Monthly Archives: August 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Coriander-Crusted Salmon with Lime Cream

Sometimes I see proteins as the blank canvases of cooking.  I mean, fruits, vegetables, and grains all have the potential to be enjoyed by themselves without requiring additional flavors.  But I don’t know if I’ve ever enjoyed any meat, poultry or seafood item without something else… at least some salt.

And of all the blank canvases of meat in the world, salmon is one of my favorites on which to paint.  Chicken doesn’t have enough going for itself alone… it’s not an exciting foundation.  Steak – at least if it’s high quality – should be interesting enough by itself that it doesn’t need much to enhance the flavor, and if you are trying to enhance/alter the flavor, it requires a pretty robust treatment.  There’s no subtlety with steak as far as I’m concerned.

Salmon, on the other hand, has a distinct taste that shines through but still plays nicely with others; it works well in so many preparations.  My earliest salmon-cooking experiences (in my first apartment, just after I graduated from college) were based on a recipe from the South Beach Diet book- just mixing together some lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, and rosemary, brushing the mixture on top of the fish, and broiling it.   It’s still one of my favorite recipes; every element manages to stand out yet meld together.   But there are many other salmon recipes I love- pasta with salmon and roasted garlic, a one-skillet meal with salmon, broccolini, and basmati rice, and my aunt’s recipe for coating salmon with pesto and chopped pistachios.  And no, I’m not giving you any further information about those recipes right now… stay tuned for future salmon blogs.  Suspenseful, I know.

The other day I uncovered my June 2010 issue of Bon Appetit, which featured this great summer meal guide filled with appetizers, main courses, side dishes, and desserts.  A recipe for Salmon with Coriander Rub and Lime Cream caught my eye.  So last Friday, Nick and I braved the masses of people driven by hurricane hysteria and went shopping for dinner supplies.  (And three boxes of macaroni and cheese to get us through the weekend, in case we did end up hiding out from Irene.  Plus, they were 60 cents each…. my food budget would be so much easier if I didn’t care about my health.*)

Anyway, the more I learn about sustainable seafood, the more pissed off I get when I try to buy fish at the grocery store.  Farmed Atlantic salmon sent here from Chile?  No, thank you.  Fortunately I spotted some other salmon behind the counter that turned out to be wild-caught, from Alaska.  Monterey Bay Aquarium would be proud.  (I feel like everyone knows about this resource, but if you don’t, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has lots of helpful information on what seafood to enjoy and avoid.)

The recipe is pretty uncomplicated, and I followed it directly, so I don’t have a ton of comments to add.  I used “European-Style Sour Cream” that I had on hand… pretty sure it’s basically the same thing as creme fraiche.  But it made a super-rich and luxurious lime cream, which I was tempted to eat directly off the spoon.  (Okay, I did…)  The coriander and cumin seeds probably were not ground quite as much as they were supposed to be, but they seemed to work just fine.  I was happy to have my first reason to use our new mortar and pestle.

One more thing- since I was just happy to find an acceptable salmon at the grocery store, I didn’t concern myself with the fact that it was not skinless, as the recipe calls for.  I don’t know if this really affects anything, although I could see that maybe the skin prevents the salmon from absorbing the dry rub as much.

I’ve come to the conclusion that if a meal includes cilantro and lime, it’s pretty much guaranteed that I will love it.

*Okay, so I wrote this before the hurricane knocked our power out for over 48 hours, which meant we weren’t even able to enjoy the mac and cheese.  Guess we’ll have to wait for a blizzard this winter.

Salmon with Coriander Rub and Lime Cream (from Bon Appetit June 2010)

Serves 6. (I had about half the amount of salmon called for since there were only two of us, but I kept the same amounts for the dry rub and the lime cream.  And yes, we ate almost all of the cream….)

1/4 cup coriander seeds

4 tsp cumin seeds

6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing

4 large garlic cloves, pressed

2 3/4 tsp finely grated lime peel

6 6-ounce salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)

9 tbsp sour cream

3 tbsp lime juice

Chopped fresh cilantro

Toast coriander and cumin seeds in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat until slightly darkened and very fragrant, stirring often (about 3-4 minutes).  Remove the seeds from heat, let them cool.  Grind seeds to a medium consistency and pour into a large glass baking dish.   Add olive oil, pressed garlic, and two tablespoons grated lime peel.  Whisk to blend, and add salmon to dish.  Turn to coat.  Cover and chill for 1 to 3 hours, turning the salmon occasionally.

