Quinoa and Asparagus Salad with Poached Eggs

I’ve really been too busy lately to do much blogworthy cooking, but when we got spring onions, asparagus and mint in our first CSA box of the year, I immediately began to think about what I could do with it.  After a brief perusal of my pantry and fridge, it didn’t take much thought to come up with salad.  Quinoa salad.

Unbelievably, fantabulously delicious quinoa salad.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I loved this.  So fresh, so wonderfully tasty.  We had it for Sunday brunch, topped with poached eggs, but it would be great as a salad on its own, with all of the vinaigrette and the green onions tossed in (this is how I ate the leftovers I hogged for myself) and perhaps topped with some thinly sliced steak or grilled chicken breast.

The vinaigrette may sound weird, but it’s actually really, really good, and would work quite well on any green salad.

Make this. Eat this.  Love this.

Quinoa and Asparagus Salad with Poached Eggs. Make this. Eat this. Love this.

Click the image to enlarge

Quinoa and Asparagus Salad with Poached Eggs
Serves: 5
Ingredients
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked quinoa, cooled to room temperature
  • 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced on the bias, tips left intact
  • 1 cup loosely packed flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed mint, roughly chopped
  • 2 large hard-boiled eggs, finely grated
  • 1 tablespoon mild honey
  • 4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 5 green onions, white and pale green parts, thinly sliced
  • 5 large [url href=”http://www.janssushibar.com/poached-eggs/” target=”_blank”]poached eggs[/url]
Instructions
  1. Blanch the asparagus for 1 minute in boiling salted water; drain and place in ice water to halt the cooking. Drain again and gently pat dry.
  2. Whisk together the honey and white wine vinegar until smooth. Continue whisking while adding the olive oil in a thin, steady stream, until well combined. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the grated eggs. Set aside 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.
  3. In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, asparagus, parsley, cilantro, mint and all but the reserved 1/4 cup of vinaigrette. Taste; season as needed with additional salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the salad between 5 plates. Top each with a poached egg; sprinkle with the sliced scallions and drizzle with the reserved vinaigrette.
  5. Serve immediately.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 438 calories, 30.5g total fat, 259.6mg cholesterol, 194.7mg sodium, 597.1mg potassium, 28.2g carbohydrates, 5.6g fiber, 3.7g sugar, 15.7g protein

Red Onion Jam

Hello, there.  I meant to post more last week but, well, life kind of got in the way.   Darling Daughter, who was supposed to be walking down the aisle this past weekend, instead packed up all her worldly goods and moved to Podunk to start afresh.  (Long story, but it seems that Mr. Fixit’s feet got a little on the chilly side.  That’s okay; he’ll have plenty of time to kick himself with those sized 9 1/2 ice blocks in the future.  The very near future.)  She’s bearing up well, and while she’s sad and hurt, she’s also excited at the opportunities her future now holds.

At any rate, after spending the week dealing with the logistics of getting DD, as well as her stuff, here in very short order, we had a moderately large family gathering on Sunday for Chocolate Bunny Day dinner at our house.  I’m exhausted, but things went quite nicely, and the dinner was delicious.

Our main course was boneless leg of lamb – or, as The G Man called it, Lego Lamb (hey, it got him to eat it) – that I butterflied and stuffed with a mixture of mint, parsley, dried currants, toasted pecans and sourdough bread crumbs.  It was just delicious, but since mint was part of the stuffing, it was served with this incredibly simple but oh-so-delicious condiment.

Nor is this jam good with just lamb (many variations of lamb, as you’ll see with my next recipe), but it would go excellently with beef, pork, or game – in fact, venison will probably be the next protein I make to to serve with it.  It would also be a lovely part of a charcuterie or cheese platter.

While this isn’t hard to make, it does take a little time – about 45 minutes (it’s so worth it, though).  A little goes a long way, however – you’ll start off with at least 6 cups of sliced onion that will cook down to about 2 cups, and a serving is a mere 2 tablespoons.  A wonderfully flavorful – tart, sweet and earthy – 2 tablespoon that will totally rock your taste buds.

