Monday, September 30, 2013

Red Quinoa & Forbidden Rice

Red Quinoa & Forbidden Rice
Serves 6 – 8

Red Quinoa & Forbidden Rice
Who wouldn’t want forbidden rice? According to ancient Chinese legend, black rice was so rare, tasty, and nutritious that only the emperors were allowed to eat it. It was fabled to enrich health and ensure longevity. The black color of the uncooked forbidden rice is due to its outer coating of black bran. It is also prized for its fragrant aroma, nutty taste and nutritional value. Times have changed. Although black rice is still relatively rare, researchers are trying to bring its distinctive flavor and mix of antioxidants to the masses -- or at least to a grocery store near you. Like brown rice, black rice is full of antioxidant-rich bran, which is found in the outer layer that gets removed during the milling process to make white rice. But only black-rice bran contains the antioxidants known as anthocyanins, purple and reddish pigments -- also found in blueberries, grapes, and acai -- that have been linked to a decreased risk of heart disease and cancer, improvements in memory, and other health benefits.

Forbidden Rice

I must admit I had not jumped on the “quinoa-everyday” bandwagon. It certainly has surged in popularity. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), whose edible seeds are white, red or black, is packed with protein, minerals and vitamins. It is also gluten-free, if that is a major concern. You can have it for breakfast (as a cereal), lunch (as a salad) and dinner (as a pattie or a side dish). I would eat this particular recipe at any meal. Grown in the Andes for thousands of years, the “mother grain of the Incas” was an obscurity in the U.S. until foodies who feted it as a superior alternative to bulgur wheat, couscous and rice discovered it. So, now there are even “quinoa only” cookbooks available. Though it often occupies a similar role to these grains, quinoa is actually a chenopod, in the same family as beets and chard. Who knew!

Red Quinoa

I loved this recipe so much that I made it twice in a few days. At first, simply added cremini mushrooms to base recipe and served with slice of fresh avocado. The second day I added sun-dried tomatoes, cremini mushrooms and diced red pepper finished with a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts.  If you wanted an additional protein burst, add some black beans or toasted almonds.  It is a completely flexible dish – just dig through your pantry and refrigerator liberating those additional goodies.
  • ½ C short-grain black rice
  • 1 C red quinoa, rinsed well
  • Water, vege stock or chicken stock as below
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp kosher salt divided
  • 4 Tb olive oil, divided
  • 1 small white onion, finely chopped
  • 5 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • ¼ C chopped sun-dried tomatoes, optional
  • 10-12 quartered cremini mushrooms, optional
  • 1 red pepper, optional
  • 3-4 Tb fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ - ½ C chopped fresh cilantro
  • ¼ C chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 Tb 1” pieces chives
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled and pitted, optional
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • Garnish: toasted pine nuts, or toasted almonds, drizzle of finishing olive oil; serve with hot sauce if desired.

Rinse the black rice thoroughly. Bring rice, ¼ tsp salt and 1 C water (or vegetable or chicken stock) to a boil in a small saucepan. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook until water is absorbed and the rice is tender, 25-30 minutes. If using a rice cooker, follow instructions for brown rice.

Cooking the forbidden rice

Meanwhile, combine quinoa, bay leaf, ¼ tsp salt, and 2 C water (or vegetable or chicken stock), in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa is tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Discard bay leaf, fluff quinoa with a fork, and transfer to a large bowl.

Heat 2 Tb olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cumin seed and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and add to quinoa. Repeat with olive oil and sautéing other optional ingredients such as cremini mushrooms and red pepper. Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes and mix all with quinoa. Add cooked black rice; mix well. Stir in 2 Tb olive oil, fresh lemon juice, cilantro, parsley and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Mixing the ingredients after cooking
Another presentation, this time with avocado

Serve warm or at room temperature with a slice of avocado, fresh lemon slice, and sprinkle of optional toasted pine nuts or almonds. You can substitute any color of rice or quinoa to make this gorgeous (and healthful) salad, which works as a vegetarian main course or hearty side dish. Enjoy!