With rack positioned in top third of the oven, preheat to 450 degrees.  Brush a heavy rimmed baking sheets with olive oil.  Brush excess spices off each salmon fillet, leaving a thin coating.  Arrange fillets on baking sheet, about 2 inches apart, and season with salt and pepper.  Roast until just opaque in center, about 7 minutes (I think ours took several minutes longer…).

While the salmon is baking, whisk the sour cream together with the lime juice and remaining 3/4 teaspoons grated lime peel. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Arrange salmon on platter.  Sprinkle generously with cilantro, and serve with lime cream.

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My Summer Fling with Tomatoes (A Collection of Last Week’s Dinners)

In the past I’ve made fun of Nick for getting a little carried away when he discovers a new food or rediscovers an old standby.  After I introduced Nick to avocado (beyond guacamole), he made sure that our kitchen was always stocked with them until my stomach turned at the sight of sliced avocados in a Chili’s commercial and I had to ask for a “break”.  But I have to admit that I do the same thing, as exemplified by my love affair with tomatoes for the last few weeks.

It started with the Heirloom Tomato Tart I made a couple weeks ago.  Later in the week we enjoyed the rest of that batch of heirloom tomatoes as a substantial part of our dinner one night… just sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper.

Pasta…

Then came the container of baby heirloom tomatoes.

After keeping them at room temperature, they became part of a pasta dish that was far more successful as a photograph than as a tasty meal.  Not that it was bad… it was actually better than I thought it was going to be while I was assembling it.  But I will admit that I was completely driven by the image of whole wheat pasta over baby spinach topped with zucchini and tomatoes…  all the pretty colors!  I just didn’t think it through very well.  The plan- saute zucchini and shallots while the pasta is cooking.  While the pasta is still hot, put it over some raw baby spinach– the pasta should be hot enough to lightly steam the spinach, right?  Then top with the zucchini, tomatoes, fresh basil and goat cheese.

The problems… the pasta steaming the spinach didn’t work so well.  And as I was plating the pasta I realized there was no sauce of any kind to pull the veggies and the pasta together.  Because I was too lazy to heat it up, I spooned a little  bit of marinara sauce straight from the fridge over the pasta, and stirred the spinach, pasta, and sauce together.  So… the whole thing ended up being more room temperature rather than the pasta and zucchini being hot enough to heat the other veggies.  BUT- the flavors of the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, and goat cheese were still wonderful together.

Polenta…

The rest of the little tomatoes went into a dish with diced tomatoes and poblano peppers over baked polenta.  That was pretty awesome.  Poblanos might sound like a strange thing to add to a lot of Italian flavors (at least it seemed like a weird idea to me), but the smokiness and heat added an interesting element to an otherwise simple tomato sauce.

I cut up a poblano pepper into one-inch pieces, and sauteed it in olive oil with some red pepper flakes.  After the peppers started to char, I added some cherry tomatoes and sliced garlic.

After another few minutes when the garlic was golden and the tomatoes started to get a couple dark spots, I added about half of a can of diced tomatoes until they heated through.  Just before serving I stirred in a small handful of shredded mozzarella.   Served over sliced polenta which I baked for about 30 minutes at 425 degrees, drizzled with olive oil.

Sandwiches…

And that’s not all…  Last week, it seemed like everyone on Facebook was bragging about the awesome BLT they had the night before.  (Well, not everyone, but at least two of my friends mentioned BLTs… apparently I surround myself with friends who like food as much as I do.)  And then I saw this: How to Build the Perfect BLT from Bon Appetit (of course).   I can’t say I followed their directions completely.  I would have liked to, but I happened to go to the grocery store shortly after the great East Coast Earthquake, and I wasn’t really thinking about the ideal lettuce for sandwiches…  I was just proud of myself for remembering to get everything on my mental grocery list and resisting the fancy fair trade chocolate bars.

Anyway, I did salt the tomatoes, as suggested, and I did cut my sandwich diagonally.  Next time maybe I’ll try their tip of oven-cooking the bacon, and making some aioli instead of plain mayo.  But sourdough, applewood smoked bacon, green leaf lettuce, and a thick slice of a Mr. Stripey heirloom tomato enhanced by just a little mayonnaise, salt, and pepper was pretty close to perfect, as far as I’m concerned.

Oh… I didn’t get any pictures of the BLT.  If I had more bacon I would have made another one for lunch today.  As it turned out, I had to “settle” for an MLT (Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomato), so you have to settle for a picture of that.  Enjoy.

P.S.  Bonus picture!

