Monday, June 30, 2014

Pea and Quinoa Fritters

My last visit to Australia, a couple of my cousins and I made a trek out to Woollahra (I believe), one of Sydney's suburbs. We had a lovely outdoor breakfast at a cafe, a gorgeous walk through wisteria-draped areas that looked a bit like they might belong in Victorian Colonial India, and traipsed into Donna Hay's General Store (which no longer exists as a brick-and-mortar location). Purchases were made for my aunt's birthday and we lazily browsed the perfect little space.

I love Donna's style.

Donna Hay Magazine is something I occasionally like to splurge on at the bookstore newsstand (as is the case with a couple others) if I find it and it generally catches my eye for one reason or another. That said, the bookstore is a place that's probably ok for me to stay away from. I can't usually leave there without something, and if it's just a cup of coffee, it's a particularly good day of resistance.

I have a weakness for fantastic recipes and gorgeous cookbooks. Give me a cup of tea and an hour or so, and I end up poring over Donna's publications every time. The photography and food styling are wonderful: you'll just want to eat everything off the page. If nothing else, it's a bit of an education on those topics without taking an actual course.

In one of her more recent issues, there was an article with a recipe for pea and quinoa fritters. I liked the idea, but I switched things up.
They make a nice vegetarian main, and along with a salad could be a complete meal (though they do make really nice nibbles).

Maybe I can call this falafel-inspired pea and quinoa fritters.
Certainly they've got the shape and color, as well as some of the flavor components. But the recipe is not chickpea based, it's grain-based instead.

The peas and herbs offer fresh flavor, and the fritters are great on their own or dressed up with fresh tomatoes, a little crab meat, or a yogurt sauce.

Pea and Quinoa Fritters
makes about 20, 3-inch fritters

1 c (170 g) white quinoa
2 c (480 ml) water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1 t (5 g) salt
3/4 c (90 g) white rice flour
2 c (260 g) frozen green peas, blanched and drained
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced cilantro leaves
1/4 c (12 g) fresh minced Italian parsley leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c (33 g) minced shallot
1/2 t (1 g) cumin
pinch of cayenne
1/2 t (1 g) freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
neutral oil, for frying

Yogurt sauce (to taste):
plain yogurt
lemon zest
lemon juice
black pepper

Place the quinoa, water (chicken or vegetable broth), and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, give a stir, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover with a tight fitting lid. Simmer 10 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and let steam 5 minutes. Remove the lid and let the quinoa cool completely. 

Place half the cooked and cooled quinoa in a food processor along with the rice flour, peas, cilantro and parsley, garlic, shallot, cumin, cayenne, and black pepper. Process to a coarse paste. Add the eggs and process again until just incorporated. Place the quinoa mixture in a large bowl and add the rest of the quinoa. Stir until fully incorporated. 

Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add a layer of neutral oil and let heat until the oil shimmers. Add large spoonfuls of the fritter batter to the hot oil. Let cook a few minutes, or until set and golden on the underside. Carefully flip and cook until golden and cooked through. Remove to a paper towel lined pan to remove the excess oil and continue with the rest of the batter, adding more oil as necessary. 

Serve as desired or refrigerate and reheat in a dry frying pan or in the oven until heated through. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps

Shrimp is like a blank canvas: a versatile and mild type of seafood ready to take on flavor.
If marinated and placed into a lettuce leaf cup, the lettuce and shrimp plus other garnishes become a vibrantly flavored (and colored) hand-held salad.

Southeast Asian inspired, the fresh flavor combination altogether offers a light bite, perfect for summer- either as an appetizer, a starter, or a casual main.

A little sweet, lots of savory, with a good dose of bright freshness, spice from the chili flakes and sweet chilli sauce, and cool crispness from the crunchy and buttery lettuce.  

The shrimp is great to finish the day before and chill... everything's ready to go when needed.

YES, those are cooked shrimp you see.
NO, you do not want to buy cooked shrimp for this recipe. I mean, you can, I suppose, but the flavor will be better if you marinate raw shrimp instead of cooked. Plus, if you decide to cook already cooked shrimp you'll more than likely end up with a texture you weren't expecting.

