Make It: Quinoa Summer Salad filled Endive Spears

When the weather heats up, sometimes you want to avoid the big heavy dinners. In the everlasting quest to be healthy, integrating fresh veggies in new ways can be a challenge and a pleasure.

I took some of the classic cold summer salad recipes and merged them to include tiny stelline “star” pasta and quick cooking quinoa on top of some fresh endive spears to create a fast, crunchy, and healthy bite. It’s perfect as an app, a side, or the main dish.

Quinoa Summer Salad filled Endive Spears:

  • 4 cups water
  • 2 cups of chicken stock or chicken broth
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 cup stelline “star” pasta
  • 5 pickling cucumbers, peeled, ends trimmed, and cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (can also use a red shallot)
  • 1 large (firm) tomato, cored, and diced
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley leaves, chopped
  • 2 bunches mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 heads endive, trimmed and separated into individual spears

Bring the water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the quinoa, stir once, and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, over medium heat for 12 minutes. Strain and rinse well with cold water, shaking the sieve well to remove all moisture.

Boil the stelline pasta in one cup of water for about 6 minutes. Since it’s so small, it cooks pretty quickly. Drain and cool, combining with the cooled quinoa.

When dry, transfer the quinoa and pasta to a large bowl. Add the cucumbers, onion, tomato, parsley, mint, olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and toss well. Spoon onto endive spears, top with avocado (optional), and serve.

We made some quick marinated rosemary-lemon chicken which we grilled on an electric grill. Super easy and light summer meal, which kept us both full for hours afterwards.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Make It: Thai Fresh Spring Rolls

In trying to be healthier, I wanted to eat clean while trying other types of ethnic cooking (thus making lentils a few weeks ago.)

So, this week, I thought I would try making one of my Thai favorites: Fresh Spring Rolls with tofu and shrimp, complete with Soy Ginger dipping sauce. Really not too hard to do, it just takes patience and finess when dealing with the sticky rice paper wrappers. Safeway surprisingly had everything I was looking for, but most of these ingredients can be found at your local Asian market or online.

Thai Fresh Spring Rolls:

  • 5 ounces thin rice stick noodles
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce, divided
  • 1/2 pound unpeeled small shrimp, cleaned and cooked
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 large cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
  • 3/4 cup fresh cilantro
  • 3/4 cup fresh mint
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil
  • 12 (8 1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers

Note: If you like your rolls spicier, you can also add some chili paste to the inside of the wrapper. These rolls are pretty forgiving so if you want to add any other veggies like lettuce, sliced peppers, or sliced mushrooms, feel free. DO NOT overstuff your rolls; the paper is a fragile creature and can easily rip if the stuffing is too intense. This recipe was adapted and modified from Alton Brown’s recipe for spring rolls, but feel free to add your own spin on it as well.

Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil

 

 

Soak the rice sticks in enough hot water to cover by 1 inch for 10 – 15 minutes, until soft and pliable but not overly mushy.

Bring 1/2 gallon of water to a boil in a large pot set over high heat. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce. Add the shrimp and cook until just firm, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the cooked shrimp to a cutting board and cool for 3 minutes. When cool enough to handle, peel, devein, and coarsely chop. Set aside.

Return the water-soy sauce to a boil. Drain the rice stick noodles and add to the hot soy-water. Cook until tender, approximately 3 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk the lime juice, remaining 1 tablespoon soy sauce, chili paste, and sugar together in a medium mixing bowl.

Drain the noodles in a colander. Add the noodles to the lime juice mixture, toss, and set aside while preparing the vegetables.

Toss the cucumber, carrot, cilantro, and mint together in a small bowl.

Fill a pie dish with warm water. Dip 1 rice paper wrapper into the water for 10 seconds, then transfer to a cutting board until the wrapper is pliable and slightly tacky, approximately 1 minute. Best to do it one at a time, to make sure that the wrappers don’t stick to each other.

Place 1/4 cup of the vegetable mixture on the bottom 1/3 of the wrapper nearest to you. Spoon 2 tablespoons chopped shrimp on top of the vegetables. Top with 1/4 cup noodles. Bring the bottom edge of the wrap tightly over the filling, and then fold in the 2 sides. Finish rolling from bottom to top until the entire wrapper is rolled. Be careful not to tear the rice paper. Place on a parchment-lined half sheet pan and cover with a damp tea towel. Repeat with the remaining wrappers until the filling is gone. Serve with Soy Ginger Dipping Sauce or your favorite Peanut Sauce.

Don’t get me wrong: the first few rolls were definitely not pretty. Once you get the rhythm down, your rolls should start to look more like the rolls you see at your local Thai restaurant. Work in progress but I think for the first time making them from scratch, it was definitely a win!

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Local Shoutout: La Penca Azul (Formerly La Pinata #3)

Throughout the Bay Area, Mexican restaurants old and new are a dime a dozen. But finding a good one with quality ingredients, culinary expertise, and old family recipes with new inspiration that come through on every plate is a much rarer find. Enter here: La Penca Azul.

