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Archive for the ‘Grains’ Category

Yes.  Yes.  Sweet Jesus, yes.

makes your twelve closest friends’ day

  • 1/3 c popcorn
  • 4 strips of high-quality, thick-cut bacon
  • 1 large sprig of rosemary
  • 3 T butter
  • 1/2 c maple syrup

Get some corn poppin’.  Meanwhile, put a large skillet over medium-low heat.  Chop the bacon into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the skillet.  Cook slowly to render the bacon fat and crisp the bacon without burning, about 10-15 minutes.  (I prefer my bacon with a little bit of chew left in it, but suit yourself.)  When the bacon is ready, drain off all but a tablespoon or so of the bacon fat (you can use it for another purpose, if you like); keep the bacon pieces in the skillet.  Roughly chop the rosemary leaves and add them along with the butter to the skillet.  (The rosemary really ties the sweet and savory elements of this dish together.  It’s magic, that rosemary.)  

Here comes the fun part:  Add the maple syrup to the bacon mixture and turn the heat up to medium.  Cook until the maple syrup is hot and bubbly and starting to reduce, about 5 minutes.

Toss the maple-bacon mixture with the popcorn; the popcorn will shrivel in agony under the hot syrup.  It’s fun to watch.  Toss the popcorn, adding salt to taste.  Serve as soon as it’s cool enough to eat, and see how many non-bacon-eaters are converted by this caramel corn of the gods.

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There are some things about the West Coast that I don’t think I’ll ever get used to (to which I’ll never get used??).  For example, the other day, one of my students saw what I was eating for lunch and said, “Oooh!  Quinoa tabbouleh!”

Now, when I was 15, I didn’t know of the existence of either quinoa or tabbouleh.  If I had known of their existence, I would have reserved such knowledge strictly for use in games of Scrabble.  I certainly never would have imagined eating either of those two things, let alone wanting to.

Clearly, I’m older now.  It’s doubtful that I’m any wiser, but I at least have the good sense to enjoy quinoa tabbouleh.  Still, there’s part of me that’s a little disconcerted that any red-blooded American teenager would look upon a whole-grain salad as a cause for culinary excitement.  Imagine my consternation, then, when a SECOND 15-year-old student saw my lunch the next day and said, “Ooh!  Quinoa tabbouleh!”  (In fact, I had been eating quinoa with bok choy and tofu, but that’s neither here nor there.)  One quinoa-lovin’ teenager is a freakish aberration; two quinoa-lovin’ teenagers is a Militant Carnivore’s version of the Twilight Zone.

makes enough tabbouleh to feed a bunch of quinoa-lovin’ teenagers

  • 2 cups uncooked quinoa
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 large shallots (there should be about 4 c sliced)
  • 2 bunches of green onions
  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes
  • 2 bunches of parsley
  • 1 handful of mint
  • 1 1/2 c of mixed black and green olives (I like to include Kalamata olives as well as garlic-stuffed green olives)
  • juice of 6 lemons
  • red pepper flakes, to taste

Rinse the quinoa thoroughly under cold running water:  Quinoa is coated with saponin, most of which is removed in processing, but it’s good to rinse it well before cooking to remove any traces.  Otherwise, you’ll end up with soapy tasting quinoa.  Put the quinoa, bay leaf and a healthy pinch of salt in a medium-sized pot and cover with water by an inch; cover and place over high heat.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer.  Cook until the quinoa has absorbed most of the water and a spiral appears in each grain of quinoa, about 20 minutes; the quinoa should be tender.  Drain the quinoa thoroughly and discard the bay leaf. Put the quinoa in the largest mixing bowl that you have.

The key to this or any tabbouleh is to season it with reckless abandon:  Add more lemon, pepper and red pepper than you think prudent.  Also, there should be at least as much non-grain stuff (onions, herbs, olives, tomatoes) as grain.  The olives, by the way, are the innovation of my Lovely Vegetarian Wife’s aunt.  A master stroke:  Once you try it, you’ll wonder why you ever ate tabbouleh without them.

Peel the shallots and slice as thinly as possible (I use a mandoline).  Put the shallots in a medium-sized mixing bowl, toss with several pinches of salt and set aside.

Wash and trim the green onions; chop into 1/2-inch pieces.  Add to the quinoa.  Wash the tomatoes and cut in half (or quarters or slices—knock yourself out); add to the quinoa and green onions.

Wash and dry the parsley and mint thoroughly.  Remove and discard the stems.  Chop the herbs rather finely (but don’t kill yourself), then add to the quinoa mixture.

Using the flat side of a chef’s knife, flatten the olives with pits.  Remove and discard the pits, then chop the olives roughly.  Add to the quinoa mixture.  Slice up the garlic-stuffed olives, then roughly chop.  Add to the quinoa mixture.  Add the sliced shallots to the quinoa mixture.

