Tag Archives: cumin

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

Israeli couscous salad with cumin orange vinaigrette

Do you ever feel a bit like a mad scientist when you cook? Man, I do, especially when concocting a new recipe. I had the tastiest salad yesterday at The Assembly, a new restaurant in Santa Cruz. So me being me, I had to deconstruct it and create my own version that will strike awe in the heart (and mouth) of my carnivore…and also at a baby shower I’m co-hosting. I don’t have a picture of myself creating things in my kitchen, but I’m pretty sure I look and sound like a cross between Gene Wilder in Young Frankenstein and Monty Burns. “Mmm, yessss. Blend cumin and orange – no one will expect such a bewitching combination! Make the miniature Saturns of quinoa orbit the pearls of Israeli couscous. Yeessss. Mix in some golden beets, sweet currants, kale. And kumquats, yes kumquats, to make it come ALIVE!! Mooohahahahah!”

Although when my friends who do not cook see me in full-on chef-it-up kitchen-concoction mode, they stare at me as if I look like this:

preparing for alien onslaught

But I digress. Don’t worry, no lab coat is needed to make this healthy, delicious, elegant salad. It’s actually quite simple to make, and it’s versatile too – it’s perfect as a meal or a side-dish. Trust me – you’ll love this delicious salad. It’s got everything: it’s both savory and sweet, it’s got a bit of crunch, there are earthy flavors and bright citrus highlights, it’s packed with protein, complex carbs, fruits, veggies, everything!

When you make this salad, be sure to serve it by holding the bowl high above your head and shouting “IT’S ALIVE!!”  🙂

Israeli Couscous and Quinoa Salad with Orange Cumin Vinaigrette

From fridge to table: 15-20 minutes*
Serves: 6-8

Salad:

1 cup Israeli couscous (aka Pearl Couscous)
1 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried currants or chopped dates
10 kumquats, rolled and finely diced*
2 cups finely sliced kale
1 large cooked golden beet, peeled and chopped **

* Cool tip about kumquats: roll them between your fingers to release oil held in the kumquat’s skin. You’ll see that it takes on a shiny sheen. This immediately takes the bitterness out of the skin so you can eat the kumquat whole. Pretty cool, huh?

how to prep a kumquot

Orange-Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp orange juice
2 tsp orange zest
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

** There are tons of ways to cook beets, so if you’ve got your favorite method, go for it! If not, here’s an easy way: scrub the beets, rinse them off and put them in a casserole dish. Coat with a little oil, cover with foil and bake at 400 for about 30 minutes.

Prepare the Israeli couscous according to package (I boil 1 ¼ cup water with a pinch of salt, add the 1 cup of couscous, cover and simmer for 10 minutes). Meanwhile, cook the quinoa according to package (I combine 2 cups water with 1 cup quinoa, cover, bring to a boil, then simmer until water is absorbed, about 12 minutes). Once the couscous and quinoa are done, fluff them to cool, then combine them in the bowl with the other salad ingredients.

Combine all the vinaigrette ingredients in a lidded jar, shake well, then stir into the salad, to taste. Serve and enjoy!

Israeli couscous salad with orange cumin vinaigrette

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Delicious Meatless Tamale Pie Fools Meat-Addicts


Ha ha, a seriously delicious tamale pie (which happens to be meatless) just fooled 5 hardcore meat-addicts! If any meat-impostor entree could dupe our Supper Club buddies, I knew it would be this incredibly flavorful, goey blend of ground meatless ground ‘meat’, salsa, refried black beans, onion, garlic and melted vegan cheddar cheese sandwiched between hearty polenta discs. People used to freak out about this dish when I made it with ground turkey and real cheddar, and now I’ve figured out some easy fixes to make it vegan – and it passed the meat-lover test by fooling our friends.

Our friends thought their incessant jokes about Operation Carnivore Conversion and my creative efforts to get my husband to go meatless had broken me. One of them even launched a counter assault called “Operation Enduring Meat” to thwart my efforts, and they thought I finally surrendered. Not sure why they’re so terrified of meatless meals – one of them was so worried that I’d serve her a vegan dinner that she called *three* times the day of our Supper Club dinner to ask if she could bring over steak. Seriously! Instead of destroying my resolve, I declared a secret all-out war and went all devious on their pork-worshiping butts. For the record, no, I did not feel bad lying to them and telling them that I had made them my famous tamale pie with ground meat when in fact I had used “beefless ground beef.” And yes, I relished every single moan of joy that came out of their mouths while they were devouring my vegan tamale pie and every single one of their comments that “fake meat is nasty.” Ha ha!

