the stove and turn the heat to high.  Peel and chop the onion into long, thin slices.  Reduce the heat to medium and add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Place the onions in the pan and let them brown, stirring every few minutes so that they cook evenly.

Chop the baby kale into fine chunks.  Once the onions have browned, add the kale to the pan and stir.  Add a teaspoon of salt and a teaspoon of pepper (you can taste and add more if necessary).  Meanwhile, peel your potato and chop it into either small chunks or very thin slices.

Cook the onion kale mixture for a few minutes (the kale will not need to cook as long as the onions), then pour the kale and onions out of the pan and onto a plate; set aside.  Add more oil to the pan and place the potatoes in the pan.

You will need to stir the potatoes often and well so that they do not stick to the pan.  Add another 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt and pepper, and sprinkle the rosemary and oregano.  When the potatoes are browned and soft to touch, add the onion and kale back to the pan.  Stir, and taste to see if you need more salt.

Now turn the heat off (but leave the pan on the stove).  Dice the tomato and add it to the mixture, then crack the egg over the pan.  Stir, and remove from heat.  Voila! This makes an excellent side dish or a yummy lunch, and you’ll be eating like a Roman.

Ratatouille

One of my favorite things about summer is the variety of fruits and vegetables that are in season.  In winter, things can get pretty boring (apples. Bananas. Apples. Bananas).  But right now, there’s zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers…just what we need to make ratatouille.

While it is an excellent film, the movie Ratatouille can give you the wrong idea about the dish. First, ratatouille is a side, not a main course, and it’s considered a very homey, casual sort of thing.  Secondly, the dish made in the movie is actually tian (in which the vegetables are sliced and then arranged in a pattern and baked together).  In true ratatouille, the vegetables are diced and sauteed separately before being mixed and served.

The following is my adaptation of the ratatouille from my favorite cookbook, A Kitchen in France by Mimi Thorisson (who also runs a fantastic blog).  You can make it all at once, but I personally find it easy to make the vegetables throughout the day and then assemble the dish before eating.

Ingredients

  • 5 tomatoes
  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 2 large onions
  • olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper

Directions

Over medium heat, bring a large pot of water to boil.  Once it is boiling, place the tomatoes in the water until the skin begins to crack.  Remove them from the water and dry them off.  Place a large pan over medium heat and coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.  Chop the onions into small chunks then place them in the pan with the bay leaf and allow them to saute, stirring every few minutes. Crush the garlic and add it to the pan, along with the thyme.


While the onions are cooking, dice the peppers.  When the onions are done (they should be lightly browned), scoop them into a bowl, then add more olive oil to the pan and pour in the peppers.  Again, saute them.
  

Repeat the same process with the zucchini and tomatoes, returning the bay leaf to the pan each time.  Make sure to add salt and pepper to each vegetable.

When all of the ingredients have been sauteed, place a large pan over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add all the ingredients to the pot, along with salt and pepper, and saute for a short time.  Ratatouille must be served hot; if you are making it a while before dinner, the put a lid on the pan for storage, then reheat it on the stove when it is time to eat. Enjoy!

 

 

Sautéed Mushrooms

Words could never express how much I love mushrooms.  They are perfection, nature at its very best (that is, once they are cooked.  I am not at all fond of most raw vegetables, but saute anything –or roast it in olive oil–and it is absolutely delicious).

Mushrooms go especially well with sausage, cream-based sauces and stews.  We tend to make them as a side with boeuf bourguignon or with my personal favorite dish, gnocchi in cream-red wine-shallot sauce with Andoui sausage (goodness, just writing that makes me hungry).

Anyway, the mushrooms themselves are the height of simplicity.  You just follow the steps that you take with any vegetable: heat some oil in a pan over low heat (or, if you want a super-rich flavor, use butter).  Wash and chop up the mushrooms, then place them in the oil, making sure that they are spread fairly evenly.  After a few minutes, add salt and pepper and stir some.  Again, allow them too cook, stirring every couple minutes.  They will cook fairly quickly; when you think they are done, taste to see if more salt/pepper is necessary.  Enjoy!

Oven Roasted Potatoes

Potatoes are beautiful things, because they go with practically any dish. And they’re delicious when done the right way (they’re flavorless boiled, but then again, everything is flavorless when boiled).  This super easy side is a staple in the Chackalackal house.  First, peel the potatoes and cut them into long, thin pieces.  Place them in a baking pan and drizzle liberally with olive oil.  Then add salt, pepper and herbs (we ususlly add thyme and oregano).  Turn on the oven to 400 degrees and bake them until they are crisp, taking them out now and then to stir and adding more oil if necessary.  Enjoy!

 

 
Last night we ate these potatoes alongside an Italian chicken dish that my mom made. 

  
  

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

I don’t know why there’s such a prejudice against brussel sprouts in this country.  Maybe it’s because the traditional American way of preparing them–and vegetables in general–is very bland and devoid of depth and flavor. Raw or plain baked vegetables are not extremely flavorful, but simply sautee or roast any vegetable with a little olive oil or butter and magic happens.  These brussle sprouts are a treat, and warm out of the oven they make a perfect side on a snowy night. Chop off the ends of the sprouts and cut them in half. Place them in a baking pan and drizzle generously with olive oil. Add a tablespoon of butter, as well as salt and pepper, then pop them in the oven at 375 degrees.  I leave them in the oven for about an hour, as I like them crisp. Enjoy!

  

   
 

Indian Cauliflower

Cauliflower is pretty perfect–it’s healthy, easy to work with and completely delicious. My favorite way to cook it is to sauteé one head in vegetable oil, then sprinkle chili powder and coriander (plus salt and pepper).  It tastes amazing and makes a great side. Enjoy!

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