Archive | February, 2013

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Rings (Dinner Party – part 1)

27 Feb

Plated dinner

This past weekend I had a dinner party. It came about because my friend Christine just finished her kitchen remodel and currently has the best dinner party kitchen around with lots of work space, a beautiful long center island and quite a few places to set out food and drink! I wanted to cook in that nice kitchen and what better excuse for a dinner party than a lovely home, good food and great friends?

Terri, Jane, Christine, Jill/Gracie, B, Kate

Terri, Jane, Christine, Jill/Gracie, B, Kate

Olive and Kevin

Olive and Kevin

Christine, the hostess with the most-ess

Christine, the hostess with the most-ess

I also had the pleasure of working with Kyle Krohn who took the photos that I’m using on these two dinner party posts. He’s quite talented and is a great instructor. I plan to keep improving my own photography with his help.

The menu was a good solid winter dinner:

Pork Roast with Winter Fruits and Port Sauce (recipe to be featured in my next post)
Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash Rings
Smashed Potatoes
Roasted Carrots
Chopped Salad
Tiny Pies

The squash rings were a new dish for me. I’ve been cooking with quinoa quite a bit recently and have found that it’s a tasty good-for-you grain that is so adaptable to many different flavors. I like the tri-color variety that I get at Trader Joe’s.

This time I decided to make a quinoa stuffing for squash. This would be a great holiday dish for one of the many US holidays that involve squash, such as Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner or any random dinner really. Cutting the squash into rings allowed me to make these individual portion sizes for a larger group.

Acorn squash

I cooked up the quinoa with chicken broth according to the package. It’s very similar to rice in that you use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa.

I rinsed one cup of quinoa first, then added it to a large stock pot with two cups of chicken broth and brought it to a boil.

At that point, I turned the heat down to low and covered the pan and let it cook for 15 minutes before removing it from the heat for another five minutes.

Quinoa

I chopped an onion, a red pepper and two tomatoes and sautéed them in a separate pan. When they were all softened, I added the cooked quinoa, some dried cranberries and slivered almonds and a splash of chicken broth, along with some salt, pepper and a pinch of dried sage.

Because I like stuffed squash but wanted individual servings, I cut the acorn squash into rings. Cut them, using a sharp knife and a lot of caution, as the last thing you want as part of your dinner party is a visit from the paramedics to stitch up your finger!

Squash slices

Cut the squash in one inch (2.5 cm) sized rings and remove the seeds.

Removing seeds from squash

Place the rings on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper and spoon the quinoa mixture in them.

Filling squash

Bake at 370 F/190 C for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft.

Remove carefully from baking sheet with a wide spatula and place directly on plates.

Dinner!

The side dishes were very simply done. I boiled baby potatoes until they could be easily pierced with a fork. After letting them cool, I smashed them with a glass, put them on a roasting sheet, drizzled them with a bit of melted butter and popped them in the hot oven until they were crispy – about 20 minutes.

For the carrots, I peeled them and cut them into 2-3 inch segments at an angle just to make them pretty. Then I tossed them with one tablespoon of olive oil in a large plastic bag to thoroughly cover them. Then they too went onto a baking sheet, were sprinkled with a large pinch of kosher salt and placed into the hot oven for about 20-25 minutes, until they had some caramelized bits on the bottoms. The carrots prepared this way were so good! They were like candy.

I’ll be back for my next post with part two of the dinner party to give you the delicious stuffed pork roast recipe.

Quinoa Stuffed Squash Rings
Serves 6-8

3 acorn squash (or any other squash that can be cut into rings)

1 cup quinoa
2 cups broth, chicken or vegetable
1/2 large onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries or other dried fruit
2 tablespoons slivered almonds
1 teaspoon dried sage
salt & pepper

Rinse the quinoa. Add to a medium saucepan with two cups of broth and bring to a boil over high heat. When it comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan, let it cook for 15 minutes then remove from the heat, still covered for another five minutes.

As the quinoa is cooking, cut the squash into rings or slices and remove the seeds. Use a sharp knife and use a solid cutting board, as your knife could slip and your fingers will be in danger.

Place the cleaned out squash rings or slices onto a baking sheet covered in parchment or baking paper to keep the stuffing from sticking to the pan.

In another pan, saute the chopped onion in a tablespoon of oil until it becomes translucent.  Add the red pepper and tomatoes and let them soften for a few minutes. Then combine with the cooked quinoa, dried fruit and nuts and season with salt, pepper and sage to taste. If the mixture seems a little dry, add some broth a half cup at a time until it has achieved the consistency you would like.

Fill the squash rings generously with the stuffing. Bake at 375 F/190 C for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft.

Spiced Zucchini Chips with Tahini Dipping Sauce

13 Feb

B’s roasted chickpeas are a hard act to follow. Healthy and delicious snacking.

plated1

I think zucchini chips, alongside a tangy and healthy sauce fits the bill. The kind of thing you could whip up when the zucchinis are taking over the back yard, or on a summers day when people are coming over for a drink. They are tasty, in a way you don’t think zucchini will be.

The tahini sauce I served them with, is something I love and a reminds me of a dressing I once had on a celery heart salad that I will never ever forget, from Rumi in Brunswick, Melbourne.

This is how I made them…

Ingredients

with zucchini, some spray oil, salt, pepper, sweet paprika and chili powder.

I used the food processor to slice the zucchini, but you could slice by hand. I then prepared all of the trays I have (two baking trays) with baking paper and a very brief spray of oil. I would use cookie sheets if you have them. One zucchini filled one tray.

slicedpansspice

I sprinkled sea salt sparingly over the slices, gave a grind of pepper, and then sieved the other spices over the top with a tea strainer. Be careful not to over spice, as they shrink so dramatically, the flavour is intensified.

Then I placed them in a very slow oven for one and a half hours. I turned the oven up a little after an hour to ensure they got crisp and browned nicely. Your oven may vary the times. I kept a close eye on them for the last 10 or so minutes, and pulled out those that cooked before others. They are perhaps a little time consuming to be an every day thing, but I enjoyed them so much I made another batch the next day. I only have the two trays, but I would make more if I had more trays!

The tahini sauce was just…

Ingredients_sauce

tahini, lemon, garlic, salt, pepper and a little warm water. I mashed the garlic to a paste with a little salt, using the back of a knife.
garlic

Then I mixed all of the ingredients together in a bowl. I sprinkled with a little sumac to serve, but you could also use paprika.

plated3

Yummo. Crispy.

plated2

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ZUCCHINI CHIPS

ingredients to suit two trays 

2 medium sized zucchini, sliced to the thickness of a quarter, or 20 cent piece here in Australia. A food processor slicer works well, as would a mandolin
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp chili powder
Salt
Pepper
Olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 140C/285F

Cover two baking sheets or trays with baking paper and spray very lightly with the oil. Placed the sliced zucchini on the trays, with no overlaps, and spray very lightly with oil again. Season with the salt and pepper. Season also with the chili powder and sweet paprika. Using a tea strainer to apply lightly and evenly works well.

Bake in slow oven for around 1.5 hours, keeping an eye on them. I found I needed to turn the oven up toward the end, to around 155C get them crisp. They shrink dramatically, so please don’t get a shock at the final product. My suggestion is to make as many trays as you can fit in your oven/have on hand.

These chips soften up after a few hours, so make them just before devouring.

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SIMPLE TAHINI SAUCE

ingredients

1 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp garlic – mashed with a good pinch of salt
2 Tbsp lemon juice
Generous grind of black pepper
2 Tbsp warm water

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl, and taste. Add more seasoning if needed. If the consistency is too thick, add a little more water.

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