Formerly part of the La Pinata chain, the owners decided to split off and make their main Alameda location into it’s own thing. La Penca Azul, which means The Blue Petal referring to the tequila making process, has a fantastic, rather lengthy menu and a full service tequila bar with a great selection of tequilas local and from all over the latin world.

One of my favorites, pictured above, is the “Joyce special:” fresh sautéed shrimp, a filet of tilapia, and lots of fresh veggies. Perfect away to enjoy the mexican flavors without all the carbs. If you’re around the area and need a quality margarita and street style tacos, I highly recommend a visit.

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

Make It: Summery Pina Colada Ice Pops

Such a hot day in the Bay today! It got up to around 85 today and it’s only April. Jeesh.

To combat the heat, I got the idea to make my own Pina Colada Ice Pops. The recipe is super simple, and you can basically add any fresh finely chopped fruit to the mix to put your own twist on it (such as small blueberries or chopped up strawberries.)

Note: The popsicle molds I bought were super cheap and came with little straws built-in so you can make sure you can get ever drop of melted yummyness possible! You can check them out here.

Summery Pina Colada Ice Pops:

  • 1 can coconut milk, any kind
  • 1 large can crushed pinapple with juice (20 oz)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup sugar (more if you like sweeter desserts)
  • The juice of one lime
  • The zest of one lime

Combine all of your ingredients in a blender and liquify. Taste the mixture and add more sugar if you prefer. Pour into your favorite popsicle mold and let it set in the freezer for at least 3 hours. The mixture makes about 16 regular sized pops, around 10 if you have larger molds.

So creamy and delicious, yummy!

Thanks and happy eats,

Lisa

 

Make It: Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs, Buttered Leeks, Corn and Chive Bread Pudding

shallotsI love fresh, seasonal veggies. I am blessed enough to have a small, family-owned produce market just a few blocks away that carries a fabulous variety of California grown veggies, herbs, and fruits.

For these recipes I used locally grown leeks, mini shallots, thyme, and chives.

Due to the simple seasoning and long cooking time I had for the Corn and Chive Bread Pudding, I chose thighs instead of breasts. Normally I prefer breasts due to their leanness but the thighs kept their moist flavor and were a great balance to everything else on the plate.

The most important thing is to get your really easy Corn and Chive Bread Pudding in the over first, as that it takes about 40 – 45 minutes to thoroughly bake.

 

corn

I also advise leaving out a stick of butter and your frozen corn for at least 30 minutes before you start putting the ingredients together so they have time to thaw.

Note: Leeks can be tricky if you’ve never cooked with them before. They are essentially an overgrown green onion and should be treated the same way. Cut off the majority of the green stalk, leaving just a little bit on the top of the root base. Slick the stalks down the middle and then slice horizontally into bite-sized pieces.

Corn and Chive Bread Pudding:

  • 1.5 lbs of frozen corn, thawed (two small bags)
  • 1/2 stick of butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream
  • 3/4 cup of flour
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 4 large eggscorn_pudding
  • Salt
  • Ground Pepper
  • Nutmeg, just a dash

First, preheat your oven to 350. Butter a 9×9 casserole dish. Take half your corn and pulse in a blender until coarsely chopped. Combine all your corn in large bowl, toss with the sugar, salt, and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk together your eggs, cream, and melted butter. Slowly whisk in your flour completely, making sure there are no chunks. Add your corn to your wet mixture and combine completely. Pour into your baking dish, sprinkling your nutmeg evenly over the top. Cook for 40-45 minutes until firm on the outside edges and golden brown on top, cool for 5 minutes. Enjoy.finished_chicken

Pan-Seared Chicken Thighs:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6-8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • Ground Pepper

Carefully wash and dry your chicken thighs, and thoroughly season with salt and pepper. Drizzle your olive oil over a deep large fry pan, head up the oil before adding your chicken. Place your chicken close together in the pan, skin side down and cover, cooking for about 15 minutes to make sure your skin gets crispy. Flip your chicken over and cook for another 20-25 minutes covered. Serve hot.

Buttered Leeks:

  • 1/2 stick butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup shallots, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine, (I used a $5 chardonnay)
  • 5 cups leeks, finely chopped (about 4 -5 large leek stalks)
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • Salt
  • Peppercorn_pudding_finished

Wash and dry your leeks. Finely chop your shallots, thyme, and leeks. Heat your butter up in a skillet, adding your shallots, and cook down for 2 minutes. Deglaze with your white wine and cook for another 2 minutes, letting your shallots soak up the flavor and for the majority of the alcohol to cook out. Sprinkle in your salt and pepper to taste. Add in your leeks and thyme, and cook covered for about 15 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Finish with a pat of butter. Serve warm with your chicken and corn pudding.

I finished my plate with a small mixed green salad, since all that butter needed some greens to balance it out. All in all a great satisfying meal.

Hope you enjoy the recipes as much as I did!

Thanks and happy eats,done

Lisa