Friday, February 26, 2010

Quinoa with Charred Vegetables and Queso Fresco

Some days the sun just seems to shine brighter-you know, the days where everything seems to go your way, you fit into your skinny jeans and your heart seems to swell with happiness. Last Saturday was one of those days for me. I was in the midst of a 3 exam, 2 paper and 1 presentation week at nursing school, but I got up early, cleaned my room, went for a massage and saw Shutter Island with Carlos (highly recommend this film!!) and cooked dinner.

I decided to make quinoa with charred zucchini, bell peppers, queso fresco and a smoky-spicy tomato sauce. I couldn't have been more pleased with the results-healthy, refreshing and simple to prepare.

To Make:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable stock to make this a vegetarian dish!)
1 quart whole milk
2 limes
3 bell peppers (I used 1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow)
2 small zucchini
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with diced chiles
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 small diced tomatillo
4 cloves minced garlic
1 small diced onion
4 tablespoons olive oil

Heat up milk in heavy sauce pan over medium heat until steaming, but not quite simmering. Add juice of 1 lime and stir as milk curdles. Turn heat to low and let cook additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add salt and let sit 20 minutes.

As milk is cooking, heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, tomatillos and garlic and turn to medium. Stir constantly until you are sure that the garlic is not browning (if it is, remove from heat and let cool for a minute). Cook about 5 minutes until onions become translucent.

Add spices and cook 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir into tomatoes/chiles into mixture and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour milk over a cheesecloth-lined colander. If you do not cheesecloth, a very fine strainer will do. Once liquid has mostly drained, form curds into a ball and twist cheesecloth over the ball so that the pressure from twisting causes excess liquid to drain. Hang over sink or a bowl for 2 hours so that cheese may dry out.

Slice bell peppers and zucchini lengthwise into small strips.

Heat up remaining olive oil in a cast-iron grilling pan over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and zucchini (you will probably need to do this in 2-3 batches) and cook until lightly charred, adding extra olive oil if necessary. Remove from heat.

Heat up quinoa and broth over high heat. When it begins to simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook 20 minutes, stirring a few times to fluff quinoa.

Serve quinoa with vegetables, cheese and spicy tomato sauce to taste.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

True Thai

While in Minnesota for my friend Bethany's wedding (congrats Beth & Tony!) I met up with some friends for dinner. My mother's friend Nancy is a nurse, and one of her coworkers happens to own a Thai restaurant-she pretty much is living my dream! Nursing and a restaurant-ambitious, yes, but it CAN be done :)

Being a group of 6 plus one adorable 1 year old, it took us awhile to decide what to order, so we started with some appetizers.

(adorable 1 year old ->)

The best of the 4 ordered was definitely the corn cakes, served with a sweet-spicy-savory dipping sauce. The corn cakes were crispy on the outside and steaming inside.

For my main dish I decided to go my usual route; order something with lots of vegetables (I enjoy eating vegetables but find myself less motivated to eat them if I have to prepare them!). I settled on a wok-fried 7 vegetable medley with a savory brown sauce and tofu. The vegetables were lightly steamed, and the sauce flavorful but a little safer than I prefer. The dish was not at all greasy, which is something that drives me crazy about some Thai restaurants.

Anna, the super nurse-
restauranteur was kind enough to send us out a couple of entrees to try.
The first was a spicy red curry, rich in coconut flavor with shrimp and kabocha squash. Although I tend to shy away from curries (I love them, but I have spice intolerances/allergies) but once in awhile will risk my health to try a particularly tempting one. This squash is awesome. And strange! I expected a summer/zucchini squash but this definitely would fall into our winter squash variety! It complimented the creamy coconut and fiery curry nicely. The second dish was a slow roasted Minnesota duck in a sweet, sour, salty chili reduction sauce. At this point I become very glad to have a mild entree! The duck was perfectly roasted, very moist and tender. The fire from the chilies cut through the sweet duck fat. I love love love this dish. If you are in Minneapolis, or even have a long layover there, I highly recommend ordering the roast duck, you will not be disappointed!!

My friend Andrea ordered dessert as her entree, having apparently had Thai for lunch (oops). Creamy coconut ice cream had flecks of real coconut and bananas were lightly battered (I believe) and deep fried. Bittersweet chocolate sauce was drizzled over both. Oh my freaking god, this is so mouth-watering awe-inspiring delicious. Period. I hope that I can find something similar in Boston.

After 4 appetizers for the table and entrees the bill came out to about 14 dollars each, with enough food left over for another meal. The food was amazing, the waiter sweet if a little inexperienced and the bill quite reasonable. True Thai is located at 2627 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.

Also-there is an option to purchase curry sauce at the restaurant to use at home! I love that-I think it makes the food much more accessible to people who cannot afford to eat out as often.

*photos are from the restaurant's website