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Quinoa, Beet, and Black Bean Burgers

25 Feb

quinoa, beet, and black bean burgers

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.

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Turkish White Bean Dip

20 Feb

turkish white bean dip

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.

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Thai Chicken Satay

13 Feb

thai chicken satay

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).

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Ajat (Thai Quick Pickle)

11 Feb

ajat (thai quick pickle)

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.

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Tropical Black Bean Quinoa Salad

6 Feb

tropical black bean quinoa salad

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.

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Thai Stir-Fried Cabbage

30 Jan

thai stir-fried cabbage

I’m back in Buenos Aires now, getting settled into a new place. The apartment is twice as big as the last two we’ve stayed in – still a studio apartment, but now there’s a couch! And the kitchen is much nicer, with a lovely gas stove and oven, a full-sized refrigerator, and ample counter space. It’s hard, though, to ramp back up with cooking, but I’ve learned to start off with simple dishes. Luckily, we’re near a great market with lots of fruit and vegetables vendors. And of course, I’m still carting spices around with me and (embarrassingly) some sauces, too… Asian sauces in particular (soy sauce, oyster sauce, fish sauce) can be hard to find and expensive, so it made sense to take them to/from Montevideo (I think).

Anyway, on my first trip to the market, I just grabbed a couple of basic vegetables, including one of my favorites – cabbage. Not a lot of people are enthusiastic about cabbage, I know, but I love it. In salads, soups, or stir fries like this. When I came across this Thai recipe, I knew it couldn’t go wrong, but I wasn’t prepared for how flavorful such a simple dish could be. It could easily be a side dish to a Thai curry or a little midday snack, but served over rice (or quinoa, as I did) with chopped fresh vegetables (like the cucumber and tomatoes shown here) and, of course, nam pla prik on hand to add to taste, it makes for a surprisingly satisfying meal.

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Cilantro Lime Quinoa

16 Jan

cilantro lime quinoa

While I’m still a big proponent of one pot meals, I often feel like I need to round out my repertoire of sides. It can be hard though, since I try not to eat too much rice, bread, or potatoes, foods with notoriously low nutrition values. I love using quinoa in place of rice though, since it’s great for soaking up flavors, but healthier and, in my opinion, tastier. This quinoa is just perfect for serving alongside Mexican food – simple, but tasty with the herbaceous and tart flavors of cilantro and lime a great match to the subtle nuttiness of the quinoa. It can really help complete a meal with grilled fish or meat or with black or pinto beans and is a wonderful base for a burrito (or burrito bowl).

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Basic Pinto Beans

14 Jan

basic pinto beans

I’ve most likely waxed lyrical on here about chipotle peppers before, but I don’t think I’ve ever truly appreciated them quite so much as when I saw them on a grocery store shelf for the first time in months. It’s been much easier to find some ingredients here in Montevideo than in Buenos Aires, despite it being a smaller city – I’m not positive on why, but I suspect it’s most likely because of the strict regulations and high taxes on imports into Argentina. Whatever the reason, I finally had my hands on a can of smoky chipotle peppers in spicy adobo sauce, and I knew I had to make good use of them. With my recent love of cooking up dried beans, it made sense to use these wonderful peppers as the flavor backbone for a pot of pinto beans. And they did not disappoint, imbuing each creamy bean with smoke and spice.

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Warm Kale, White Bean, and Anchovy Salad

11 Jan

warm kale, white bean, and anchovy salad

It’s weird what foods you miss being away from home. I knew that I’d miss peanut butter and good quality dark chocolate, both difficult to find around here (or expensive once you do find them). But I’d never guessed that I’d start craving kale. It was nowhere to be found in Buenos Aires, and I’ve been really hoping to make a raw kale salad. When I came across some at an organic store here in Montevideo, I was really excited – I know, I know, this is kale we’re talking about, but there’s nothing like satisfying a craving! Sadly, it was too tough to eat raw. So instead I decided to cook it minimally with some white beans and a whole lot of garlic and anchovies. With the addition of almonds, raisins, parmesan, and pickled roasted peppers, this warm salad more than satisfied my craving for chewy, hearty kale. The anchovy flavor is reminiscent of a good Caesar salad, but the kale and white beans make this a lot healthier.

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Pickled Roasted Peppers

9 Jan

pickled roasted peppers

I think I’ve mentioned that food in general is surprisingly expensive here in Montevideo. The prices are nearly what I encountered back in DC – except now I don’t have a full time job. So I haven’t been eating out a whole lot here, since there aren’t really options like the $10/dozen empanadas back in Buenos Aires. Instead, I’ve turned back to sandwiches – once you have a couple basic ingredients on hand, they take mere minutes to put together, and having great condiments like these pickled roasted peppers on hand make them truly amazing. I’ve pickled raw bell peppers, and I’ve roasted them, but I’d never thought to combine the two before. This is an interesting mix, since the natural sweetness of the bell pepper, concentrated and enhanced by the roasting, plays well with the tartness of vinegar. It’s surprisingly mellow for a pickle, actually, but I think pickle lovers will definitely appreciate swapping these in for the traditional roasted bell peppers on their sandwiches (and salads).

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