Clearly, this is not a tomato.  But it is the whole chicken that Nick grilled the other week.  He was quite proud of himself, and rightly so.

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The Formula for Happiness: A Working Model

If there is one underlying theme to my life, it would be balance.  Or trying to achieve balance.  I mean, that’s the whole idea of this blog, really- to keep myself happy by balancing school and work with all the other stuff that can so easily get neglected- friends, family, creative pursuits, health.  It’s like the food pyramid (or plate, as it is now depicted) but with all the parts of your life.   School and work are like fruits and vegetables, relationships like the whole grains, etc….  I really do love food metaphors.

But this balance doesn’t come easily for me.  For whatever reason, I have a hard time getting inspired to do things I know will make me feel better (e.g., exercising, going through a stack of papers) or even things I know I will really enjoy (e.g., painting, or taking the time to call a friend).  I’ve stopped trying to find out why this is a challenge for me- I’ve just accepted it’s who I am – but I am constantly trying to find the best way to get around it.

What I’ve found is that I have to make myself accountable by putting it in writing.  In the same way that I tend to eat healthier when I’m actively tracking my eating, I tend to feel like a more productive, whole person when I’m actively tracking how I spend my time.  Yes, that means recording my entire day.

For those of you who naturally are compelled to exercise, organize, and simply make efficient use of your time, this probably sounds like a bizarre, unnecessary thing to do.  (Also, I simultaneously admire you and hate you.)  But if you are like me, and suffer from being motivationally-challenged and often go to bed thinking, “What exactly did I accomplish today?” I highly recommend doing this.  Even if no one sees it but you, it’s a lot easier to resist spending an hour playing Solitaire with the television on in the background when you know you will have to write that down as how you occupied yourself between 7 and 8 pm.

After a mostly crazy and unstructured summer, I decided to start back up with this on Monday, giving myself a little over a week to get into the groove before classes start up.  And it’s gone quite well so far.  I’ve been in a surprisingly good mood this week, particularly given the fact that on Sunday I was feeling blue about classes starting and feeling like I haven’t done anything I wanted to this summer (other than that whole wedding and honeymoon thing).  But I realized that while I overall have been feeling more balanced the last couple days, it’s specific things that have really boosted my mood, and they each reflect different elements of what I need for a balanced life:

  • Beautiful weather, and relatedly, being able to keep the windows open without sweating or freezing.  Fresh air and sunshine really do make a difference.
  • Having good conversations with both my former boss and my current advisor, which reignited my enthusiasm for the research projects I’m working on.
  • Catching up with a friend over margaritas.
  • Yoga.
  • Painting + glass of wine (from a bottle, not a Bota box) + music I like: when I was single, there were a good number of nights spent this way.  It’s been easy to forget about it… for the last year, whenever Nick is at home, I want to enjoy evenings with him, and when he’s not home I see it as a chance to get some school work done so that I don’t have to do so much when he is around.  But I need to remember to give myself nights like this- it’s just as therapeutic for me as yoga is, plus I don’t sweat as much and I can sing while I’m doing it.

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Sarah & Emily’s Wildlife Adventures, Part 1

When someone who has known me for a while meets my sister for the first time (or someone she knows meets me), they usually have one of two responses:

  1. “Wow, you two are nothing alike.”
  2. “Wow, you two are definitely sisters.”

I can see where either reaction would come from.  In terms of physical appearances, Emily and I each share some characteristics with both Mom and Dad (hence our good looks), but not necessarily the same ones.  If you closely observe our mannerisms, or the way we talk, you might see more similarities.  Nick was recently weirded out when he realized that Em and I apparently synchronize our laughs when we’re together.

As far as our personalities go, the differences are more apparent.  Emily is way more energetic and outgoing, and plans ahead to the same extent that I procrastinate.  But we do share a number of interests, one in particular being animals.

Despite our initial apprehension to living in such close proximity, one of the things I love about having my sister in the same apartment building is that I can call her in the middle of the day and say, “Come upstairs!  There’s a baby bunny outside my office window!”

Unfortunately our encounters with wildlife have not always been so benign.

Disclaimer (mostly directed at Emily): The following is my best recollection of the event.  I make no guarantees that this is exactly what happened, but it’s how I remember it.

The first December that Nick and I lived here (almost two years ago), we were getting to bed around midnight one night.  It was a chilly, blustery night, so when I heard something banging around outside, I just attributed it to the wind.

I don’t remember if I looked out the window first and texted Emily, or if she texted me.  It turned out there was a fox outside playing with a loose plastic drain pipe, and hitting it against the fence.  It was noisy, and he wouldn’t stop.  Eventually I walked out back, which scared the fox away.

