Tuesday, May 18, 2010


I was going through simultaneous sweet potato and kale phases a few months ago, and I’m currently possessed by a quinoa mania, so when I saw this recipe at Serious Eats, trying it was a no-brainer. It seems better suited for fall or winter than spring, but kale and sweet potatoes are still available at the farmer’s market, so it’s not completely unseasonal. And, as you might expect when bacon and vegetables and quinoa are involved, it was quite tasty.

Since I love roasted kale, I was initially excited to see that both the kale and the sweet potatoes are roasted for this recipe, but now I have some doubts about whether roasting is really the right treatment for kale in this format. First of all, at least in my oven, 475 degrees is pretty high heat for kale; some of mine burned before the sweet potatoes had even gotten golden. If I were to roast the kale again, I’d do it at a lower temperature, then remove it, raise the heat, and roast the sweet potatoes—but that’s a lot more inconvenient for a weeknight meal. And then I felt a little sad stirring that crisp, snackable kale into the warm quinoa, where it just got soft again. It seemed to make the whole pilaf a little on the dry side, and it tasted a bit bitter. Maybe I just overdid my kale, but I do wonder if just wilting the kale in a skillet might be a better option. When fall rolls around, I’ll try it both ways and let you know. But minor kale-roasting quibbles aside, this is a delicious, wholesome, and colorful, and substantial quinoa concoction.

2–4 slices of bacon, diced
1 small onion, cut in half and sliced thin
1 cup quinoa
1½ cups water
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1 large sweet potato (about 10 ounces), cut into ¼-inch cubes
1 bunch kale (about 8 ounces), chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 scallions, green parts only, sliced thin

1. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees.

2. In a medium saucepan with a tight-fitting lid (I used my Dutch oven), cook the bacon over medium heat until the bacon is crisp and the fat is rendered, about 10 minutes. Reserve the bacon bits.

3. Drop the onions into the hot bacon fat and sauté, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Add the quinoa and toss until coated with the fat and slightly toasted, about 2 minutes more. Add the water and ½ teaspoon of the salt, bring to a boil, stir once, cover, reduce to low, and let cook undisturbed until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes.

4. While the quinoa is cooking, toss the sweet potatoes and kale with the olive oil and salt and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until the potatoes and kale begin to brown in places and the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

5. When the quinoa is cooked, stir in the potatoes, kale, bacon, and scallions.

Serves: 4
Time: 1 hour
Leftover potential: Good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Neither A nor I really likes sour cream. Or, to be more accurate, we think of it in the same category as mayonnaise and cream cheese: good in certain contexts, but mystifying in its overall popular appeal. While sour cream is fine in a stroganoff or twice-baked potatoes, and it can be excellent in baked goods, you’re not going to catch us piling dollops of it onto our tacos or chili. I’ve become more neutral on the subject over the years; my aversion stems mainly from the quantities in which sour cream is often presented—it’s ruined so many restaurant meals by appearing unannounced in huge blobs that smother the entire plate, so you can bet that those Daisy commercials that show people happily eating it by the heaping spoonful give me the willies (similarly, although I now like a thin layer of mayonnaise on my BLTs, I still habitually resent mayo due to years of being presented with soggy sandwiches dripping with the stuff). But A harbors a distinct antipathy for many white, creamy foodstuffs, so when I announced to him that I’d found the perfect way to use up the rest of the sour cream in our fridge (I’d had to buy a whole container just for 3 tablespoons’ worth to go into his birthday cake) and the solution was making strawberry ice cream (from David Lebovitz’s indispensible The Perfect Scoop, of course), he replied, “Why would you do that?” I swore up and down that all online testimonials suggested it wouldn’t taste much like sour cream—tangier than normal ice cream, sure, but less tangy than frozen yogurt—but he remained skeptical until presented with a spoonful.

Folks, this is some good ice cream. As I predicted, the flavor wasn’t unusual—it’s just a really good strawberry ice cream, bright and fresh—but the texture sent me over the moon. I don’t know whether to thank the sour cream or perfect weather conditions, but this is the first recipe that’s turned out really thick and creamy for me right out of the ice cream maker. Thanks to lack of air conditioning, a temperamental freezer, and my refusal to bother with custard-based recipes, I’ve gotten used to homemade ice creams that taste delicious but vacillate between melty and icy. This one was amazingly light and fluffy, so much so that it nearly overflowed the bowl of the ice cream maker. I churned it while home alone on Saturday night, after returning from the pub with several beers in me, and I’m relieved there was no one around to see how greedily I licked the spatula, the beater, and even the freezer bowl, but I’m sorry that A didn’t get a chance to try this when it was freshly made. We’ve been eating bowls of it for dessert all week and it’s still fabulous, but the newly-churned version was incredible, cold, sweet, and pillowy, like strawberry whipped cream. For health purposes, strawberry frozen yogurt will remain my go-to recipe, but next time I have leftover sour cream, I know exactly what I’m doing with it.

