Thursday, October 30, 2008

a peculiar protein

no, i'm not talking about sheep's brains, cow's tongue or pig's feet, i'm talking about quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), the mother grain.

quinoa is an ancient grain first harvested in south america by the incans some 6,000 years ago. it can be cooked the same way as rice but in about half the time. quinoa has a texture somewhere inbetween long grain rice and cous cous; light and fluffy with a little bit of tooth to it.

this "super" grain's nutritional values are through the roof; quinoa is high in protein, moreover, it is a complete protein, meaning that it includes all nine essential amino acids. it is also rich in fiber and gluten free - a vegan's dream.

what we have here is my attempt at hobbling together a quinoa salad with whatever i had on hand. it's something of a quinoa tabouli - kinda, sorta - but without so much parsely.

Quinoa Salad
yield 1qt

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup ripe tomato, peeled, medium dice
1 cup zucchini, blanched, medium dice
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
1 cup parsley, finely chopped
1/4 fresh oregano, finely chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS white wine vinegar OR the juice from one whole lemon
salt & pepper to taste

1. rinse quinoa under cold water for several minutes. use a fine mesh sieve so you don't go losing all them grains.

2. bring water to boil, add one teaspoon of salt, then add the quinoa. return to a boil, cover and reduce to a simmer. simmer on low for 12 or until done (make sure all water on the bottom of the pan is absorbed).

3. spread quinoa out on a flat surface to cool off and air out. i use a handy baking pan. this step is optional, in theory, but i like the way it preserves the grains.

4. combine remaining ingredients in a work bowl. mix well.

5. once cooled, add quinoa, mix well and adjust seasoning to taste.

--serve as a side or double up and have you a vegetarian main; a salad that eats like a meal.

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, October 26, 2008

2 carrot GOLD

word association time:

when i say "curry" what's the first culture that comes to mind?
--indian, you say?

of course; indian cuisine is inextricably tied to the spicy, soupy goodness that inevitably embodies curried "anything," however, that's not to say they are the only culture able to curry favor with this versatile food preparation.

curry is a very popular dish in both japanese and korean cultures. unlike indian style curries, japanese curry is a bit more on the mild side and carries a notably less pungent ethnic kick.

japanese curry is made by stewing meats and vegetables together with some aromatics in stock or water. the stew is then thickened by dissolving a pre-packaged GOLDEN CURRY mix that can be found at most asian markets. since i cannot afford meat, i have tried my hand at a vegetarian version.

Vegged-out Golden Curry Stew
yields 2qt

1 lg onion, large dice
2 ribs of celery, small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 hot chilies, minced

2 cups chicken stock
2-4 cups water
2 large carrots, large dice
2 large potatoes, large dice (yukon gold prefered, any will do)*
2 cups green beans, blanched and cut to bite-sized pieces (about 1/2#)
2 cups corn off the cob (fresh is best - from about 2 ears of corn)

1 box golden curry, cut into 1-inch cubes
salt to taste

1. heat 3 TBS of canola in a large sauce pot or dutch oven. saute onion and celery over medium-high heat until well browned. add garlic and chilies, cook until fragrant; about 2 minutes.

2. add the stock, 2 cups of the water, carrots, potatoes and reserved corn cobs. make sure vegetables are covered with 1-2 inches of water, add more as necessary. bring to a boil and return to a simmer. cook until the potatoes and carrts are fork tender.

3. remove the corn cobs and discard. add green beans and corn kernels to the pot and simmer to heat through, about 3 minutes.

4. add golden curry to the pot one cube at a time until each dissolves. gently stir and scrape the sides and bottom of the pot with a spatula to help break down the curry cubes. use ALL of the curry mix; it will act as a roux, making your stew dark and thick (kinda like Terry Crews).

-- i suppose you could garnish with some parsely or cilantro, however, it is traditioanlly served plain over white rice. for about $10 you have enough stew to last the week. this dish also freezes rather well. make sure to cook the stew completely before packing it up for freezer storage. thaw stew over medium heat thin with water or stock if necessary.


© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, October 20, 2008

eating glass: jap chae

glass noodles are cheap, healthy, easy to prepare and remarkably versatile, how can you NOT love them?

glass noodles - aka - cellophane noodles - aka - mung bean noodles - aka - various other monikers are enjoyed all over asia in soup, salad and stir-fry recipes. you can locate them at any asian market, well stocked super market and even some korean convenience stores. glass noodles are packaged in various ways depending on the manufacturer, some are sold as one giant 12oz tangle and others are package in neat 3oz bundles. i prefer the latter.

jap chae is a traditional korean stir-fry recipe, and a great way to get to know glass noodles.

Jap Chae
yield 1qt

2 bundles of mung bean noodle (about 6 oz)

2 TBS soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp mirin (or rice wine)
1 TBS sesame oil + 1 tsp to toss with noodles
1 TBS sesame seeds, toasted

canola oil as needed
1 cup shitake mushroom, fine julienne
1 large carrot, fine julienne*
1 onion, fine julienne
1/2 # fresh spinach, blanched, stems removed and coarsely chopped (or 1 (10oz) box frozen spinach cooked and drained)
3 scallions, sliced on the bias
3 cloves garlic, minced

1. cover noodles with boiling water, allow to sit off flame until tender - 6 MINUTES. drain noodles and shock in icewater to stop cooking process. toss with 1 tsp sesame (or canola) oil to prevent sticking. cut into 4-6 inch strands.

2. combine soy sauce, sugar, mirin, sesame oil and sesame seeds in a small mixing bowl, whisk to combine. set aside.

3. heat wok or 12-inch saute pan over high heat, add 1 TBS of canola oil then add the mushrooms, cook until tender, about 4-6 minutes; set aside. add onion and carrots to hot saute pan, cook until tender, about 1-3 minutes add the garlic, scallion, spinach, mushrooms, and half of the noodles. toss to combine

4. add the rest of the noddles along with soy sauce mixture, toss to combine. if you find that tossing in the saute pan isn't really working out for you, just transfer the whole shebang to a big 'ol mixing bowl and have at it there.

--serve immediately, or at room temperature. enjoy. tiiiiiiiiiite

*i use a mandolin to get those carrot strands so uniform and proper.

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, October 13, 2008

waste-not, want-not: curry chicken salad

couldn't finish that rotisserie chicken you bought at pathmark? parlay that shit into a scrap-tastic curried chicken salad!

Curried Chicken Salad
yields 1 qt

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and rough chopped
1 TBS madras curry powder, toasted
1 tsp ground turmeric
3/4 cup mayonnaise (i used lite)
1 1/2 - 2 cups leftover chicken (dark and white meat)
1 cup red grapes, halved
1/2 red onion, small dice
2 celery stalks, cut on the bias
2-3 TBS golden raisins
1 apple, peeled, small dice (i used a granny smith)
1-2 tsp cider vinegar
salt to taste
freshly chopped mint to garnish

1. preheat oven to 350 degrees, lightly salt walnuts and toast until fragrant - about 5 minutes. DO NOT BURN!!

2. combine madras curry and turmeric in a small saute pan and toast on the stove over medium flame until fragrant - about 5 minutes. DO NOT BURN!!

3. combine madras curry, turmeric and mayonnaise in a small bowl. thin with a bit of water or apple juice if too thick.

4. combine remaining ingredients (EXCEPT MINT) in a medium bowl, mix to incorporate.


5. add mayonnaise mixture, mix well.

-- adjust seasoning to taste, garnish with mint and enjoy!

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

when the stars make you drool...

...just like "pasta fazool", that's Amore. yes, indeed it is.

what's not to love about this dish? it's cheap, healthy, hearty and easy to make. for about $12 you can feed off of this recipe for a week. shit, you could even freeze some and really stretch it out.*

pasta e fagioli (pasta & beans) is a traditional italian peasant dish with as many different recipes as there are regions in italy. my recipe is a souped-up (ha!) version of the one my mother has been making for many moons.