So I go back to bed, and within a couple minutes the noise started up again.  Through a series of text messages between Emily and me, it was decided that if we were going to get any sleep, we needed to go out to the yard and throw the drain pipe away.  At some point it occurred to us that if the fox was so persistent with the pipe, there was probably a good reason for it.  Like something hiding inside the pipe.

The fox ran away again as soon as Em and I walked outside, wearing coats over our pajamas and armed with nothing but the BoGoLight* my dad gave me a few years before.  The pipe was slightly bent in the middle and had tooth marks on it.  The fox was definitely trying to get to something.  We tapped the pipe to see if anything would run out.  Nope.

“Sarah, what if it’s dead?”

“I don’t want to look.”

“Shake it.”

“No!  I don’t want it to fall out!”

At this point Emily and I are standing next to each other in front of the pipe.  I leaned over to the one end, prepared for either: a) an animal jumping out at me, or b) a dead animal not jumping out at me.  Shining my flashlight in, I saw nothing all the way to where the pipe was bent.

“Well, there’s nothing on this end.  Look on the other side.”  I handed Emily the flashlight.

Emily leaned down for a moment and then jumped up.  “No, no!  Sarah!  There’s a little cottontail!  Why did you make me look at this end??”

“Because that’s where you were standing!”

“You look.”  Em pushed the flashlight back to me.

“I don’t want to!”

“You have to!  I have to share this with someone.”

I moved to “her” end of the pipe and looked in.  Like she said, there was the back end of a little rabbit- fortunately seemingly still in-tact, but most definitely not moving.

At that point, we had a new dilemma.  We weren’t entirely convinced the rabbit was dead (okay, maybe we were in denial), so our original plan to throw the pipe away was a problem; we didn’t want the rabbit to wake up and be stuck inside a dumpster.  But we couldn’t leave the pipe out there because the fox would just come back.  And neither of us was willing to pick up the pipe and shake out the rabbit… dead or alive.

So we just stood there in the cold, looking at each other.  I don’t remember if Nick came outside on his own accord or if we asked him to come out.  But he accepted his manly duty of being the one to deal with the pipe.  Emily and I clung to each other, eyes half covered, afraid a rabbit corpse was going to flop out as Nick shook the pipe.

Nothing fell out, though.  Nick was able to convince us that the chances of the rabbit being alive were pretty slim, and we accepted that the best thing to do was to put the pipe in the dumpster as originally planned.

I used to like foxes.  Not so much anymore.

*Have I mentioned that my dad likes gadgets?  And sharing gadgets?  As “Alternate Universe Father’s Day Gifts” he gave all of us Swiss Army Swiss Cards this year.

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And my mom wonders why I decided not to become a veterinarian….

I just brought Matilda home from the vet’s after yesterday’s spaying procedure.  She’s currently confined to the bathroom/bedroom in an attempt to limit her usual acrobatics and reduce the risk of her ripping out her stitches.  Because just the thought of that makes my skin crawl and my stomach turn.

In fact, as we speak, I really need to use the bathroom, but I’ve talked myself into thinking that Matilda has chewed through the stitches and has who-knows-what vital organs hanging out of her belly.  So instead, my full bladder and I are sitting in the living room contemplating a run to the pet store to pick up an Elizabethan collar.

I haven’t always been this squeamish.  But the older I get, the more pathetic I seem to get when it comes to medical procedures.  In the past few years I’ve almost passed out :

  • after receiving my third and final Gardasil shot,
  • after my dermatologist froze a wart off the tip of my pinky finger,
  • while Nick was draining the blister that developed on my pinky finger after said wart removal (he really is a wonderful husband),
  • after donating blood in the narrowest trailer ever built,

And the best one…

  • after a routine visit to the eye doctor.

Yeah.  The doctor did not explain that he was giving me drops to numb my eyes and while he left me alone in the room letting the drops kick in, I became convinced that I could not move my eyes, and that this was because they had swollen to twice their size.  I started to get super-anxious, so by the time my fully-dilated pupils blindly led me into a crowded elevator, I was primed for a panic attack.

Even with my normally almost-perfect vision, I get claustrophobic.  But with impaired eyesight and an over-active sympathetic nervous system, I felt even more trapped and unable to escape.  I seriously could not get out of that elevator soon enough. I’m just really, really happy I didn’t collapse and become that girl who fainted on her way out of the eye doctor’s office. It’s bad enough when you’re guided to the waiting room with your bandaged pinky finger and the receptionist offers you water and insists that you sit for a while.