Put the lemon juice into a medium-sized mixing bowl.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, whisking constantly, until a creamy salad dressing is formed (you’ll need at least a half cup).  Add a judicious amount of salt (remember:  there are pre-salted shallots in this tabbouleh, as well as olives), lots of freshly ground black pepper and the red pepper flakes.

Toss the tabbouleh with the dressing.  You can eat it immediately, or let it ruminate for a while.  I like to make a huge batch on Sunday and eat it for lunch all week, much to the excitement of my students.

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Here at The Militant Carnivore Cooks for his Vegetarian Wife, we believe that health-conscious nutrition and irresponsibly wretched excess go hand in hand.  Thus, our scientists at TMCCFHVW Labs have created the Ultimate Multigrain Waffle:  It’s packed full of whole wheat flour, cornmeal and quinoa for all of the self-righteous fiber one could hope for at breakfast.  It also has a cubic s***load of butter thrown into it.  (That “c” that you see after the number “1” down below is not a typo.)

It’s not my fault:  The Joy of Cooking said it was OK.  I quote verbatim from its recipe for Basic Waffles:  “We give you three choices to prepare this recipe:  use 4 tablespoons butter for a reduced-fat waffle, 8 tablespoons for a classic light and fluffy waffle; or 16 tablespoons for the crunchiest most delicious waffle imaginable.”

That’s not really a choice at all, is it?

makes 15-20 waffles

  • 1 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 c cornmeal, preferably stone-ground
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c butter, melted
  • 2 c cooked quinoa

Mix the first five ingredients (aka, the dry ingredients) together in a large mixing bowl.  In another mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, milk and butter.  Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon just until combined.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  Preheat the waffle maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.  Make the waffles (my waffle maker uses a 1/3 c of batter at a time, and I like to use the darkest setting) and serve immediately, or keep warm on a rack set over a baking sheet in a 200 degree oven.  Serve with maple syrup, fresh fruit or a savory ragout.  I would advise against putting extra butter on these waffles.

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A year ago, my Lovely Vegetarian Wife and I joined the late 20th century by acquiring a microwave.  We had just moved across the country and were setting up our apartment, and our friends said that they had an old one which they didn’t use anymore.  We accepted it, somewhat reluctantly:  We had gone for most of our adult lives without having a microwave in the kitchen, and we had come to regard it as an unnecessary crutch for frantic yuppies who couldn’t be bothered to take the time to cook properly.

We have come to see that the microwave is very useful and has its place in the kitchen.  Obviously, it’s great for heating up leftovers and cups of coffee.  It is really the best way to make good nachos (a toaster oven gets the chips brown before the cheese melts).  It defrosts things effectively.  It allows you to melt butter in a glass bowl instead of using up another pot and room on the stove.  It cooks sweet potatoes perfectly.  However, there is one important concession that we will not make to the microwave:  We will not make popcorn in the microwave.  We make popcorn on the stove.

Aside from the fact that microwave popcorn contains God knows what, popcorn on the stove is easy and fun.  I won’t say popping corn on the stove is as easy as boiling water, but if you can saute an onion, you can make popcorn.  Simply put a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add a thin layer of oil and a test kernel; cover the pot.  When you hear the “Ping!” of the popcorn popping, the oil is hot enough.  Add the rest of the kernels.  Cover the pot and shake it over the burner.  The popcorn should take off almost right away.  When the popping starts to subside (or when the popcorn starts to push the lid off the pot, which is really seriously cool), dump the popcorn into the largest bowl you have.  (And watch out for stray exploding kernels.  I must say, this is half the fun of stovetop popcorn for me:  I love food that fights back.)

At this point, you can toss the popcorn with WHATEVER YOU WANT.  Seriously.  Have a hankering for kettle corn?  Toss some sugar on with the butter and salt.  Going vegan?  Use olive oil (extra virgin, of course) and a few grinds of black pepper.  Like cheese?  Grate some Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.  Pimenton, curry powder, quatre epices, Chinese five-spice powder… if you like the flavor, it will probably taste good on popcorn.

I like buttery—really buttery—popcorn; I have fond memories of large buckets of movie theater popcorn, slathered with whatever the hell that orange stuff actually is.  These days, though, I can’t quite justify the calories.  So, I compromise (and unlike most compromises, this one leaves everybody happy):  I swap out half of the butter for olive oil.  I don’t see the point of omitting garlic from anything, and a little fresh rosemary just takes this to a whole new level.

