Monday, July 25, 2011

Farmers' Market Inspired Meal: Quinoa and Shrimp with Fresh Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

Quinoa and Shrimp with Fresh Corn and Cherry Tomatoes

The farmers' market in July is bursting with inspiration -- there are shiny vine-ripened watermelons, plump ears of yellow sweet corn, regal, midnight black eggplants, and sassy, tart green tomatoes. So many dazzling colors and shapes and textures and fragrances make your head dizzy (though that could be the summer heat).

So when I returned home this past Saturday from the farmers' market, I surveyed my finds and immediately thought: OK, it's gotta be something with sweet corn and cherry tomatoes, because they go together like milk and sugar. And what's summertime corn without some fat shrimp and sweet basil? The result: It tasted like a breezy, blue-skied, July day.

How about you? What types of farmers' market-inspired meals have you been making?

Quinoa and Shrimp with Fresh Corn and Cherry Tomatoes
Makes 4 side or 2 main servings
Printable recipe.

1/2 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water

1 tablespoon, plus 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
The juice of 1 lemon (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)
1/8 teaspoon salt (or more if you prefer it saltier)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 cup diced red onion
8 extra-large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 ear of sweet corn, kernels cut off from cob
1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
2 tablespoons fresh finely chopped basil

1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat. Reduce, partially cover, until the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. The quinoa will be done when it turns partially white and the spiral-like germ of the grain is visible.

2. In a small bowl, whisk 2 teaspoons olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. Set aside.

3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add onions and saute 2-3 minutes, just until wilted. Add shrimp and saute until they turn bright red and are lightly browned on the edges. Add the corn and tomatoes, and heat through for 2-3 minutes, just until the tomatoes begin to wrinkle.

4. Add cooked quinoa directly into the skillet and toss with the shrimp mixture. Add the basil and the olive oil and lemon juice mixture. Toss gently. Serve hot or at room temperature.

You might also enjoy these healthy grain recipes:
Red Quinoa Salad recipe from Kitchen Parade
Warm Barley and Fennel Salad recipe from Food Blogga
Tilapia and Quinoa with Feta and Cucumbers recipe from Shutterbean
Farro with Kale, Tomatoes, and Fresh Mozzarella recipe from Stephen Cooks
Fruity Farro Salad with Lemon Chicken recipe from London Foodie in New York
Shrimp, Pineapple, and 7 Whole Grain Pilaf Salad recipe from Food Blogga

P.S. Congratulations to Diana H of Cookerati! You won the copy of the I Love Trader Joe's College Cookbook! Thank you to everyone who participated. There will be many more give-aways to come.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cookbook Review: I Love Trader Joe's College Cookbook: 150 Cheap-and-Easy Gourmet Recipes

When I was in college I had a vegetarian friend who ate the same thing every single day for lunch, “a meatless burger.”  It wasn’t a chewy veggie burger or a hearty black bean burger. Oh, no, her meatless burger consisted of lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a single slice of American cheese piled neatly on a hamburger bun. Every day for four years. It was tragic.

It’s too bad Andrea Lynn’s new book, I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook: 150 Cheap-and-Easy Gourmet Recipes wasn’t out then. I would have bought it for her. She would have loved it, especially the chapters on “Sandwiches & Salads” and “Vegetarian Main Meals” that include tasty options such as Almond Butter and Banana Sandwiches and Teriyaki Tofu with Baby Broccoli.

All of Lynn’s recipes feature Trader Joe’s signature products, so you won’t have to trek from market to market searching for items. It’s really a one-stop-shopping cookbook ideal for both cash- and time-strapped college students. And kitchen novices. And working moms and dads. And anyone looking for easy recipes and trying to save money.

Lynn provides colorful recipe icons that help you select the recipe that’s right for you. They include microwave meals, no-cook meals, one-pot meals, and more. “Tips & Techniques,” include a few kitchen basics such as “how to boil an egg" and “how to cook al dente pasta."

Chapters are divided by meal category, and recipes, which average 5 to 7 ingredients, are clearly written and easy to follow. Delicious pasta dishes including Chickpea Penne and Portobello Mushroom Ravioli clock in at under 15 minutes. Even more impressive "Special Occasion" recipes such as Israeli Couscous with Lemon Shrimp and Wasabi Coated Chicken take about 30 minutes.