I suppose I’ve procrastinated long enough.  I should go check on Matilda like a good cat mother should.

Or maybe I’ll make Nick do it….

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Last Night’s Dinner: Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes

I’m shallow when it comes to food.  I go for the pretty-looking food.  Sometimes it’s the food itself- vividly colored fruits and vegetables.  Sometimes it’s how the food is dressed.  I still remember this amazing salad and goat-cheese tart that I had at a French restaurant when I was probably about 13 years old (yep, more than 15 years ago).  It had a couple nasturtiums scattered on the plate and the brilliant red and orange blooms just made the salad seem fresher.  And on our recent trip to Mexico, I had to take a picture of this tuna tartar, with all the accompaniments on a separate rectangular dish:

So, yes, I’ve been eying heirloom tomatoes for awhile.  All the different colors and patterns and curvy shapes remind me of blown glass ornaments.  I just wanted them in my possession- sitting in a bowl, looking pretty.  But eating them would be good, too.

One hesitation to buying them?  It’s only in the last few years that I have come to appreciate tomatoes on their own.  I’ve always liked  them in sauce form, but only recently have I started to enjoy them raw, in salads or on sandwiches.  What really sold me was a tomato given to me by a friend a couple years ago.  I was getting ready to make some pasta and figured, “Oh cool- I have this fresh tomato I can use.”  But when I cut into what was quite possibly the juiciest, reddest tomato I have ever seen, I knew I couldn’t cook it.  Nope, that little guy was enjoyed with nothing more than a little salt and pepper, and I finally understood why people get all excited about summer tomatoes.

Still, I’m picky about tomatoes, so I had this fear that heirloom tomatoes, being so pretty, couldn’t possibly taste good (kinda like when you assume an amazingly beautiful person could not possibly have any intelligence or substance).  But it was hard to resist the boxes of mixed heirloom tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market last weekend.  And it turns out they taste just as good as they look!  It was awesome having all the different kinds at once and being able to taste the subtle differences between them.

Having this bowl of beautiful tomatoes also provided the perfect opportunity to cook the cover recipe from Harvest to Heat by Darryl Estrine and Kelly Kochendorfer.  As much as I love the OCD precision of creating a lattice-top pie crust, there’s something so appealing about rustic tarts (well, in this case a “galette”), and the idea of a savory one with cheese and tomatoes was too good to pass up.

With butter, creme fraiche, and cheese, this isn’t exactly a light recipe, though I did try to compensate a bit by replacing half of the regular flour with whole wheat flour, which worked out fine- the crust was delicious!  We were not crazy, however, about the cheese I decided to use – a sheep’s milk ricotta salata – since it didn’t really melt, despite baking for 35 minutes.  (Based on what I just read on Wikipedia, ricotta isn’t a “proper” cheese because it “is not produced by coagulation of casein.”  Maybe that’s why it doesn’t melt like most cheese?)  I think in the future I’d try manchego, as the recipe suggests, or maybe a chevre.

This cookbook is definitely not for beginners- not only are the recipes pretty fancy, there are also a lot of things that are not spelled out specifically and are open for interpretation, such as not clarifying how thick to slice tomatoes, or if the cheese should be grated, crumbled, or sliced.  I don’t think any of these things will make or break the recipe, but good to know if you’re used to more explicit guidance.

The recipe in Harvest to Heat calls for an optional garnish of microradishes (didn’t even know these existed) and microgreens, dressed with olive oil and red wine vinegar.  We just did baby spinach with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, served on the side, but having taken a couple bites of the galette and the salad together, I could see serving greens on top of the galette in the future.

Creme Fraiche Galette with Heirloom Tomatoes (adapted from Harvest to Heat by Estrine & Kochendorfer)

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface (for the dough, I used 1/2 cup white flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)

1/2 tsp coarse salt, plus more for the tomatoes

1 tsp baking powder

1 stick of unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup creme fraiche, chilled

1 pint of tomatoes, a combination of heirloom cherry tomatoes and other tomatoes, cut in half or sliced if large (I used mostly regular-sized heirlooms, plus a few grape tomatoes to fill in some gaps)

1/3 pound of semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese, such as manchego (again, I used sheep’s milk ricotta salata, which I wouldn’t recommend; I think a soft goat cheese would work well)

To make the dough, combine the flour, salt, baking powder, and butter in a food processor, or by hand in a medium bowl.  Blend just until the butter is mixed with the dry ingredients without overmixing; there should be some pea-sized clumps.  (This was my first time using our new food processor to make dough and it was awesome.  Took about 1/4 of the time it takes by hand!)  Mix in the creme fraiche, again not overmixing.  Gather mixture into a ball and wrap tightly in plastic wrap.  Chill for 2 hours.