Red Onion Jam. This richly-colored, sweet and tangy condiment goes really well with red meats and strong cheeses.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Onion Jam
Serves: 16
[i]Makes about 2 cups[/i]
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 2 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with a little salt and cook, stirring frequently, until very soft but not brown, about 15 minutes.
  2. Add the wine and honey; reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and almost all of the liquid has cooked out, another 20 to 30 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the vinegar; season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow the jam to cool to room temperature before serving.
  4. Nutrition Facts
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 96 calories, 5.9g total fat, 15.3mg cholesterol, 3.7mg sodium, 13.1mg potassium, 9.7g
  6. carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 4.9g sugar, <1g protein

Scallops with Meyer Lemon Pan Sauce

As foretold yesterday, I have a scallop/Meyer lemon recipe today. Huzzah!

You know, all those people who unsubscribed because I’m “no longer relevant,” what with my lentils and quinoa and photos of crocus, are going to be disappointed that they missed this one.  It may not be Whole30 compliant, but it’s pretty straight-forward paleo/primal, and it’s absotively-effing delicious.  To say nothing of quick and drop-dead simple.

Oh, well.  Their loss.

Anyhoo, Meyer lemons.  I’d heard of them, but had never actually seen one until last week when I chanced upon a small bag of them at the local supermarket.  I eagerly bought it and left it on the counter while Beloved and I traipsed down to southern Ohio for an extended weekend of dominoes, hot tubs and other middle-aged fun and games (ahem).

I thought the Meyers, which are believed to be a hybrid of standard lemons and mandarin oranges, giving them a deep yellow color and sweeter, more floral flavor than your average, run-of-the-mill lemon, would be fine.  After all, I buy citrus all the time in season and it all does quite well sitting on the counter for several days.

Meyer lemons, not so much, unfortunately – all but one of them were beginning to rot when we returned on Monday.  Disappointed, visions of Meyer lemon goodies in the form of pies and pound cake quickly banished, I salvaged the one good fruit and began to wonder what I could do with it.

Once I’d remembered the scallops, it was easy.

Our butchers, Whitefeather Meats, have recently found a good source of wild, sustainably caught seafood, and last week we were pleased to see scallops in the seafood case.  They’re my absolutely favorite shellfish, so we bought them eagerly and when faced with no leftovers for lunch yesterday I decided it was time to consume them – pan-seared, they take all of about 8 minutes.  Coming up with the sauce took little time, and served with leftover Roasted Root Vegetable Hash, we were eating lunch in the comfort of our home 15 minutes later.

Let me just say, the Meyer lemon pan sauce is outstanding – I was literally licking it out of the pan as I cleaned up afterward.  It would be great on shrimp as well as chicken, so if you don’t do shellfish you can still make it and it will still be outstanding.

No Meyer lemons?  No problem – this would work well with your regular, garden-variety lemons, although you might want to increase the amount of honey and/or butter slightly, to keep it from being too acidic (which is the whole point of the honey and butter in the first place).

Scallops with Meyer Lemon Pan Sauce.  So simple and easy, but impressive enough for company!

Click the image to enlarge

Scallops with Meyer Lemon Pan Sauce
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • the juice and grated zest of 1 Meyer lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon honey, or to taste
Instructions
  1. Rinse the scallops and pat them dry; sprinkle both sides liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in a wide, heavy skillet over medium-high heat until the butter begins to foam.
  3. Place the scallops in the skillet and cook until lightly browned but still opaque in the center, about 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate; cover and keep warm.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking the liquid in the pan until it becomes a light golden color, stirring frequently, about 1 minute. Stir in the lemon juice, scraping up any brown bits, then the zest, rosemary and honey. Continue cooking, stirring constantly, until the sauce is reduced and almost syrupy (this should take less than a minute). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter until melted.
  5. Plate the scallops and drizzle with the Meyer lemon sauce. Serve immediately.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 211 calories, 13.2g total fat, 42.5mg cholesterol, 446.6mg sodium, 279mg potassium, 11g carbohydrates, 1.4g fiber, 4.3g sugar, 14.1g protein

Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Apples

Before I get into how I’m not torturing poverty-stricken Bolivian farmers by eating quinoa, let’s talk a little bit about why I’m eating it after more than 3 years of largely avoiding grains.