1 pound fresh strawberries, rinsed and hulled
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon kirsch or vodka (I used kirsch)
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1. Slice strawberries and toss in a bowl with sugar and kirsch or vodka, stirring until sugar begins to dissolve. Cover and let stand at room temperature for 1 hour, stirring every so often.

2. Pulse the strawberries and their liquid with the sour cream, heavy cream, and lemon juice in a blender or food processor until almost smooth but still slightly chunky.

3. Refrigerate for 1 hour, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Yields: About 1¼ quarts
Time: 15 minutes of active work, 2 hours of waiting, plus processing time
Leftover potential: Best when freshly made, but will keep nicely in the freezer for at least a week

Tuesday, May 04, 2010


Alert the media: I may be having an official love affair with quinoa. Something about its fluffy al dente texture is so comfort-foody to me that it feels secretly indulgent, yet it’s actually angelically light and wholesome. And this recipe for it is even better than the first one I tried.

My parents loved making tabbouleh when I was a kid, but the chewy, health-foodish bulgur that was its base grossed me out. Nowadays I’ll eat tabbouleh as part of a restaurant platter, but it definitely plays a supporting role to the hummus and falafel, and I certainly never felt compelled to make it at home until I started obsessively searching the Web for more quinoa recipes and saw this one at The Kitchn. Ta-dah: Trade bulgur for quinoa and I freakin’ love tabbouleh! Aside from the quinoa, it’s not really much different from my recipe for fattoush, except with feta and onion and without cilantro. You’ve got your tomato, cucumber (not included in the original recipe, but included in many similar recipes, and I’m never sorry for an excuse to eat cucumber, so I added it here), parsley, and mint in a lemon dressing—what’s not to love? And love it I did. I went a bit easier on the herbs (the quantities here are pretty huge, and mint and parsley are probably A’s least favorites; also, I admit I may have gotten tired of mincing) and it was perfectly delicious, but I don’t think the full amounts would be as overpowering as I feared, so I’ll be bolder next time. I also eased up on the feta; the original recipe called for 8 ounces, and Trader Joe’s sells crumbled feta in 6-ounce containers. I didn’t even use the entire container and it seemed plenty cheesy to me, but I know feta lovers are a passionate bunch (I’m more feta-neutral), so just eyeball whatever looks good to you. If you want to be vegan, this would still even be tasty with the cheese left out entirely.

Anyway, I served this with hummus and pita crisps, although it makes a perfectly satisfying light meal on its own—as I can vouch, because even though A claimed to like quinoa tabbouleh, he didn’t make a dent in the three leftover servings. Which, actually, was just fine with me; I happily ate them all myself over the course of the week. In fact, I wish I had some right now. This will definitely be one of my go-to dishes this summer.

1 cup dry quinoa
½ red onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced, or 1–2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch parsley (about 2 cups), minced
1 bunch mint (about ½ cup), minced
6–8 ounces feta
¼ cup good extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt to taste

1. Rinse the quinoa well under cold water, then add to a medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium-low, cover, and cook until the quinoa is fluffy and chewy, about 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, put the diced red onion in a small bowl, cover it with water, add a pinch of salt, and let soak. (This will give the raw onion less bite.)

3. When quinoa is cooked, empty it into a large bowl and allow it to cool almost to room temperature, stirring occasionally. (This will help the vinaigrette coat everything without the quinoa absorbing too much of it.)

4. When the quinoa feels just barely warm to the touch, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and a healthy pinch of salt. Pour it over the quinoa and stir until the grains are evenly coated. Drain the water off the onions and add them to the bowl along with the tomatoes, cucumber, garlic, parsley, and mint, and stir to combine. Crumble the feta over the top and gently stir it in as well. Taste the salad and add more lemon juice or salt as desired.

Serves: 4-6
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: High. The flavors actually deepen overnight. Will keep in the fridge for at least a week; can be eaten cold or at room temperature (I like it best somewhere in between). Great for work lunches because it’s not too heavy but still prevented me from being ravenous at 5 p.m.