(If you're ready to shoot, but happen to be missing some key elements, a grocery store run is in order. But sometimes communication between two people during grocery runs yields unintended results. Really, it's ok though.)

Serve assembly line-style, already put together, or pack into small individual jars and refrigerate to take later for picnic salads.

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
serves 6-8

2 lb (900 g) medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
large thumb sized piece of ginger, finely grated
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised and crushed with the back of a knife, and sliced
1/2 t (1 g) chile flakes
2  large cloves garlic, minced
2 T (30 ml) soy or tamari sauce
1 T (17 g) packed brown sugar
1 t (5 g) kosher salt
1/4 c (60 ml) lime juice
zest of 1 lime
1/4 c (60 ml) olive oil

1 large carrot
4 medium radishes
3 large green onions

lettuce (Bibb is my preference here)
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh basil leaves
sweet chilli sauce, to serve

If the shrimp still have the tails attached, remove and discard. Slice each shrimp into three bite-sized pieces and set aside. Mix marinade ingredients together in a large bowl: ginger, lemongrass, chile flakes, garlic, soy sauce, brown sugar, salt, lime juice and zest, and olive oil. Add the pieces of shrimp and carefully fold together to coat in the marinade. 
Cover and let marinate at least 3 hours and up to overnight in the refrigerator.

Before you are ready to cook the shrimp, grate the carrot and radish, and slice the green onions. Place in a medium bowl and set aside. 
Remove shrimp pieces from marinade and saute in a pan until cooked through along with 2 T (30 ml) of the liquid marinade. 
Cool to room temperature and add to the bowl with the vegetables, mixing carefully but thoroughly. Add a bit of the cooked marinade from the pan if desired for a little extra flavor. 
(At this point you could refrigerate the shrimp and vegetable filling until ready to use, up to a day ahead.)

Spoon into lettuce leaves, garnish with cilantro and basil leaves as desired. 
Serve with sweet chilli sauce. 

Monday, June 9, 2014

French Press

Just thought I'd put up a little something about coffee today.

I'm not saying that nobody knows how to use a French press, not saying that no one knows how to brew a cup of coffee.

As far as the drip coffee maker goes, I'm not a huge fan. I try to use it only when there's a large group and a lot of coffee can be made all at once.

The following is just how I like it done.
I don't like it lukewarm, weak and watery, I like it hot and strong. Sometimes black, sometimes with a splash of something to add a bit of creaminess along with a deep nutty shade of brown (it used to be half and half or whole milk, but I've had to make a few changes and I'm leaning towards favoring coconut-almond milk for coffee purposes).

Since dealing with more than one electric grinder that has broken, I prefer a hand-crank grinder. Whether or not it's the actual case, I like to think I'm converting others to it.
Work a bit for your coffee!

My most favorite way to brew coffee is with freshly ground cardamom.
Though not in any way Turkish or Scandinavian, we've always, always had cardamom in our house as far back as I can remember. The little white pods had a place in the tiny jar on the spice rack.
I knew my mother used them when she made homemade bread. But it was only years later I found it was because Grandpa Rudy had instructed her she needed the crushed seeds from one pod in each loaf of bread.
Where he got that bit of wisdom, we'll never know. He died when I was three.

As far as the cardamom goes, it adds a warm and interesting flavor, and this way you can have a makeshift Turkish coffee without going completely Turkish.
On any particular morning, I can easily brew a nice pot when getting myself set for the day and be able to grab a little thermos as I run out the door. Depending on where I'm working, it sure beats whatever else might be brewing.

Sometimes a nice cup of coffee can be comforting- just that and nothing else- especially when one is trying to concentrate while wrestling with tedious paperwork.

... Although it definitely makes for a nice afternoon break.

I give you my numbers and proportions here so you can adjust to your own equipment.

17 oz/ 0.5 l beaker
4 heaping T freshly ground coffee (about 30g), medium grind
3-4 green cardamom pods, pods crushed and seeds practically powdered
Just boiling water (filtered if possible) poured over the top
Give it a stir
Brew 10 minutes