So, I’m Desi, right? This means that rice runs through my veins. Most babies start with rice cereal, but Desis go on to pilau, biryani, gur dai chowl, kheer, firni…..you get the picture. This also means that in my mind, any grain that doesn’t come in a 20-lb burlap sack like basmati seems like kind of a waste of money.
So, quinoa. Originally, it freaked me out (why is it translucent?). But I came around, especially after a veggie and quinoa soup by my friend Sadia. And now, I’ve joined the quinoa cult. Whooooooo. One of us. One of us.
This was a really flavorful meal and it came together really quickly. I made the quinoa and beef before Hamza’s first nap, stuffed the peppers during the second nap, and baked them while I was putting him to bed, just in time for friends to come over for dinner.
I had a lot of plain quinoa left over, so half the recipe if you just want enough for the stuffing. I served the quinoa along with the peppers.
1 lb ground beef (I think this would be delicious with turkey as well)
2 cups quinoa
2 bunch scallions, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
2 can diced tomatoes (fire roasted or plain)
4 cups broth (or as much as you need according to the quinoa package’s directions)
1 cup corn kernels (cook frozen kernels in boiling water for 2-3 min or use canned).
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bunch fresh cilantro
Chipotle in adobo
Cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt
4 poblano peppers (they’re usually skinny)
2 red bell peppers (these were kind of skinny as well)
In a large nonstick pan, sautee one bunch of chopped scallions and 1 minced garlic clove until soft. Add the black beans, 1 can of tomatoes, corn, quinoa and broth along with 1 tsp of cumin, coriander, and chili powder. Stir well to incorporate the liquids into the quinoa. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and cover it. Simmer for 20-25 minutes. The quinoa is cooked through when it is transparent and you can see the circular germ. Fluff it with a fork, put into a bowl, and set aside.
In the same pan (yay, less dishes! just wipe it clean), sautee the second bunch of chopped scallions, red onion, and 2 cloves of garlic. Once these are soft, turn the heat up a bit and add the meat in a single layer and brown on one side. Before turning it over, add (depending on your spice/flavor preferences) 1-2 tsp of cumin, coriander, and chili powder as well as 1 tsp of kosher salt. Also, chop the cilantro stems and add those in (I do this every time I cook ground beef – it really gives a beautiful flavor. Learned it from my Daadi!). Turn the meat over and break it up to mix in and incorporate the spices, cilantro and onions. Add one or two tsp of chipotle-in-adobo (either puree the can and add that, or chop a couple of peppers and add a spoonful of the sauce, too). Add a bit of broth or water to help clean the good stuff off the bottom of the pan and cover. Turn the heat down and cook for 10 min or so until the meat is cooked through and the liquid is absorbed (you may have to remove the lid for the liquid to cook out).
Mix the meat mixture with half of the quinoa and add fresh chopped cilantro.
For the peppers: I used a mixture of poblanos and red bell peppers because, as you know, Ameir hates bell peppers. Lop off the stem/top of each pepper, then cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds. If there’s any pepper still attached to the stem, just chop it and add it to the filling or into the pan that you’ll bake the mixture in.
Stuff each pepper half with the quinoa-meat mixture. Spray a 13×9 dish with cooking spray or coat with olive oil. Pour in a can of diced tomatoes and any chopped pepper pieces. Arrange the stuffed peppers in the pan. Cover and bake at 350F for 45 min, or until the peppers are as soft as you like them. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro and serve with sour cream.
Also, this is what you do with your leftover quinoa.
i like a challenge in the kitchen. i also think it’s very important to respect special diets as much as possible. so, with many of my friends eating gluten and/or dairy free, i like thinking of new ways to feed them!
this recipe emerged from previous success based on the kitchn’s diy pudding recipe, plus a gluten free friend coming over for tea, plus a can each of coconut cream and milk hanging out in my pantry. this was beyond delicious and i can’t wait to make it again. it’s classy enough to entertain with and simple enough to eat the leftovers for breakfast. it is delicious served hot, warm, or cold. the pudding also stores well as long as you press plastic wrap onto the surface so it doesn’t develop a skin.
coconut pudding with blueberry sauce and brown butter toasted coconut
(about 6 cups)
1 can coconut milk
1 can coconut cream (or, all coconut milk to make it lighter)
a bit more milk (coconut or dairy)
3/4 cup sugar
3/8 cup cornstarch (that’s 1/4 cup plus another half of the fourth)
2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt
blueberries (or whatever is in season and/or on sale)
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 stick of butter
coconut pudding (rich. creamy. sweet.)
