Quinoa Tabbouleh with Oregano and Strawberries

t3Tabbouleh. Don’t you just love that word? Such a great name for a beautiful, summery and fresh bowl of deliciousness. It’s the type of dish where you feel healthier with each bite. 

This middle eastern classic is originally made with bulgur, however, I have to admit I prefer it made with quinoa, which is also fairly common. I find it is lighter and fluffier. But two each their own. 

The other morning I was enjoying a coffee on the back stairs and was admiring the huge patch of wild oregano growing in the middle of the lawn. Surprised it had survived the lawnmower, I wondered where it came from and how I could use as much of it as possible.

To this end, a simple bbq was planned for lunch. Tabbouleh would be the perfect side dish and I thought, why not throw in some freshly picked oregano? A bowl of recently picked strawberries joined the salad bowl as well. How much summer is that?

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1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 1/2 cup chopped parsley

4-6 green onions

1/2 cup chopped mint

1/2 cup chopped oregano

2 cups cherry tomatoes

1/2 cucumber

1 garlic clove

zest from 1 lemon

1 tbspwhite wine vinegar

2 tbsp olive oil

3-4 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup lima beans, cooked and cooled

1 cup sliced strawberries

boston lettuce leaves

 

Thoroughly rinse the quinoa under cold water than add to a medium sauce pot along with the water. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low until water is absorbed, about 20 min. 

In the meantime, finely chop the parsley, green onions, mint and oregano. Thinly slice the tomatoes and finely dice the cucumber. 

Press the garlic clove and zest the lemon.

Once the quinoa is cooked, remove from the heat, then gently fluff it with a fork. Let cool for 5 min, then add the mint, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice. Stir well.

Once cool, add the rest of the ingredients and mix. Cover and let sit in the fridge for an hour before serving

Serve on a boston lettuce leaf.t2t4t5

Asian Stuffed Peppers with Orange Vermicelli

sp1Being sick can have its perks. People close to you pay you more attention. They dote on you and supply what you need in order to make you feel better and to make your suffering as light as possible. A few weeks ago it was Bruno’s turn. A pinched nerve in his back forced him to lay still for much longer than first anticipated. I wanted to lift his spirits and so I asked him one afternoon for dinner suggestions. Surprisingly, he said stuffed peppers. This is something I don’t make often. To be honest I only think I’ve made them once or twice. Usually when we crave them we visit Bruno’s parents. His mom makes wonderful stuffed peppers. Since I didn’t want Bruno comparing mine to what he was used to, I decided to come up with something completely different.

A peak in the fridge and I realized no ground beef was to be found. Ground chicken on the other hand we had. An Asian inspired dish came instantly to mind. Now, I was getting excited.  I decided to leave out the rice which is usually mixed with the beef and instead served the peppers on a bed of rice vermicelli noodles tossed in orange juice and green onions. And the chicken? Well, lemongrass, cilantro and good helping of ginger. Loveliness.

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Peppers Filling:

1 stalk lemongrass

1 small zucchini 

7-8 shiitake mushrooms

1 stalk celery

2 tbsp cilantro

1” piece fresh ginger, peeled

2 green onions

1000g ground chicken 

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp soya sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

2 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar

2 tsp horseradish

2 tbsp green curry paste

1 tbsp sambal oelek

Zest of one lime

 

6 yellow or orange bell peppers 

Parmesan cheese

 

Vermicelli:

250g vermicelli rice noodles

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1/2 tbsp soya sauce

2 green onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

2 green onions, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 375F. 

 

Stuffing:

Peel the lemongrass and finely dice the soft centre part. Also finely dice the zucchini, mushrooms, celery, cilantro, ginger and onions. 

In a large pan sauté the ground chicken in the olive oil over medium-high heat until just cooked. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the vegetables and the rest of the ingredients. Let cook on medium heat for 5-10 min. Add the chicken back into the pot. Stir well. Set aside.

With a small pairing knife, cut around the top of the peppers and lift out the centre. Clean the inside of the peppers from white flesh and seeds. Trim bottom of peppers carefully to make them stand up straight, but make sure not to cut through. They need to stay as a sealed bowl.

Place the peppers on parchment paper on a baking sheet then stuff the peppers with the chicken mixture. Grate parmesan cheese on top, then put in the middle of the oven for 40-45 min. until slightly browned and soft. 

