Category Archives: Cooking

Quinoa, A Million Ways

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I’ve meant to write a post about my super simple “recipe” for quinoa for ages now. Not because there’s any lack of wonderful quinoa recipes and blog posts online, but because I’m always recommending quinoa to people for its adaptability, healthiness and general quick-and-easy tastiness. It would be nice to be able to point to a set of instructions online rather than bore friends and family with my usual confusing and wordy explanation. So here it is.

My quinoa won’t win any awards for being photogenic (you’ll notice I don’t have a picture for this post, although that has something to do with the Mini Foodie monopolizing my time and my photographic skills at the moment), and sometimes it doesn’t come out the ideal al dente texture. But I can have a healthy and satisfying one-pot meal ready in 45 minutes start to finish with only 10 minutes of my attention needed, less if I make plain quinoa with veggie stock in the rice cooker and top it with things as I eat each serving. (I’ve been doing this since our Mini Foodie came so I don’t have to be worried about needing to tend the pot when the timer goes off.) Continue reading

Falafel-Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes

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Pregnancy continues to interfere with my food blogging.

But now it’s meddling in a new and more creative way than morning sickness that’s not bad enough to complain about but was annoying enough to keep me from cooking anything interesting enough to write about. No, now it’s gotten sneakier.

Falafel-Stuffed Roasted Tomatoes

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to have dinner waiting for Chris when he got home, in an attempt to make up for all the times he made dinner this spring when I wasn’t feeling up to it. I had a cucumber and several tomatoes–beautiful tomatoes, small Camparis as red as fire engines and hovering just at the apex of perfect, sweet ripeness–so something vaguely Greek/Mediterranean seemed the way to go. I turned to a box of falafel mix in the cupboard, but suddenly plain falafel fried up from a mix seemed too boring for those tomatoes.

So I got creative. After getting a batch of potatoes bathed in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and Greek spices in to the oven to roast, I halved the tomatoes and scooped out the watery seeds, just leaving the juicy yet still firm flesh behind. Kosher salt served both to season the insides of the tomatoes and encourage them to let down some of that juice once I turned them upside down on top of some folded paper towels. I oiled the pan and the tomatoes with more olive oil and spaced the red beauties out, cut sides up, and stuck them in with the potatoes to roast for, oh, about 15 or 20 minutes at 375-400 degrees (you see, I’ve already forgotten), until they had softened and sizzled and the kitchen was perfumed with their scent. Continue reading

Review: Pappardelle’s Pasta

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Here’s today’s central question: should the words “fruit-flavored” and “pasta” ever go together?

This is not a question I would have pondered without a concrete basis in real life, but I got to find out the answer anyway. A few weeks ago, Chris came home from work and presented me with two paper bags from the Pappardelle’s Pasta stall at Pike Place market. One contained lemon parsley mafaldine, which were wide, frilly noodles with flecks of bright green. Okay, sounds good, right? But the second bag I wasn’t so sure about. A fanciful fruit pasta blend sounded like just another weird food Chris was trying simply because it was a weird food.

He also brought home a recipe for a fruit salad using the noodles from the stall with him, and he was very keen to try both the pasta and the recipe. Every night he mentioned wanting to make it, so finally I rounded up all the ingredients for him one day and had them waiting when he got home.

Fruit-Flavored Noodles

The noodles were…surprising. I was shocked that I didn’t hate them. That’s not to say that they weren’t weird, but as far as fruit-flavored pasta goes, I’d imagine this wouldn’t rank half-badly. I was impressed that the colors stayed so vibrant after being cooked, proudly declaring whether they were lemon, lime, tangerine or raspberry flavored. The texture was good and robust, and I was charmed by the shape, which I thought looked like two separate noodles twisting into a close embrace. I kept coming back to try them again and again while Chris chopped up the fruit for the salad.

Fruit-Flavored Noodles

My expectations rose. Really, they weren’t half bad. I could see them working in a light fruit salad, and they certainly were striking. Chris added the celery (the recipe calls for way too little celery) and the fruit–apple, mandarin orange slices, and halved red and green grapes–and tossed it with the pasta, and it really looked quite pretty. Maybe I was actually going to like this stuff.

Fruit Salad with Fruit-Flavored Noodles

Unfortunately, it didn’t look quite so appetizing once the yogurt-based dressing showed up at the party. But it would still taste good…maybe?

Not so much. The flavor of the noodles seemed quite strident when we were eating them on their own, but it was completely masked by the fruit and the dressing. To make matters worse, the mandarin orange slices and the orange juice concentrate mixed in with the yogurt made the whole thing taste candy-sweet, artificial and harshly acidic. Chris and I both got through our portions for dinner that night, trying not to waste food, but the one and only bite I took from the bowl I served myself the next day brought the word “inedible” to mind. The best we could figure is that the company was trying to appeal to the church picnic crowd, not foodies, and came up with a recipe that would echo the fruit salads of yore.

Lemon-Parsley Noodles with Asparagus

We still had the lemon parsley noodles to try. I had much higher hopes for them. Chris blanched some gorgeous asparagus and made a sweet onion sauce to go on top. This time I was even more disappointed. The dish certainly wasn’t inedible–the asparagus and the sauce were both spot-on, so that helped–but there was something off about the lemon flavor in the pasta. Chris finally put a name to it when he pointed out that they were using lemon oil to flavor the pasta, which made it taste like lemon oil rather than fresh lemon, and that tone of lemon flavor actually worked much better with the fruit-flavored pasta.

In the end, I wouldn’t buy the lemon parsley stuff again, but I might give the fruit-flavored pasta another chance. Only this time with my own recipe. Fresh orange slices rather than canned mandarins would help, as would a much less overpowering dressing. The walnuts and light, crisp apples could make a repeat appearance, and I think we decided that the right goat cheese would counter the fruit flavors nicely. However, if I find myself wanting bright, flashy pasta, I think I’ll try out this wicked pasta dish Greg posted at Sippity Sup yesterday, where the beets in the dish turn the fusilli bright neon red.