Once again, I’m playing host here in Buenos Aires (this time, to Andrew’s parents instead of mine). And, although it’s easy for people to eat out for every meal when on vacation, I think there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal after a long plane ride or a day of sight-seeing. These quinoa, beet, and black bean burgers are more complicated than many bean burgers, but the different components can be cooked ahead of time, and the mixture can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week before being formed into patties. This makes them ideal for serving to guests – I did all the legwork ahead of time and just had to fry up some patties and toast some buns to have dinner on the table. Of course, they’re not just convenient – they also have amazing color, flavor, and texture, and I have to give most of the credit to the beets. I would never have guessed that finely diced beets would make such a great base for a veggie burger, but their earthy flavor and firm texture are perfect here. I always like to add chia seeds to my cooked quinoa, so I went ahead and did it here, too, with the added benefit of the chia seeds helping to bind the burger, eliminating the need for an egg (though if you’re having trouble keeping your patties together, you can always still add in an egg to help). I balanced everything with some rehydrated dates, for sweetness, and lemon juice, for tartness, and couldn’t help tossing in some smoked paprika as well (you can use a chopped chipotle pepper in adobo instead for similar smokiness with a spicy kick). These burgers (which can also be formed into balls and used in place of meatballs or on top of a salad) are so flavorful that they barely need any toppings – but I went ahead and added halved cherry tomatoes and pickled red onions for a little fresh crispness.
Having healthy snacks on hand is probably the most important piece of eating well. I definitely have those moments when I need to eat something and now, and that’s when it’s easiest to turn to something that’s not so good for me. Bean dips are one of my favorites to keep around. They require very little preparation, yet are tasty enough to serve to unexpected guests. I don’t have anything to puree with, and I was still able to make this – I just threw everything in a pot and cooked it down a bit, while mashing, which worked pretty well. Of course, using a food processor or blender makes the process even easier. I used Turkish flavors here, an old favorite of mine, and the mint, Turkish red pepper, thyme, and cumin easily complemented plain white beans. I thought the flavor went really well with fresh bell pepper and carrot sticks, for even more of a healthy kick.
Pumpkin and salmon might seem like a strange combination, but all doubts will leave your mind once you taste this curry. I first had this curry at Thai X-ing, an amazing DC restaurant, where it was one of a variety of courses on their set menu. While everything there was delicious, this dish in particular stood out and still comes to mind (I spend a lot of time thinking about food). The tender and sweet pumpkin melts into the spicy, creamy, curry sauce, thickening it, and the salmon adds another dimension of richness. This version captured my memory of the dish well and was far easier than I thought it would be to throw together. The most time-consuming part was chopping up the pumpkin (I think what I got was actually a kabocha squash, and it had a particular thick, knobbly skin) and prepping the salmon (it seems to be the trend around here to leave the bones in the fish when selling it). I’ve been eating this curry for just about every meal since I made it, served over quinoa (though rice will be just as good and more authentic), and I’m already planning for when I can make it again.
Can we talk about all the things I love about this recipe? Since there’s no flour, it’s great for gluten-free folks, and there’s also no worry if you’ve run out of flour in your cabinet (or butter, for that matter). Another perk of the lack of flour is that you don’t have to worry about overworking the dough. This means that you can taste and adjust the quantities of peanut butter, sugar, and salt, if you’d like (so long as you don’t mind raw egg – or taste before adding the egg), so it’d be easy to practically just eyeball the recipe (not something a lot of baked goods can claim). Last, but most important, these cookies are delicious – and seriously addictive. These are probably the best peanut butter cookies I’ve ever eaten. Every time I ate one, I found myself saying, “I could eat a million of these” and needing to tuck the container out of sight. They’re healthy, I tried to convince myself when inevitably grabbing another moments later – there’s no butter or flour, plus there’s added protein from the peanut butter (shh, don’t remind me about all that sugar). You probably want to double the recipe – trust me. You can thank me later.