Aside from the fact that it’s freaking delicious, reasonably nutritious when properly prepared and not really a grain.

Grains are the seeds from grasses; quinoa is the seed from a broadleaf plant that is closely related to spinach and beets.  This makes it what is called a pseudograin – it looks like a grain and cooks like a grain but botanically isn’t a grain.  Which is all fine and dandy, but it still contains all those awful lectins and phytates plus an added bonus of saponins – a bitter-tasting coating on the outside of the seed that makes for one nasty meal if not completely rinsed away.

Most commercially available quinoas (which, like lentils, come in a variety of colors) are pre-rinsed, but you should always rinse them again before cooking just to make sure.  And, like most grains, you’ll get a lot more out of them if you soak or sprout it beforehand.  Quinoa sprouts pretty easily – unlike most grains and legumes, soaking it in warm, filtered water for as little as 12 hours will cause it to sprout, which also reduces the cooking time by as much as 1/3.

Unfortunately, quinoa has gotten a bad rap lately.  It’s traditionally grown in South America and has been a dietary staple there for thousands of years.  Its growing popularity worldwide in recent years has caused concerns about the sustainability of the crops there, as well as diminishing quinoa’s status as a staple – it’s far more profitable for farmers to sell than consume.  Now, having said that, some varieties are pretty hardy and can be grown in other climates – there is widespread farming of quinoa in Europe, the US and Canada.  The quinoa I purchase comes from the bulk bins at our local natural food store (making it cheaper than the packaged stuff) and is grown in Canada.

Beloved and I also love the stuff, which is the main reason we’re eating it.  But after 3 years of forcing foods that aren’t rice or pasta or wheat or whatever isn’t “allowed” in a paleo diet into behaving like foods that are rice or pasta or wheat or whatever, I started to wonder why I don’t just go ahead and eat them from time to time?  Muffins, cakes, breads, ice creams, cookies, candies and all those other delicious treats that people work so hard to recreate – yes, myself included – really shouldn’t be eaten every day no matter what they’re made from (the one exception being “noodles” made from vegetables.  But it still isn’t the same).  I still make all of these things from scratch from the best quality ingredients I can find, I still don’t eat industrial seed oils or prepackaged crap and we still don’t eat out nearly as often as the average American.  If I eat something and it makes me feel bad or sick, I don’t eat it again and so far, a slice of sourdough bread and a serving of quinoa, beans or soaked brown rice a couple of times a week, homemade pasta once or twice a month and a dessert once in a blue moon isn’t killing me.  In fact, I’m feeling pretty okay these days, and after the menopausal hell of the last 5 years or so, that’s not a bad thing.  Not bad at all.

Anyhoo – quinoa. My favorite way to prepare it is in homemade chicken broth with diced onion and garlic that’s been sauteed in ghee – it is just delicious.

This salad was made with leftover quinoa cooked in just that manner, as well as some leftover salmon that I’d attempted to prepare (at too high a temperature – oops) in the sous vide.  It may not have been the best entree I’ve ever cooked, but chilled and flaked into this salad the salmon was great.  Throw in a little diced apple, finely chopped herbs, a light vinaigrette and some salad greens, and this was a marvelous light lunch – just what my body has been craving after this absurdly long, harsh winter.

Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Apple - quick, simple and incredibly good for you.

Click the image to enlarge

Quinoa Salad with Salmon and Apples
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 4 ounces cooked salmon, flaked
  • 1 small apple, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
  • 4 cups salad greens
Instructions
  1. Whisk together the vinegar, honey and olive oil in a small bowl until well-blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the quinoa, salmon, apple, mint and parsley. Drizzle with the dressing and toss again until evenly coated. Season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
  3. Divide the greens between two plates and top with the quinoa salad.
  4. Nutrition (per serving): 393 calories, 20.2g total fat, 40.3mg cholesterol, 51.4mg sodium, 791.2mg potassium, 34.2g carbohydrates, 5.3g fiber, 9.6g sugar, 20g protein

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions

Lately, we’ve been eating more legumes – beans, peas, lentils, all soaked and/or sprouted, and all very delicious.

And, if you care about such things, full of prebiotic goodness in the form of resistant starch.

(If you’re worried about the whole “legumes aren’t paleo!” thing, Chris Kresser has a thing or three to say about that and, quite frankly, I no longer give a big rat’s patootie if they are or not. So shoot me.)

Whatever.

Reintroducing legumes to our diet makes me happy, because I’ve always loved them.  A good thing, since growing up in a blue collar Texas household, we ate a lot of them.  They are tasty, cheap, filling and certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, nutritionally speaking, especially when properly prepared. (If, that is, you tolerate them reasonably well.)

However, I never ate lentils growing up – legumes in our house were almost always pinto beans or black-eyed peas, with the occasional foray into navy  or black beans, depending on whether we were eating ham or something Mexican.  Even into adulthood, I’d never given lentils much thought – which is really a shame, because they’re really very tasty and cook much more quickly than other legumes, especially when they’ve been soaked or sprouted.

So, once a week or so while I’m cooking dinner, I whip out a package of lentils (or, if the truth be known, quinoa or brown rice) and combine them with filtered water (at about a 2:1 ratio – twice as much water as lentils), a tablespoon or so of homemade yogurt, cover the container with a clean dish cloth and let them sit out on the counter until the next evening when it’s time to cook dinner again.

They’re not at all difficult to make, they just take a little forethought. And are fairly inexpensive, especially if you purchase them in bulk.

This particular dish, made with red lentils (that are really more pinkish-orange and turn yellow when cooked), caramelized onions and spinach is one of our favorites.  It’s simple, reasonably quick to prepare, versatile – in the photo below, I served it with pan-roasted venison loin, but it would be equally delicious with poultry or fish – and quite delicious.  Leftovers reheat well, too; the next day at work, my coworkers kept wandering past my office (no small feat, since it’s at the end of a hall), going, “What are you eating? It smells wonderful!”

Lesson learned? Make this, and your coworkers will be jealous.

Note: If you don’t have the time or inclination – or forgot – to soak the lentils, you can buy them pre-sprouted and dried, although they’re not exactly cheap.  Please take note that the package will say to cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, but I can tell you from experience they won’t be done.  Cook them 15 to 20 minutes.

This can also be easily made vegetarian/vegan by substituting the ghee or butter with olive oil and the chicken stock/broth with vegetable stock.

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions. It may require a little planning, but this simple side dish is easy, versatile and quite delicious.

Click the image to enlarge

Red Lentils with Spinach and Caramelized Onions
Serves: 4 to 6
Ingredients
  • 1 large onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or butter
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup red lentils, soaked for 12 to 24 hours (measured before soaking)
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock or broth, preferably homemade
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, stems removed and roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee or butter in a medium saute pan or skillet over medium low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar; remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Drain the lentils and rinse thoroughly. Combine with the chicken broth and carrot in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until the lentils are done, about 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Uncover the lentils and stir; they should be very soft and a little soupy. Stir in the spinach and caramelized onions; continue cooking over low heat until the spinach is wilted and the onions are heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with a clean dish towel, then the lid and set aside for 10 minutes.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 195 calories, 5g total fat, 12mg cholesterol, 115.2mg sodium, 565.2mg potassium, 26.9g carbohydrates, 11g fiber, 4.5g sugar, 10.8g protein