Parents who are paying for their kids’ tuition will want to hi-light the chapter called “Quick and Hearty Brain Food for Finals” featuring fortifying breakfasts such as Microwave Scrambled Eggs and Smoked Salmon, nutritious snacks such as Very Berry Smoothies, and belly-filling dinners such as Lentils with Chicken Sausage. Just don't tell them about the boozy Kahlua Spiked Chocolate Milkshakes.

fried chickpeas

While it's too late for me to help my friend, it's not too late for you. So, please, if you're a  college student, harried mom, single dude, or anybody looking for inexpensive, easy, and great-tasting recipes, do me a favor -- skip the sad "meatless burgers," and get a copy of  Andrea Lynn's I Love Trader Joe’s College Cookbook.

Tell me why you'd like to win this book, and I'll announce a winner (chosen randomly) on Sunday, July 24th. Good luck! 

Fried Chickpeas
Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 10 minutes
Printable recipe.

1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1⁄4 cup flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
canola oil, as needed

1. Line a plate with a paper towel. In a large bowl, combine the cornstarch, flour, and salt. Working in batches, add the chickpeas to the cornstarch mixture, coating thoroughly.

2. Toss the coated chickpeas into a strainer, shaking to remove excess coating.

3. In a large heavy deep pan, heat 1 inch of oil over high heat until shimmering.

4. When the oil is hot, add half the chickpeas and cook until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer with a slotted spoon onto the prepared plate. Repeat with the remaining chickpeas. Sprinkle salt over the fried chickpeas.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Healthy Baked Halibut Tacos with Pineapple-Tomatillo Salsa

baked halibut fish tacos with pineapple-tomatillo salsa

Buying fish used to be easy. You'd go to the seafood store, look in the case, select your fish, and go home to cook.

Nowadays, it's a lot more complicated. If you're pregnant, you need to avoid mercury-rich fish; farm-raised fish are good, except for when they're bad; some species which are endangered still show up on the menus of restaurants. All of this leads to confusion and often frustration on the part of many consumers.

What should you do? Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website. The Seafood Watch program "helps consumers and businesses make healthy choices for healthy oceans" by guiding you through these murky waters.

The folks at Seafood Watch share their "seafood recommendations" which are organized by geographic region, teach you about pressing ocean issues, provide sustainable seafood recipes, and even show you how to get involved in the cause. Best of all, you can acquire an app that will help you when you're in the market shopping for fish.

Another way to make sure you're buying sustainable fish is to know your fishmonger. Mine is Tommy Gomes of Catalina Offshore Products in San Diego, a friendly, funny idiot savant of fish. Not only does Catalina offer the freshest of local fish, but they also run Collaboration Kitchen, a program in conjunction with Specialty Produce, that offers once-a-month demos and a 5- to 7-course tasting meal led by local chefs. Proceeds go to support the Monarch School for homeless and at-risk youth.

Last week when Tommy announced on Facebook that fresh halibut fillets were on sale for $9.85 a pound, I practically tripped over myself to order 2 pounds worth. Halibut is a firm, mild-tasting, white fish that pairs deliciously with a wide variety of salsas and chutneys. I made baked halibut with a zesty mango, corn, and cucumber salsa for the first pound. The second pound was transformed into these healthy baked tacos with a sweet-and-spicy pineapple-tomatillo salsa. Because fish tacos just make life better.

Tomatillos. Remove the papery husk, and wash the tomatillo before using.

Healthy Baked Halibut Tacos with Pineapple-Tomatillo Salsa
Makes 8 tacos
Printable recipe.

This healthier version of fish tacos is low in fat, cholesterol, and calories but not on flavor. Tomatillos, sometimes called Mexican green tomatoes, look like small green tomatos wrapped in a papery husk. They have a distinctive tart, citrusy flavor that balances the sweetness of pineapple in this salsa. They're available at Mexican specialty markets as well as most major supermarkets.

1 pound halibut, sliced into 8 equal pieces
2 egg whites
1/2 cup coarse corn meal or grits
A generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
6 tomatillos, diced (about 2 cups)
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1 small jalapeno, finely chopped
The zest and juice of 1 lime
A generous sprinkling of salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish

8 (6-inch) corn blue or yellow corn tortillas
Serve with lime wedges

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place egg whites in a shallow bowl and lightly beat with a fork. In another shallow bowl, place cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper.

2. Pat fish dry with paper towel. Dip each piece of fish in the egg whites then dredge in the cornmeal. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake for about 20 minutes, turning once mid-way through. The fish will be cooked when the cornmeal becomes golden and crunchy and the fish is opaque when pierced with a fork.