1. mix together the coconut cream, milk, and a bit more milk to create 6 cups of liquid.
2. pour into a saucepan and mix in the sugar over low/medium heat. i actually used vanilla sugar (easy! cut open a vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds into a pot of sugar. store it this way for vanilla-scented sweetness).
3. whisk the sweet coconut milk mixture over the heat until it’s quite warm and seems to all come together, but not so long that it is starting to simmer.
4. put the cornstarch into a separate bowl. pull out a cup and a half of the hot milk and slowly whisk it into the cornstarch. mix as thoroughly as possible so there are no lumps. pour the thickened milk back into the pot through a sieve so you reduce the possibility of cornstarch lumps. if you want the pudding very thick, feel free to repeat this process with any cornstarch that gets caught in the sieve. (in retrospect, i think i could’ve mixed this into cold milk and poured that into the final mixture).
5. cook the mixture again until it gets thick (stick a spoon in it – if it coats the spoon, it’s ready!).
6. turn the heat to low, cover the pot (crack the lid a bit), and let it sit there for 10 minutes. it will develop a bit of a skin, but whisk in the vanilla and it’ll look fresh again!
blueberry topping (this is ridiculously easy)
1. wash the blueberries. drain, but don’t pat dry.
2. heat a small saucepan to high. pour in the blueberries and stir, then turn the heat to low and simmer until the berries release juices, about 5 min. you can squish it around but i like the berries to be more whole.
3. stir in a couple pinches of cinnamon. this really doesn’t need sugar since the pudding is very sweet.
brown butter coconut (try not to eat all this with a spoon before you serve the pudding)
1. i use a stainless steel pan to brown butter, since you can’t see the color of the butter in a black teflon-coated pan. in this, use more butter than you think you’ll need because the coconut absorbs the butter. [if you're doing dairy free, use olive or coconut oil and i think it'll still be delicious!]
2. slice the butter into pats. turn the pan on low heat (or higher if you promise to be vigilant). watch it, stirring gently, until it turns pale blond and starts to smell nutty. you don’t want it to get as dark as you usually would for a brown butter sauce because it will keep cooking when you….
3. pour in the coconut and stir to combine. toast the coconut, still over low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent it from burning and to let it toast evenly.
4. once the coconut is as dark as you want it to be, spread onto some parchment paper and let it cool (this helps the coconut dry out and separate again so it won’t stay in a lump).
A month or so after Hamza was born, his Uncle Joey and Aunt Marcy and Cousin Ellie came to visit. Before they came, I took one day to prepare and put away several meals so I could spend more time with the family and less time in the kitchen. I’ve always had success making this chicken meatball mixture ahead of time and freezing it, and this time I turned it into meatball and mozzarella subs (by the way – searing them and then baking in a tomato sauce to serve with rice = also excellent). I made a killer shepherd’s pie filling which Ameir loved (semi-problematic because I can’t really remember what I put into it….) and refrigerated it in a 13×9 pan, so all I had to do was make mashed potatoes, top it, and bake when ready. And, in my standard people-coming-over meal, I froze three spatchcocked chickens that I had stuffed with herb butter. Defrost and surround with veggies to bake.
Fast-forward a couple of months to Raleigh’s own personal SNOWMAGEDDON. (This was a real snowstorm, okay? 6+ inches y’all. Yankees, stop hating.) Hamza and I were both sick before it started, so I really didn’t have the time or energy to think ahead about what to get from the grocery store. Add to this that I’m trying have us eat through the freezer before I restock. I had one of those frozen chickens leftover, plus some frozen veggies and a pack of orzo (which is possibly my favorite pasta).
I threw all those things into my dutch oven and a big ol’ pot of yummy resulted. This meal has many of my favorite elements – roast chicken, butter, garlic, herbs, stuff cooked in savory broth, one pot meals, comfort foods, and lovely leftovers. It’s Sunday night dinner, pumped up.
1 whole chicken, butterflied
1 pack of orzo
at least 2 cups of frozen mixed veggies
2 cups of broth
1. stuff the garlic-herb butter under the chicken skin and sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper.
2. heat some olive oil in a dutch oven. sear the chicken on both sides and remove to a plate.