Pasta e Fagioli
yiels 8-12 cups

1/2 - 1 # ditalini pasta (use as much or as little pasta to suit your taste)

oilive oil as needed
1 yellow onion, small dice
1 bulb of fennel, small dice
1 carrot, small dice
2 stalks of celery, small dice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (6 oz) tin of tomato paste
1 (26 oz) carton of Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 qt chicken stock
1 cup reserved bean liquid
1 cup water
1 (15 oz) can of white cannelini beans (liquid reserved)
1 (15 oz) can of red kidney beans (liquid reserved)
salt to taste

1/2 red onion, minced
chopped parsely to garnish
your favorite grated cheese
a crusty loaf of fresh bread

1. get your pasta water ready; fill a large pot with water, salt it liberally and bring up to temp. you want this water boiling by step 4.

2. heat 3 TBLS of olive oil in a heavy-bottom pot or dutch oven. toss in the onion, carrot, celery and fennel - hit them with some salt. saute over medium-high heat until well caramelized. - about 8-10 minutes

3. once the veggies have some nice color add the tomato paste.**

continue to cook until the mixture is caramelized proper; the darker, the better - BUT DON'T BURN IT!

dampen with water if it gets too dry.

4. add the stock, chopped tomatoes, water and the liquid reserved from the beans. make sure to scape up all the little brown bits (fond) on the bottom of the pan. Add the beans, bring to a boil, return to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes so the flavors mingle. taste & season.


5. (optional) i like to add some depth and body to this dish by pureeing about 1 cup of the bean mixture and returning it to pot. not entirely necessary, but it thickens the dish up some and adds layers of flavor. taste & season .

6. cook the pasta until just al dente, drain in a large colander and toss with some olive oil to keep them from sticking together. add pasta to the beans in the amount that best suits your taste. i usually end up using 1/2- 3/4 of a pound.

7. serve in warmed bowls with a slice of bread, freshly grated cheese, chopped parsley, a swirl of olive oil, and the minced red onion. the red onion really ties this dish together, do the right thing and put about a tablespoon in everyone's bowl.

*NOTE: if you decide to freeze your pasta e fagioli, i recommend freezing only the bean-soup mixture and adding freshly cooked pasta prior to serving.

NOTE: a lot of people assume that tomato paste is just used to thicken a sauce, however, the true value of tomato paste is its ability to add depth and color to a dish. by adding the paste to the aromatics in step 3 you can really intensify its flavor and add crazy layers to your dish.

-- layer your flavor

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Saturday, October 4, 2008

get a buzz, cook like the pros.

i love to sneak alcohol into my recipes at any chance possible. a shot of tequila is a great way to add some tang to a southwestern-charged black bean dip.

this recipe is INCREDIBLY simple to make: combine ingredients in a food processor, power on, drizzle oil, garnish and serve - that being said, i recommend 1-2 (dozen?) shots of tequila taken internally prior to attempting this dish.

Borracho Black Bean Hummus
yeild 1 pt

1 (15 oz) can of black beans, drained and rinsed
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
2 TBS tahini
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp chipotle powder
1-2 TBS tequila!
½ cup olive oil
2 limes, juiced
1 tsp salt

1 cup cilantro, chopped
lime-pepper to garnish

1. combine all ingredients EXCEPT olive oil in the work bowl of a food processor. power on. slowly add olive oil in a steady steam until desired consistency is reached (yummycreamy).

2. taste and adjust for flavor, adding more salt, lime juice or tequila as desired. garnish with freshly chopped cilantro, some lime-pepper and a drizzle of your favorite olive oil and serve -- that's it!

want to take this recipe to the next level? add some depth with an aromatic pepper and onion medley:

pepper & onion medley (optional)

3 cloves garlic
½ red onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced

1. saute the onion and whole garlic cloves in some canola oil over medium heat until well caramelized. click for video

2. roast poblano pepper, whichever way you best see fit. i roast my peppers right over the burner on the stove. click for video

3a. add medley to the food processor along with the rest of the ingredients in step 1 of the hummus recipe and proceed as instructed.
3b. finely chop the medley and ad it to the finished dip as a garnish -- chunky style anyone??

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -