Recipe post!

1546085_10152121413308926_871113375_nIt’s Vegetarian Week 2, and apparently I can’t get through a vegetarian week without quinoa raising its unpronounceable grainy face somewhere.  Plus since I was the only one who didn’t have to go to work today, dinner was obviously going to be on me.

“Peruvian” Quinoa Stew

“Peruvian” is in quotation marks because I somewhat doubt the provenance of the recipe.  First, acquire and chop up all of the following:

  • About two cups’ worth of onions; I used four little ones
  • Two cloves of garlic
  • Two small zucchini or one really big one
  • Tomatoes (I used a can of diced; you can chop the hell out of a fresh one or a couple of fresh ones if you like; it won’t matter)
  • A bell pepper
  • A stalk or two of celery
  • A carrot or two

I generally do a mise en place setup; in other words, get all my shit chopped up and in little bowls before I start actually cooking anything.  Put the onions and garlic together, the carrots and celery together, and the zucchini and bell pepper together.

Before you start sautéing anything, get the quinoa going: boil about a cup of water in a small pot, and once it’s boiling put in half a cup of rinsed (RINSED!!! TRUST ME!!!) quinoa.  Cover it and leave it alone for ten to twelve minutes; basically pretend it’s rice.  You can start cooking everything else once the quinoa is in the water; the timing will work out nicely.

Get a big flat-bottomed wok or Dutch oven and put a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in it.  Sauté the onions and the garlic together for about five minutes on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, then toss in the celery and carrots and put a lid on the Dutch oven.  The celery and carrots should cook for about five more minutes; take the lid off and stir a couple of times while that’s happening.  Check the quinoa at this point and see if it’s absorbed all the water.  If it has, keep it covered, fluff it like it’s rice, and pull it off the heat; if not, add everything in the next part and then pull the quinoa after you’ve got the pot covered:

Add the following to your vegetables:

  • Your tomatoes;
  • A cup of vegetable stock;
  • two teaspoons of ground cumin;
  • a teaspoon of ground coriander;
  • half a teaspoon of chili powder;
  • a teaspoon of dried oregano;
  • a few shakes of cayenne pepper

Stir it up, cover the pot, turn down the heat a bit, and let it simmer for another ten or twelve minutes.  If the veggies are soft by then, toss the quinoa into the wok and stir everything up.  You’re done.

Add a bit of cheddar cheese and maybe some sour cream once it’s in a bowl.  Delish.

Vegetating: day one (Also: how to perish in flames)

photoDoesn’t look that much different from the original picture, does it?  All told I made very few changes to the original recipe for vegan quinoa & sweet potato “chili”; at one point I considered adding some extra tomatoes and almost put in two potatoes instead of one, but at the end the only change I made was adding a jalapeño, a decision I feel pretty damn good about and will be repeating whenever I make this again.

(Yes, I know putting sour cream in it makes it no longer vegan.  Shuddup; that’s what the recipe calls it.)

One other thing:  I’m renaming sweet potatoes.  I’ve eaten many, many sweet potatoes in my time but haven’t actually ever cooked with them before, and from now on they’re to be known as sonofabitch potatoes whenever I’m referring to them.  I was startled at how difficult they were to cube properly and they took so much longer than every other element of the recipe to cook up right that I think they were probably still a trifle undercooked when I finally gave up and turned the heat off.  My wife has suggested that next time I put them in the microwave for a minute or two before I try to cut them up; that seems like a good idea, as we could have been eating fifteen minutes earlier were it not for the potatoes– I was originally thinking that the vegetable stock in the chili was taking way too long to cook off/be absorbed by the quinoa but I was actually adding water by the time I felt like the potatoes were ready.

Another casualty: I wanted to garnish with avocado, as the recipe suggests, but there were no ripe avocados to be had at my grocery.  I bought one that I felt like was the closest to being ripe, but was quickly disabused of that notion when I cut into it; I had to throw it out.  I love avocado but the dish doesn’t need it so it wasn’t a huge deal.

All told, despite the issues with the potatoes, this was fucking delicious.  I told my wife I’d deny this until I died, but I think I’m going to admit it:  I didn’t miss ground beef at all.  Quinoa matches it texturally just enough that I didn’t notice it was gone.  I’ll make this again.

Right, speaking of my grocery:  they didn’t have ripe avocados (they had plenty that will be fine if I give them a day or two, mind you) but what they did have, to my great surprise, was dried ghost chilies, hidden away in a corner, literally underneath a basket of shallots. If you’re not familiar with them, the bhut jolokia, or ghost chili, is (or at least was recently; this is a category with a lot of turnover) the hottest chili known to the human race.  So hot that chefs who cook with them have been known to wear gas masks while doing so.

I didn’t buy them; it took me a while to get over the initial “you can get these in Indiana?  How the hell did that happen?” shock and by the time I realized what I’d passed up on I was out of the store.  Now, keep in mind, I’ve never even used habaneros in anything before, so jumping from jalapeños to goddamn ghost chilies is probably completely insane.

I wanna make chili with them– hell, with one– and have some people over to see if any of us can eat it.  With, like, pizza as backup or something like that, because, really, I don’t know anybody with a much higher tolerance for spicy foods than I have and my tolerance for spicy foods, while improving, isn’t exactly notable.

So.  Yeah.  Who’s in?