3. in the leftover oil (and now a bit of melted butter), add the uncooked orzo and stir to cover with the oil. i prefer to leave it in there for a bit till some of the orzo get golden brown.
4. add in the frozen mixed veggies and stir around until the frostiness goes away. pour in the broth and add a teaspoon of salt or so (to taste, really).
5. kind of but not really flatten the orzo and veggie mixture. don’t compact it but spread it into an even layer. place the chicken on top and place the cover on the dutch oven.
6. bake covered in a 350F oven for 1 hour. uncover and broil for just a minute or two if you want the skin to be more crispy. scatter with fresh chopped parsley and serve with fresh cracked black pepper on top.
when i store this, i shred the chicken and take out the bones (and freeze so you can make odds and ends broth) so you just yummy chicken orzo for leftovers.
Okay, but now what do I do with the marinated salmon? Well, eat it, of course!
I really recommend this recipe – the only thing I did differently was to add more lemon zest to the harissa topping on the salmon. I think this would be fantastic on chicken or rolled into a flank steak as well. I served it with a saffron and pea rice. Approximate recipe below.
1 measure of basmati rice
2 measures of water or broth
[Note: like many Desis, I measure rice with a "mugga" (a tea mug). One standard tea mug makes more than enough rice for two people. My super big tea mug will make four meals worth of rice.]
Pinch of saffron
1/4 – 1/2 tsp turmeric, cumin, and coriander powder
1/4 to 1/2 cup of frozen peas, depending on how much you like peas
1 small onion, chopped, or a few tablespoons of fried onions [this is a great place to use up that can leftover from Thanksgiving]
Fresh mint and cilantro
1. Wash the rice until the water runs clear – you’re getting rid of the extra starch here so the grains don’t stick together too much. Drain to remove as much liquid as possible. Meanwhile, bloom the saffron in a few tablespoons of warm water until the water is a lovely yellow-orange color.
2. In a pot, heat some oil, add your chopped onions, and fry till they’re light brown. (Or, just toss in pre-fried onions).
3. Add in the powdered spices and let cook for a few seconds until fragrant.
4. Add in the rice and peas and stir to cover with the flavored oil.
5. Pour in the broth and saffron water and turn the heat to high. Boil, stirring occasionally and very carefully, until most of the water has evaporated. You’ll see the water bubbles getting smaller and smaller, and when they’re almost gone, you’re ready for the next step, called “dam” (steeping).
6. Top the rice with fresh mint and coriander. Put a paper towel over the pot and cover with the lid. Turn the heat to low and let the rice steam to finish cooking for about 10 minutes.
7. When the rice is finished, toast some nuts in a pan with some oil. Toss the rice with the pan-toasted nuts and more fresh cilantro and mint.
our friend firas came over for lunch today. he’s a bit of a foodie so i was looking forward to trying out a new recipe on him. i was trying to make this harissa-roast salmon with lemon couscous – so i got some harissa and some lovely fresh fish. i marinated the salmon as directed while cooking up some grains. just as i put the harissa back into the fridge, my eye fell on the ingredients and i saw…dun dun dunnnnn! CARROTS.
firas is allergic to carrots.
thankfully, i had some frozen shrimp. i defrosted them in some warm water, shelled them, and roasted them with lemon and garlic like i did for hana’s bridal shower. mixed with the grains, it was a beautiful light lunch. and we had the salmon for dinner. more on that later.
Roast Shrimp with Lemon-Parsley Grain Salad (or, how to compensate for the untimely discovery of an allergen)
this would be great with some arugala mixed in. i’d also like to try it with other grains – bulgur, especially!
1 pack trader joe’s harvest grains mix
1/2 lb shrimp (defrosted or fresh, shelled)
1-2 cloves garlic, minced.
red pepper flakes
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
6 or 7 sundried tomatoes
black pepper and salt
makes 6-8 servings
1. this was the first time i used this TJ’s harvest grains mix. it has pearl couscous, red quinoa, orzo, and yellow split peas. cook this according to package directions (in broth and butter). i found that the yellow peas were still a little too toothsome, but otherwise i quite liked this. substitute any grain or pasta cooked in broth or bullion. (remember that this may affect the salt content of the whole dish so cut back on salting the shrimp if the grains end up salty.) as soon as they’re cooked to you liking, fluff the frains with a fork so they won’t cool in one big lump. let the grains cool a little.