Place the tomato slices in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt.  Let them drain on several paper towels.  This helps to absorb some of their moisture and keeps the tart from getting soggy.

While the tomatoes are draining, heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Lightly flour a work surface and roll the dough out to a 12-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick.  (Actually, I rolled the dough out on a sheet of floured parchment paper as it was easier to transfer to a baking sheet.  It doesn’t have to be a perfect circle, or anywhere close.  The free-form shape is part of the charm!)

Carefully slide a rimless baking sheet under the dough (or carefully slide the parchment paper, with the dough, onto the baking sheet).  Scatter the cheese on top of the dough, leaving a 3-inch border.  (This is kind of silly, but since the ingredients list just says “1/3 pound of cheese” I wasn’t sure if I should grate it or try to crumble it…. In the end, I was too lazy to pull of the grater and so I just thinly sliced the cheese and arranged it on the dough.)

Arrange the tomatoes on top of the cheese.  (I actually left off the last few slices because the whole tart was covered, but I should have just overlapped more, since the tomatoes shrink a bit when they cook.  So use lots of tomatoes!)  Fold the edges of the dough over the tomatoes, pleating the dough as you fold.

Bake the galette until golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.  Let it cool while you make whatever salad or fancy microgreens you’re serving with the tart.

Just before serving, drizzle a little olive oil over the galette.  I also sprinkled a little ground pepper and fresh basil on top of the tart for some extra color.  (I told you I like pretty food.)

So pretty, and so good.

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Poblanos Stuffed with Crab, Quinoa, and Cheese

I seem to have more fruits and vegetables around lately.  Which is great, other than the fact that – as I’ve previously mentioned – I hate letting food go to waste and so I start to have anxiety about using up fresh produce before they go bad.  This coincides with some weeks where I’m collecting data at people’s homes and driving more than normal.  Therefore a lot of cooking recently has been based on “what food do we have in the kitchen?” to avoid both wasting food and spending more time in the car.

Nick used to love the challenge of coming into my kitchen (at the time, an unfamiliar territory) and cooking an amazing dinner based on whatever random ingredients I had hanging around.  I can see why he liked that- it’s fun following your instincts instead of a recipe.  The other night we threw together grilled poblano peppers stuffed with black quinoa, tomatoes, and mozzarella, and topped with smoked gouda and parmesan (lots of leftover ingredients from last weekend’s pizza).  Unfortunately I was not anticipating a blog-worthy dinner that night, so I wasn’t prepared to take pictures.  But as luck would have it, we ended up making another version today, taking advantage of some steamed crabs sitting in the fridge from my parents’ neighborhood crab feast last night.

There are no precise measurements for this, or even close.  Worst case scenario, prepare a bit more filling than you think you need, and then it’s prepared to make more stuffed peppers the next day, or later that night, if you decide you didn’t have enough.

First we halved the poblanos and cleaned out the ribs and seeds.  (Latex gloves recommended for this part- the day before our wedding Nick handled about 100 chiles and ended up soaking his hands in milk, water, aloe, etc. for the rest of the night…. Fortunately he recovered by the following day.)

Then I spooned some cooked quinoa (probably about a teaspoon to a tablespoon, depending on the size of the pepper; I used black since we had it at home) into each pepper half.  Next, I scattered a few pieces of diced tomato and cubed mozzarella (about 1/4 to 1/2 inch) in the peppers, over the quinoa, but not so much that the quinoa is completely covered.

I then tightly packed crab meat in each pepper, almost filling it entirely and covering all of the cheese, tomato, and quinoa.  Nick decided since we were doing crabs, it needed some Old Bay seasoning, so he sprinkled that on the crab before topping it with diced jalapenos and shredded cheddar cheese.

Nick then grilled the peppers at 450 degrees until the cheese was melted and the peppers were slightly charred.

This makes an excellent lunch or dinner.  And based on our experience the other night, I can assure you that the peppers are just as good without the crab meat.  Just use a bit more quinoa, tomato, and mozzarella to fill the peppers.  I also recommend using smoked gouda on top- it goes sooo perfectly with the charred peppers.  Really, the peppers are kind of a blank canvas for whatever ingredients you want to fill them with.

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