In which I redeem myself


I went through Oven Hell today– possibly to be detailed later in this blog post– and have authoritatively determined that my oven has not the slightest idea what three hundred and fifty degrees is, nor does it understand that there are temperatures between 350 and 400 degrees. Yes, those things are both true at the same time; be patient.

I experimented for dinner tonight, and it actually worked out, for the most part, which I’m probably prouder of than I have any reason to. This was basically off-book entirely; a Facebook friend got a bunch of zucchini through a CSA and posted a call for zucchini recipes; I contributed the zucchini risotto recipe I’ve used before and then another of her friends suggested stuffing it with quinoa and goat cheese. He gave me a few details and I ran with it. This is what happened:

Stuffed Zucchini with Quinoa, Goat Cheese, and Tomato Sauce:

The first step is to cook the quinoa. Quinoa basically cooks like rice; boil two cups of water, then pour a cup of quinoa into it, reduce the heat, cover, and leave it alone for 12-15 minutes or so, checking on it a bit toward the end to make sure you don’t burn it. Pull it from the heat when it looks done (again, pretend you’re making rice,) fluff it with a fork, and get it off the heat to mind its own business while you deal with the zucchini. Oh, also: RINSE THE QUINOA FIRST, unless you have the kind that says you don’t have to, in which case do it anyway because they might be wrong. Quinoa is insanely bitter if you don’t rinse it off first.

I used two zucchini. Cut the stems off, cut them in half the long way, and use a spoon to pull the seeds out, hollowing the center of each half out. I would suggest doing some scraping on the inside afterwards, too, to try and get the flesh of the zucchini a little thinner, then chop the crap out of everything until the pieces are super small. I put everything into a 9×13 glass pan, so I had to trim the ends a bit to get them to fit, but otherwise that size was about perfect. This takes about five to seven minutes, which is how long the quinoa needs to rest, which is perfect. Mix up the quinoa with the zucchini seeds and whatever flesh you managed to scrape out and add half of your goat cheese. Now, unfortunately, my containers are in the recycling bin already so I don’t know exactly how much goat cheese I used, but I had two containers, both of which were four bucks or so at my slightly-overpriced local supermarket. I think they were four-ounce containers but don’t hold me to that. So let’s say four ounces of goat cheese mixed in. Pile the mixture into the zucchini and then, after spraying the glass pan with something non-stick (note: this may not be necessary) put the rest of the zucchini/quinoa/goat cheese mixture into the pan and spread it out so it’s even. Put the four stuffed zucchini halves on top.

Pour the entire contents of a jar of tomato sauce on top. I used roasted pepper and garlic spaghetti sauce because that was what I had in the house; do what you like. Dump the other container of goat cheese on top of that and cover with foil. (This step may also be unnecessary, but in doing some minor research, every recipe for stuffed zucchini said to cover the dish with foil before it went into the oven. It certainly didn’t seem to hurt anything.)

Here’s the tricky part: I’m not sure how long to cook it. My oven sucks; I set it at 375, which according to the oven thermometer I put inside actually produced 350 degrees. I baked everything for twenty minutes and Bek and I both felt that the outer part of the zucchini was too tough. Note that we ate them anyway; if slightly-crunchy zucchini doesn’t bug you, this should be enough, but I jacked the temperature up to 400 degrees and put the other two back in while we finished the first half. I think 30 minutes at 400 degrees or a bit longer at 350 would probably sufficiently soften the shells, but this bit really depends on your oven. The good news is that so long as the quinoa is cooked you can basically eat this raw if you want to; it’s not like there’s anything in there that is dangerous uncooked; it’s just got a chance of being wonky on the texture front.

Interesting note: I was unaware that goat cheese does not melt. It doesn’t. Don’t expect it to.

Second note: Quinoa is impressively filling. I ate two of the shells and Bek got through one and a half; I’m full right now. The half-shell we have left and the rest of the bed underneath it will be more than enough for lunch for me tomorrow. I was super happy with how this turned out; it’s not terribly original or anything like that (my contribution over what the guys on that thread suggested wasn’t much more than using the extra filling as a bed for the zucchini halves) but screw it: no recipe and it worked. Whee!

Yeah. The oven. After the Celsius fiasco (I seriously cannot believe I didn’t figure that out on my own) I got a bug up my ass and went out today and bought an oven thermometer. Long and short of it is I need to figure out how to retune my oven so that it produces something closer to the temperatures it says it will; at 350 it’s considerably less than that (fifty to sixty degrees lower when it beeps that it’s done preheating; if I give it another 1o minutes, it’ll be at 325) but it does 400 degrees basically exactly right. The convection setting is slightly more accurate but not much, and I haven’t actually tried to use the convection feature– until yesterday I hadn’t even bothered to figure out the difference. 375 degrees, if you give it a few minutes past the preheat beep, actually produces 350 degrees, but again: 400 is accurate. I suspect if I ever have a recipe that calls for 375 degrees I’m just going to have to go for 400 and watch it closely. My gut tells me that this shouldn’t make much difference– shit, people were baking over fire for thousands of years before modern ovens got invented and did just fine– but my gut is apparently incredibly crappy at baking, so… yeah. We’ll see.

Sooner or later, I’m gonna try a pie. I might just burn the damn house down, but I’m gonna try it anyway.