3. For the salsa, heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook for 5 to 7 minutes until browned and translucent. Add tomatillos and cook 5 minutes, until tender and few brown spots appear. Add pineapple and jalapeno and cook for 2 minutes. Add lemon zest and juice, salt, and cilantro, and stir well. Remove from heat.

4. To assemble tacos, heat tortillas on a dry griddle over medium heat for 1 minute per side or, using metal tongs, simply hold over an open flame until warmed and slightly charred. Place a layer of salsa on each tortilla, then a fish fillet, then another dollop of  salsa and fresh chopped cilantro. Serve immediately.

You might also enjoy these fish taco recipes:
Fish Tacos from Chez Us
Grilled Fish Tacos from Average Betty
Classic Fish Tacos from Food Blogga
Tilapia Fish Tacos from Blue Kitchen
Shrimp Tacos with Citrus Avocado Salsa from Food Blogga
Fish Tacos with Creamy Green Chili and Cilantro Sauce from Cookin' Canuck

Congratulations, cassiecramer! You are the winner of Alice's Cook Book from last week's give-away. Thank you to everyone who participated. There will be many more give-aways to come!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cookbook Review: Alice's Cook Book and Recipe for Roasted Carrot Hummus

Are you young, busy, and socially active? If so, Alice Hart wants you in the kitchen, with her cookbook, named simply Alice's Cook Book

Hart realizes that although most 20- and 30-somethings are in a constant buzz, they love to slow down and socialize with friends, preferably over good, honest food and drink. Therefore, she has divided her chapters by meal type then by occasion so users don't have to create their own menus.

Under "Breakfast and Brunch" she includes "spring breakfast for 6 on the weekend," with recipes for Maple and Blueberry Sticky Rolls, Tropical Fruit Platter with Kaffir Lime and Sunshine Juice. Under "Party" she includes "hot summer barbecue" with recipes for Skirt Steaks with Red Chimichurri Sauce, Charred Corn Salsa, Avocado Salsa and Best Brownies. She also provides "hands-on" time for each recipe and advice for scaling quantities up or down to feed a crowd or a few.

Hart's English pedigree is reflected in her selection of recipes, which include many Indian, French and English dishes, such as dahl soup, pear and almond tarte tatin, and Yorkshire pudding. Overall, the recipes are simple and straightforward. Ingredient lists are not overly long, and instructions are written in a conversational tone.

I have made a couple of the recipes from this book and am particularly fond of the Roasted Carrot Hummus that has a pleasing sweetness and distinctive earthiness due to the addition of toasted cumin seeds. I served it as part of a crudite platter one evening, then smeared it on a grilled chicken sandwich the next day. Both were terrific.

roasted carrot hummus

Emma Lee's photography is beautiful -- simple and artful. I only wish the book had more of it.

So no matter how old you are, take Alice Hart's advice about spending time in the kitchen: "It's not just about cooking, it's about enjoying life."

Tell me why you'd like to win this book, and I'll announce a winner (chosen randomly) on Sunday, July 17th. Good luck! 

Roasted Carrot Hummus
Printable recipe.

2 large carrots, scrubbed and thickly sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 fat garlic clove, roughly chopped and crushed
1 (14-oz) can chickpeas, drained
1 heaping tablespoon light tahini
Extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon juice, to taste

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss the carrots with the cumin seeds and some oil and seasoning. Spread out in a roasting pan and roast until soft and charring at the edges, about 35 minutes. Let cool.

2. Combine the garlic, chickpeas, tahini, and cumin-spiked carrots in a food processor and pulse until coarse-fine. Add a slug of extra-virgin olive oil and a squeeze of lemon juice, then adjust the balance until you're happy. Serve with warm flatbread.

Note: I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes but was not paid. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Let's Talk Pork Over at the Pork, Knife, and Spoon Blog

Hello Dear Readers,

I've got exciting news! For the next three months, I'll be writing the blog Pork, Knife & Spoon for Pork, Be Inspired. That's where I'll be talking pig: ribs, chops, tenderloin, sausages, prosciutto, bacon, and more. So I'd love for you to drop by, say hi, and leave a comment if you'd like.

To kick things off, my first post focuses on my tumultuous relationship with sausage which started at age 2. I had abnormally large molars. You can read about it here.

You can follow my pork-related tweets at:  @PorkandKnife
You can also "like" us on Facebook: Pork Be Inspired

In case you're wondering, I'll still be writing Food Blogga too!

Photo credit: Flickr, Creative Commons Daveynin