2. in a bowl, mix the shrimp with a couple glugs of olive oil (or the oil from the jar of sundried tomatoes if you’re luckily at the end of the jar!), the zest of two lemons, minced garlic, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and a few cracks of black pepper.
3. put the shrimp in a roasting pan (preferably in a single layer) and roast at 425F for 10-12 minutes. if they still seem a little bit underdone, just remove them from the oven, cover with foil and let them steam for 5 more minutes.
4. pour the shrimp, along with any broth they created in the pan, into the grains. chop and add the fresh parsley and the juice of half a lemon.
serve at room temperature!
There’s no recipe here, folks, just a simple idea for an excellent party appetizer.
1. Make some veggies – pan-roasted zucchini with herbs, fresh cherry tomatoes, oven roasted mushrooms, roasted red pepper – anything you like!
2. Boil some cheese ravioli till al dente, then give it a quick fry in a pan with some olive oil till they gets some color on them.
3. Platter it all up with some skewers for poking and marinara sauce and pesto for dipping.
You could even do this autumn style with an autumn squash ravioli, roast winter veggies, and an alfredo sauce for dipping. Yum!
Today is the first day of my new job – being a Superhero (i.e. a Stay-at-Home-Mama). Two months ago, Alhamdulillah, we were blessed with our sweet baby son, Hamza.
It took me some time to decide whether to go back to work after Hamza was born, or whether to become a Superhero. I absolutely love being a lawyer and especially enjoy being a part of the public interest legal community here in the Triangle. After lots of thinking, prayer, and consultation with family and friends, I decided to leave work and be a stay-at-home Mama for a while.
I realize that everyone has different situations. This choice works for me, with total respect to any woman for the choice she makes for herself and her family. Alhamdulillah, after I made the decision, it really felt like the right one. How long will I be away? Don’t know. We’ll play it by ear. Right now, I’m enjoying this on so many levels and I’ll just these blessings as they come!
My goal, because I’m Type-A and always need something to do, is still to be as productive as possible for myself and my family’s sake. My priority is to spend as much time possible kissing, hugging, playing, laughing, teaching, and learning with my baby. Then, I want to take time to improve myself as well. InshAllah this means spending more time on building my faith, strengthening my relationships with family and friends, refreshing my Arabic and learning Spanish, and building my cooking skills (which will hopefully lead to more blogging!). I also want to keep my legal skills fresh and continue learning by taking some contract work. I’ve definitely got a list of things *not* to do in mind – like spend all day on Pinterest. Let’s see how it goes (and how productive I can be during naptime!)
I realize …..
that this just looks like a bowl of brown mush. But it is one delicious bowl of brown mush.
When I first made this, it was a throw-together recipe based on what I had in the fridge. Now, I plan meals to have leftover ingredients for this stoup (thicker than a soup, thinner than a stew = stoup). So, I made a batch of my favorite Asian slaw, by Once Upon A Chef, and had a lot of cabbage left over for this delicious bowl of brown mush.
Try it – it’s excellent on a rainy night and it stores, freezes, reheats really well. Serve it carb-free or with white rice.
Beef, Cabbage, and Mushroom Stoup
As with many of my recipes, this is about technique and not exact proportions. the technique here is to cook each thing separately so that you build layers of flavor. this recipe can accommodate different amounts of ingredients depending on what you have in the house. for example – i’ve never tried it, but i think celery would be great in this. make it vegetarian by substituting white beans for the beef!
My dear friend and college roommate Hana is getting married this summer. Hana and Jamaal are going to Italy for their honeymoon, so her sister Mona and I threw her an Italian themed bridal shower. Many thanks also to Jawaad, Mona’s hubby who got roped in to stuff mushrooms, Amna, who made an amazing panzanella and the desserts, and Mahroo for taking the pictures and showing up early to help cook!
So, a bit of background. During my senior year of college, I roomed with three of my best friends: Hana-Mona (2 separate people often referred to as one) and Sumreen. Sumreen and I had been roomies since freshman year and we added the H & M duo later. Hana, Sumreen and I were seniors, and Mona, a junior, was (willingly) dragged along on our escapades.The most memorable series of events was actually not skipping class to sit on the quad (ahem) but rather *going* to class (i know!). All four of us took an 8:00 AM (what was I thinking) English class and had to trek all the way up the Craig Hill (know what i mean, Tarheels?) four times a week. It actually turned out to be a fascinating class and that morning walk with three dear friends was a blessing. Most amusing for me (but less amusing for my roomies) was that I never read for class but just picked their brains about the reading on the trek up…and always had figured out something to say for the class discussion. (Yes, I read the books later and still have them!…like I said – great class!)