Vermicelli:

In the meantime, cook the vermicelli according to the package. Drain and set aside. 

In a large bowl mix together the rest of the ingredients. Add the vermicelli and stir well. Keep warm.

When serving, place some vermicelli on a plate and place a stuffed pepper on top.

Sprinkle with finely chopped green onions and cilantro.sp3sp4sp5

Tarragon Chicken

tc1Memories. Some of them will bring a smile to our face and some will make us turn bright red. The other day a song by Phil Collins came on the radio. In an instant, I was thrown back 25 years to the 9th grade. A week long school trip in a double decker bus to Paris. I remember killing travel time by listening to this live album on my portable “Walkman” cd-player. Even though I had a proper seat assigned to me, most of the trip I sat in the corner of the spiral stairs connecting the first and second floor of the bus. Not sure why since it wasn’t the slightest bit comfortable and people constantly bumped into me on their way up or down. Maybe it was the quietest spot around. I’m not sure. Either way, it didn’t seem to bother me. I was a serious day dreamer growing up. Part of my brain was always in my own world. I drifted away, gazing out the window, pretending to be attending an amazing live concert by Phil Collins. 

A few hours before arriving in Paris the bus pulled off the road and we all got out in front of what seemed to be a rather non-pretentious and run down gargote. I turned off Phil. Time for lunch. I ordered the special – tarragon chicken. Ridiculously delicious. Chicken cooked with vegetables and broth. A splash of cream and lots of tarragon. What a match. When I got back home I told my parents about the dish and that evening my mom made the Swedish adaptation of the same dish. Very close. She said it’s a Swedish classic. Who knew.

I wonder if Phil Collins likes tarragon.tc3

1 large carrot

1 large onion

1/2 bulb of fennel

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp olive oil

8-10  skinless, boneless chicken thighs

3 cups chicken stock

3 cloves garlic, peeled

1 bunch fresh tarragon

1/2 cup cream

1/3 cup white vermouth

2 tbsp flour

1 green onion

1 tsp salt

1 tsp white pepper

1/2 tbsp dijon mustard

Peel and roughly dice the carrot, onion and fennel. In a large cast iron pot, melt the butter and olive oil. Brown the chicken on medium-high heat 2-3 min/side. Drain off the fat from the chicken, then add vegetables and chicken stock along with the garlic and half the tarragon. Let simmer for 20-25 min or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the chicken and drain the broth into a separate pot. Discard the vegetables. On high heat, reduce the broth by half or 2/3. Add cream and vermouth. Mix the flour in a little bit of water and add to the broth. Finely chop the green onion and the rest of the tarragon and add as well along with salt, pepper and mustard. Place the chicken back into the sauce and let simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve with rice or potatoes. Serves 4-5tc6 tc2tc4

Olive Tapenade Twists

t5Love them or hate them. Opinions regarding olives seem to be quite strong. It’s not often I meet someone who is neutral. Olives do have a very distinct smell and flavour and I have to admit I haven’t always been a big fan. I used to belong to the category that managed to find and remove any hint of olive on both pizzas or in salads or whatever other dish being consumed. Left on the plate at the end of the meal was a sad pile of rejects. Not quite sure when my palate changed, but it did at some point. I’m happy about that today. 

For those of you who love the above mentioned salty mediterranean fruits, these twists might be right up your alley. This olive tapenade can be used on its own as well. Just serve it with a pile of your favourite crackers. The twists are a little bit more work, but in return, olive lover’s eyes will twinkle a little bit brighter.

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Tapanade:

1 1/2 cup mixed, pitted olives

1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

2 tbsp capers

1/2 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 tbsp lemon juice

zest of 1 lemon

3 garlic cloves

4 green onions, roughly chopped

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes

In a food processor, add all the ingredients for the tapenade and pulse until preferred consistency. I like some texture but it’s up to you how smooth you want it.

Tapenade Twists:

1 package puff pastry dough, thawed

1 egg

Preheat oven to 425F. Dust your counter with flour, and roll out the puff pastry dough until about 1/8 thick. With a spatula, spread a thin layer of the tapenade on top of the dough, making sure you cover it all the way to the edge. With a pizza cutter or knife, cut strips about 1” wide. Starting from the middle of the strip, twist in opposite directions until fully twisted, and then transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Beat the egg in a glass and lightly brush the twists before putting them in the oven. Bake until golden brown and puffy, about 20-25 minutes. Let cool.

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