I guess it’s time for some actual quantities here:

  • 1/3 c popping corn
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 sprig of rosemary
  • 2 T olive oil, plus more for cooking the popcorn

makes enough popcorn for grazing at a small party, or for snacking on while watching Netflix Instant at 2 am

While preparing the popcorn per the directions above, place the butter in a microwave-proof bowl.  (Or, if you want to swear off the microwave entirely, put the butter in a small pot over medium-low heat.)  Smash and peel the garlic clove; add it to the butter.  Strip the leaves (needles?) off the rosemary sprig and roughly chop them, if you want; add the rosemary to the butter as well.  Microwave the butter on high for 1 minute until it’s melted; stir in the olive oil.

When the popcorn is finished, drizzle the butter-olive oil mixture over top.  I toss the garlic clove in as well—it’s delicious.  Sprinkle generously with salt (and a few grinds of black pepper, if you’re so inclined); toss thoroughly to combine.  Bring the whole bowl (and, ideally, a steaming mug of hot chocolate) over to the couch and put on a good, mindless movie.  Enjoy.

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OK, I’ll be the first to admit, the picture above does not look very appetizing.  But trust me:  This batter will produce whole-grain pancakes that you won’t even think of as “whole-grain pancakes”, but as a delicious breakfast treat which beautifully complements a range of sweet and savory accompaniments so well that you’ll find yourself making these some Sunday morning instead of your traditional, white-flour pancakes.  While they are certainly great with maple syrup, their hearty corn flavor combined with the nuttiness of the quinoa lends them to a range of Southwestern and Latin American flavors.  I’d happily serve a mess of black beans over the top of them, or perhaps use them as an accompaniment for a bowl of green chili or posole.

This is one of those recipes which sounds more complicated than it actually is.  Simply substitute some cornmeal for the flour in your favorite pancake recipe and stir some cooked quinoa into the finished batter.  If you have buttermilk handy, feel free to use it instead of the milk and lemon juice.  Finally, I just happened to have the tail end of a container of almond butter in the fridge, so I stirred it into the batter (and was pleased with the results).  If you have any peanut or other nut butter (preferably just ground nuts and salt), add it in place of the almond butter, or omit the nut butter entirely.

  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 c fine cornmeal
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T butter, melted (or 2 T olive oil)
  • 1 T olive oil (or 1 more T of melted butter)
  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T almond or other nut butter, preferably freshly ground (optional)
  • 1/2 c cooked quinoa
  • butter and/or olive oil for cooking the pancakes, as needed

Preheat a large cast iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, or its lowest setting.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the first five ingredients (i.e., the dry ingredients).  In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, butter and/or olive oil, milk, lemon juice, brown sugar and almond butter, if using.

Pour the egg mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon just until combined.  Stir in the cooked quinoa.  When the skillet is hot, add a pat of butter or a little olive oil to it.  (Butter tastes great, obviously, but burns quickly.  Olive oil is healthier and has a much higher smoke point, but it’s not, you know, butter.  I usually use a little of both for this and many other recipes.)  Ladle three pancakes into the skillet and cook until they are brown on the edges and the top is covered with bubbles, about 2 minutes.  Flip the pancakes with a spatula and finish cooking on the second side, about 30-60 seconds.  Transfer the pancakes to a rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while you finish cooking the rest of the pancakes.  Serve immediately.

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It’s September already??  Where has the summer gone?

To compensate for my prolonged absence from The Militant Carnivore, let me present a recipe for some pretty darn good cornbread.  It’s adapted from a recipe on Epicurious for green onion-jalapeño cornbread, a batch of which I recently sampled at a Southern food party.  I am greatly indebted to my friend both for bringing the cornbread and for pointing me to the recipe, because this is just fantastic.

While purists may complain, cornbread is good, but cornbread with stuff in it is even better.  Not being from a cornbread-centric region of the country, I am unfettered from any traditions dictating that cornbread should be unadulterated by any “mix-ins”, or that I should use white cornmeal only, or that bacon grease is the fat of choice for true cornbread.  (I do believe, though, that a cast-iron skillet is the only appropriate vessel for making cornbread—and for making many other things, too.)  When my most recent hankering for cornbread struck, I didn’t have any green onions or jalapeños on hand (or anything else, really—I suppose I should go grocery shopping), but I did have a half-finished jar of chipotles en adobo just miring on the door of the fridge.