“So you guys like it?” I asked innocently. “It’s awesome! One of your best dinners ever!” they said. I waited until they had licked their plates clean before I slapped down a packet of beefless ground beef on the dinner table. “SUCKAS!” I exclaimed while doing a victory lap around the table of stunned vanquished carnivores. Serves my friends right for messing with me! One of them refused to believe it was true. Knowing that I don’t eat meat, she forced me to take a bite of the tamale pie to prove to her that it was made with faux meat.

So there you have it, Operation Carnivore Conversion wins the war! Damn, that victory lap felt great, and this tamale pie never tasted so good. 🙂

Meatless Tamale Pie

1 pound beefless ground beef (I used Trader Joe’s version, which worked great)
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
1.5 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 15-16 oz can of refried black beans
1 15-16 oz jar of your favorite salsa
1/2 can of white corn (optional)
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
3 cups fake cheddar cheese (Daiya works great since it melts and stretches), or if you eat cheese, use sharp cheddar
2 rolls of prepared polenta, sliced into 1/3″ thick rounds. This is what packaged, prepared polenta looks like:

Preheat oven to 350.

In a large saute pan, saute the onion and garlic until the onion is beginning to turn golden and slightly brown around the edges. Add the fake beef and stir until it’s well integrated and warmed through. Add the chili powder and cumin, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Add the beans, salsa and corn and simmer (stirring frequently) until mixture thickens, about 5-10 minutes. Turn of heat and mix in cilantro.

Oil a large, high-sided baking dish (13x9x2 works well) and place half of the polenta rounds on the bottom. Heap on heavy spoonfulls of the tamale filling onto each round – it might end up running together to totally cover the polenta, which is fine. Sprinkle with half the cheese. Then put the remaining polenta rounds on top to cover it all, then sprinkle the remaining cheese on top. This is what it looks like once you assemble it:

Bake for about 35 minutes until the dish is heated through and the sauce is bubbly, about 35 minutes. (Or bake refrigerated tamale pie, covered, for 20 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 35 minutes or so until it’s bubbly).

Enjoy!

Fiesta Bowl: Veg Football Food for Meat-Lovers

The playoffs are today, which means that my meatitarian is looking forward to watching the games while eating “football food.” In the 16 years that we’ve been together, I’ve been unable to definitively specify what exactly qualifies as “football food,” but at least I’ve successfully discovered some key attributes. According to John’s taste buds, appropriate game-time snacks and meals are:

–       Hot
–       Saucy and/or gooey
–       Chip-friendly, preferably using chips as edible spoons
–       Super flavorful
–       Filling enough to be labeled a “gut brick”
–       Perfectly accompanied by beer
–       Accented by meat

When brainstorming a perfect vegan football food that would meet all of John’s game-time food requirements and for which he wouldn’t miss the meat (and which would only take me 15 minutes or less to make), a key gridiron strategy came to mind: run it up the middle. Translated, that means that if a particular play is working, like sending a running back through the middle of the line, keep doing it. It dawned on me that the same holds true for Operation Carnivore Conversion. And thus the “Fiesta Bowl” was born: a Mexican-style sauté of all of John’s favorite ingredients, which he can eat with tortilla chips used like spoons. And bonus: it only takes 10-15 minutes to make, it’s packed with fiber and protein and I love it as much as John does. It’s so good that it’s going to make it in my line-up of go-to meals, even after football season.

With the Fiesta Bowl’s fragrant scent of cumin, coriander and salsa filling up the house, now John is really looking forward to watching the games, as am I since I get to eat this flavorful food while enjoying “football foot.” (Whenever I watch a game with him, I get a foot massage. Life and marriage is all about compromise!)

Fiesta Bowl

Serves: 4

From fridge to table: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 very large yellow onion, finely chopped

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp ground cumin

½ tbsp ground coriander

2 cans black beans, drained (Trader Joe’s Cuban black beans are awesome in this dish)

Handful of freshly chopped tomatoes (optional)

½ cup white corn kernels (optional)

1 16 oz jar of a fruit-based salsa (like pineapple-peach, mango-lime or raspberry-chipotle)

½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Cooked rice

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, sauté the onion and garlic until the onion is translucent and turning golden. Add the cumin and coriander and stir for 1 minute to release the fragrance of the spices. Add the tomato and corn (if using) and sauté for 1 minute. Add the black beans and salsa. Bring to a boil and stir well for 3 minutes to blend flavors. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. Serve in a bowl adopt hot rice and serve with tortilla chips. Enjoy!