Monday, September 23, 2013

Sunchoke Soup with Apples & Lentils

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Sunchoke Soup with Apples & Lentils
Serves: 6
Sunchoke Soup with Apples & Lentils

Sunchokes, aka Jerusalem artichokes, are traditionally a winter beauty – for their flavor, but not their physical appearance. Squat and knobby, the tubers aren’t artichokes at all, but part of a species of sunflower that grows underground. We are blessed to find them readily available year-round. They have a nutty, sweet, crunchy flavor with subtle hints of artichoke heart and salsify. 

You do not need to peel them; the skin is edible. Simply scrub them clean under cold running water with a stiff brush. You can cook them like you would a potato; roast, boil, sauté, bake or steam. The surprising thing about these particular roots is that you can also eat them raw. They add great texture to salads and stir-fry’s. Unlike the potato, they contain little starch. It is so incredible that something so gnarly turns into something so approachable and delicious. So don't pass these craggily little roots next time you’re in the store. This is my second sunchoke recipe—the last one made it into the Huffington Post! (see

The star of the show: Sunchokes

In this recipe, sunchokes are featured two ways: pureed into a silken soup, and diced and seared in a garnish that also includes black lentils, diced apples and chives. I think it is important to add a second texture to soups when you can. Otherwise palates get bored after a few bites. Before pureeing the vegetables, simmer them with just enough liquid to soften them without diluting their flavor. No extra fat or starch bogs the soup down; its creamy richness comes from the sunchoke itself and the emulsified garlic and onions.
  • ¼ C black lentils
  • Pinch of salt, plus more, to taste
  • 4 Tb olive oil (divided)
  • 1 large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, roughly sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, roughly sliced
  • 2 lbs. sunchokes – reserve 2 for garnish - peeled if you like and cut into ½ inch coins
  • 8 C vegetable stock or water
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 10 coriander seeds
  • ½ cinnamon stick
  • 1 Tb peeled, minced ginger
  • White pepper, to taste
  • ½ C apples cut into ¼ inch dice
  • 1 Tb chopped chives

Set a small pot of water, about 1 C, over high heat and bring to a boil. Add lentils and simmer until the lentils are just tender, about 15-20 minutes. Add a pinch of salt, stir, and taste for seasoning and drain. Set aside.
Uncooked lentils

Meanwhile, make the soup: set a deep pot over medium heat and swirl in 2 Tb of oil. Add onions, leeks, shallots, garlic and celery. Sweat until softened and translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add sunchokes and sweat until slightly softened, 1-2 minutes more. Add enough stock to just cover the vegetables and raise the heat to high. 

Veggies ready for the soupe
Wrap spices (star anise, coriander seeds, cinnamon stick) and ginger into a cheesecloth, secure with kitchen twine and add sachet to pot, or place all in a tea infuser and place in pot.  Once soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and simmer steadily until sunchokes are fork-tender, 20-30 minutes.
Spices in the tea infuser

While vegetables simmer, assemble garnish: Peel and cut reserved sunchokes into ¼-inch dice. Set a medium pan over medium heat and swirl in remaining oil. Once hot, sauté diced sunchokes until tender and golden all over, about 5 minutes. Mix the sautéed sunchokes with cooked lentils, apples and chives. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.

Sliced sunchokes

Once vegetables have simmered, place a sieve over a large bowl and pour soup through to separate vegetables from stock. Discard sachet and reserve the stock. In a robust blender (such as Vitamix) or a food processor, puree vegetables until smooth. Return pureed vegetables to pot and stir in enough stock to create a loose yet creamy consistency. Bring mixture back to a simmer and season with salt and white pepper to taste.

Soupe before garnish. Note the thick texture.

To serve, ladle soup into bowls and place a large spoonful of sunchoke-apple-lentil garnish in center of each bowl. Serve while hot. Other garnishes to consider: toasted pumpkin seeds, croutons, bacon, oysters, drizzle of olive oil or creamy sautéed mushrooms. They would all be delicious.

Now sit back and enjoy your creation. Nutty, buttery, sweet, earthy – sunchokes are a singular tuber that is best when focused on alone in order to appreciate the fine nuances of flavor. This is a refreshing healthy alternative to cream based soups that features lots of flavor, and very little fat.