The combination of flavors in the marinade here seemed strange to me at first (coconut, turmeric, sugar, and coriander?), but I decided to roll with it because I really trust the recipe source (the great She Simmers which not only has fantastic authentic Thai recipes but also appeals to the linguistics nerd in me with the lovely accompanying information on Thai pronunciation and etymology). I’m glad I did because this chicken satay was very easy to make, and the result was delicious on its own and completely addictive when served with peanut sauce and ajat. This would be great food for a party, especially if you get the grill going to cook the chicken on skewers (the traditional way). But since I couldn’t find skewers and don’t have a grill (and wasn’t feeding a crowd, besides), I pan-fried the chicken and found that worked just fine. Using high heat and cooking in batches was crucial to getting a nice char. I suspect you could also bake these, if you wanted, with a couple minutes of broiling at the end. And for those who don’t like chicken, this marinade can also be used on shrimp (shorten the marinating time to 5 – 10 minutes) or tofu (you might want to extend the marinating time).
Combine my love of Thai food and my love of pickles, and you have ajat. A traditional Thai condiment that’s really easy and quick to make and pairs perfectly with a variety of Thai dishes – although it’s most notably served alongside satay to balance the richness and greasiness of the grilled meat (or fried tofu) and peanut sauce. The part of this quick pickle that seems ingenious is the preparation of the syrupy pickling liquid separately ahead of time – it’s only poured over the fresh sliced vegetables (cucumber, mild peppers, and shallots) right before serving, so the prep at serving time is minimal, and the veggies stay nice, bright, and crisp. The cilantro garnish is optional, but I thought the herb’s flavor was a great addition, especially towards the end of the meal as the delicate leaves macerated slightly in the syrup. The recipe as given makes quite a lot of ajat, but if you need less, I recommend making the full recipe of pickling liquid to use on multiple occasions, cutting up as many vegetables as you want at a time and pouring over only as much liquid as needed to barely cover them.
I’ve long been enamored of Thai food, and that’s probably no surprise since it’s right up my alley in many ways – strong, bold flavors with no fear of spice, often filled with fresh vegetables and herbs, and, of course, delicious salty-sweet combinations. This sauce is a perfect example. It’s packed with flavor from a generous helping of Thai red curry paste, and the savory richness of peanut butter is well-balanced by sugar. It certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s also ridiculously simple to make and addictively tasty. The sauce can be thinned out with extra vinegar for a salad dressing, or used as is for dipping raw veggies. But, of course, it’s most amazing in its traditional use, alongside Thai satay (I’ll be posting a recipe for Thai chicken satay next week). The recipe makes quite a lot – enough for you to try it in a variety of applications, so long as you can resist eating up spoonfuls plain.
Inspired by the coconut breakfast quinoa I recently cooked up, I decided to try a savory preparation using quinoa cooked with coconut milk. I added black beans for extra substance and played off the tropical flavor of the coconut with mango, avocado, fresh mint, and lime juice. The resulting salad was colorful and delicious (not to mention healthy) – perfect for serving my parents for dinner at the end of a hot day of sightseeing.
My parents are here visiting me in Buenos Aires, so it’s been a whirlwind taking them around to all the best sights and restaurants (and it’s also the reason why I didn’t post on Friday – whoops!). They get breakfast at their hotel though, so I’m on my own for fixing breakfast. Something quick and easy but healthy and filling is important to have enough energy to get me through until lunch with all the sight-seeing, and this coconut breakfast quinoa has been a great option. Coconut milk adds richness to the quinoa, which is similar to oatmeal in this preparation (not that I’ve given up on my favorite steel-cut oats), but with the added boost of quinoa’s higher fiber and protein – even more so if you include the optional chia seeds. This can be served warm or cold and can be adapted endlessly with your favorite fruits and nuts, and you can also use a different spice in place of cinnamon, if you’d like, or omit it altogether. Although it’s geared towards being a breakfast (and will give you a great start to your day), this would even make a delicious, healthy (vegan and gluten-free) dessert.