I’ve come late to the chipotle game.  I only recently started cooking with them and have been pleasantly surprised by how much flavor can be delivered by a pantry item.  With their bewitching combination of smoke and red pepper, chipotles offer a lot of the same pleasure as pimentón, Spanish smoked paprika.  (I should probably stop describing pimentón that way:  After all, I could just as sensibly call paprika “Hungarian unsmoked pimentón“.)  The major difference (besides the fact that chipotles are HOT!) is that pimentón peppers are, of course, ground into a powder, whereas chipotles are canned or jarred in adobo, a vinegary tomato sauce.  That means you can chop up the chipotles and incorporate them into dishes as you would fresh peppers; you can also use the adobo as an ingredient as well.

makes 8 pieces of cornbread, so serves (ahem) 4

  • 3/4 c flour
  • 3/4 c cornmeal
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 T baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 c (4 T) butter
  • 2 large (or 3 small) eggs
  • 1 T lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/4 c milk
  • 1 c sharp cheddar, coarsely grated
  • 1/3 c chipotles en adobo, roughly chopped, adobo reserved for another use

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Mix together the first six ingredients (those would be the dry ingredients) in a large mixing bowl.

Place a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat.  Slowly melt the butter in the skillet, taking care not to burn it.

Add the eggs to a medium mixing bowl; stir in the lemon juice and the milk.  (You could also omit the lemon juice and substitute buttermilk for the milk.)  When the butter is melted, swirl the skillet so that the melted butter coats its sides, and then pour the butter, whisking all the while, into the egg-milk mixture.  Put the skillet back on the burner and turn the heat up to medium.

Pour the egg-milk-butter mixture over the dry ingredients; use a large spoon to combine.  Don’t overstir:  Just mix until the dry ingredients are incorporated into the liquid.  Stir in the grated cheddar and the chopped chipotles.

Pour the batter into the preheated, buttered skillet.  Turn the heat off under the skillet.

Put the skillet in the oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.  When a skewer or knife inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean, it’s done.

Cut into eighths and serve with a drizzle of honey, or alongside a big bowl of black beans and a few Mexican beers.

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A great picnic salad, especially pretty if you use red quinoa.  Now that asparagus season has passed, you could try this with green beans or zucchini instead.  Go ahead and toss in a little chèvre, if you’re so inclined.

makes enough quinoa salad for 2 or 3 picnics, or for a week of light lunches, mid-afternoon grazing and midnight snacks

  • 1 c red quinoa, thoroughly rinsed (quinoa must be rinsed to remove its coating of saponin, which is not something you want to eat)
  • 1 bunch pencil-thin asparagus, washed, ends trimmed (and reserved for vegetable stock)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 t coriander seeds
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1 orange
  • olive oil, as needed (at least 1/2 c)
  • 2 handfuls of pecans

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

If you have a large pot with a steamer that sits at the top, then you can cook the quinoa and the asparagus in the same pot:  Fill the pot halfway with water, making sure that it doesn’t come up to the level of the steamer.   Put the pot over high heat and bring to a boil.  Stir in a large pinch of salt and the quinoa; reduce the heat to medium-low so that the quinoa cooks at a gentle simmer.

Put the steamer basket over the simmering water and put the asparagus inside.  (If the asparagus is too long, snap it in half.)  Cover the pot and steam the asparagus until bright green and just tender, 3-5 minutes.  (Err on the side of undercooking the asparagus:  It needs some snap to have some textural contrast with the quinoa, and besides, mushy asparagus is yucky.)  Set up an ice bath (a lot of cold water and ice cubes in a large bowl).  When the asparagus is done, immediately transfer it to the ice bath and completely submerge it to stop the cooking.   Let it cool for a few minutes, then drain thoroughly.

Meanwhile, with a mortar and pestle, start mashing up the garlic cloves with a pinch of salt.  Once the cloves are in smaller pieces, add the coriander seeds and mash them into the garlic.  (The garlic will keep the coriander seeds from flying around like miniature BBs.)  Once the garlic and coriander are pureed, stir in the mustard.  Juice the orange and stir the orange juice into the garlic-mustard mixture.  Transfer this to a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in the olive oil until a creamy vinaigrette (well, citronette) is formed.

When the quinoa is done (you should see a well-developed spiral in the middle of each quinoa grain, and most of the water should be absorbed), drain the quinoa in a fine sieve or colander.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.

Now we’ve got the asparagus, the dressing and the quinoa:  The only thing left is the pecans.  Place them on a rimmed baking sheet, crushing them lightly as you do.  Bake for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, just to warm them up; they should start to smell toasty and incredible.  (Be careful, though:  Nuts go from toasted to burnt very quickly, and burning does nothing good for their flavor.)

Chop the asparagus into 2-inch lengths and add to the quinoa.  Add the nuts to the quinoa and stir to combine.  Add enough of the dressing to coat the salad and stir to combine thoroughly.

If you wanted to add some crumbled goat cheese or feta, or perhaps a few chopped herbs (dill?), this would be the time to do it.  Try to refrain from eating the salad immediately:  It definitely benefits from an hour or so in the fridge.  Serve a dozen of your closest friends at a springtime picnic, or enjoy having a ready-made delicious and nutritious meal in the fridge for a week.

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