My patient roomies served as wonderful guinea pigs that year as I practiced cooking…Ameir and I had just gotten engaged and I thought I should enter married life with more in my repertoire than baking. So, of course, I owed Hana for her patient perseverance .
Many duas and love for Hana as she begins the next chapter in her life. I love you, roomie!
Hana’s Italian Spring Bridal Shower
Though I make a mean lasagna bolognese (which I’ll certainly tell you about sometime), I wanted to keep this light with a series of salads and hot appetizers. We did a mix of store-bought and super-easy stuff and homemade stuff. I also did as much ahead as possible so that morning, we could just assemble and cook. Even then, it does take several hours so divide up the work and get help on cooking day (thanks Mona, Jawaad, Amna, and Mahroo!). It’s all worth it for a lovely lady like Hana!
Here’s the menu: I’ve got some recipes, tips, and techniques after the jump!
- Bruschetta with ricotta, basil, and sundried tomatoes
- Spring Panzanella by Smitten Kitchen (made by Amna!)
- Tortellini with basil pesto
- Stuffed Mushrooms by Pioneer Woman.
- Chicken Meatballs by Smitten Kitchen (my variation)
- Shrimp scampi
- Spring melon and arugala salad with ricotta salata
- Tiramisu (Amna!)
- Lemon-Mint cake (Amna!)
- Italian Soda
these meatballs are so, so soft from a combination of fresh breadcrumbs, eggs, and savory onions and mushroom stem mixed into the meat. it also helps that it simmers slowly for an hour. sorry I don’t have any real pictures of the dish – I made it for a big family dinner and didn’t get a chance. it’s delicious, though!
this could also very easily be adapted for a slow cooker – just sear the meatballs and toss it into the cooker.
Mushroom Meatball Stew
3 pounds ground beef
3 packs white button mushrooms
5 or 6 medium sized onions
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
Any kind of stock (I used mushroom)
cumin or what Arabs call “meat spice”
2 pieces of white toast
1/4 – 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (the kind that comes in a can)
3 large eggs
1 large (family size) can of cream of mushroom soup
1. In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and fry two or three diced onions. Meanwhile, wash three boxes of mushrooms and take the stems off. Whizz the stems in a food processor so they get diced finely. Put those in with the onions and sauté until everything is brown. Add a bit of salt, about 1/4 tsp or so.
2. Purée this in a food processor or add it as is into your 3 pounds of ground beef. Also add to the ground beef one handful of chopped parsley (maybe half the bunch).
3. Beat together three eggs, one or two teaspoons of meat spice (or one teaspoon of cumin) and a bunch of black pepper, and about one or 2 teaspoons of salt. Pour this into the meat mixture.
4. Make breadcrumbs out of the bread in the food processor (untoasted bread, so the breadcrumbs come out soft) and add those with the handful of Parmesan cheese into the beef.
Make the meatballs and stew!
1. Make these into small meatballs (I took a quarter cup of meat mixture and divided that into two meatballs each). Sear them in a hot pan with some olive oil; don’t cook them all the way through yet. Once they are seared, take them out and put them into a large pot where you will simmer the stew.
2. Don’t clean the pan that has been used to sear the meatballs. Instead, add two or three sliced onions (depending on how much you like onions) and chopped garlic; sauté until they are brown. Once the onions get good and brown, add sliced mushroom caps. Sauté for a couple of minutes until the mushrooms break down and get soft, but they don’t have to be totally cooked. Add all of this to the pot with the meatballs in it. The mushrooms may have released a lot of liquid, and that is a good thing.
3. Now add to the pot of meatballs one large can of cream of mushroom soup, and the amount of broth it calls for thinning out the soup. It will be liquidier than normal soup because the mushrooms released liquid.
4. Stir everything up, cover and cook on medium low heat for an hour and a half to two hours, until the meatballs are soft.
5. Turn off the heat. Cut up some spinach and just drop it into the pot of stew and cover the pot for about a minute until the spinach wilts in. Add as much spinach as you like (I used one whole bag of baby spinach), and the rest of the parsley. Taste and adjust for salt and black pepper.
Serve over rice!