Thursday, February 23, 2017

Spring Quinoa Bowl with Asparagus and Peas

Although I could singlehandedly stage an all-night Talkathon with the amount I have to say about my love for winter root vegetables, these balmy 60 degree days have got me seriously craving some springtime fare. Signatures like peas, asparagus, and radishes won’t be available locally until the beginning of May, but this Spring Quinoa Bowl with Asparagus and Peas totally satisfies the yearning. (New mantra: if you can’t shop locally, shop for an ingredient list that can be exclusively filled at Trader Joe’s). Somewhere in between a salad and a grain bowl, this hearty dish showcases spring’s best produce offerings, plus a major protein boost from chickpeas and hard-boiled egg. Finished with a lemony-mustard vinaigrette, the bright, citrusy flavors create the perfect palate as we eagerly anticipate spring’s arrival.

Lunch? Dinner? Likely both, as this verdant bowl begs to be doubled or tripled, a big-batch dish for sure. Substitutions are highly encouraged: swapping is the name of the game here. Sick of quinoa? Try farro or orzo instead. Craving something nutty? Forget pepitas, and garnish with chopped almonds or toasted pistachios. Looking for an alternate protein source? Try subbing feta cheese for chickpeas, or shrimp for the hard-boiled egg. Mint would go beautifully instead of parsley. And because I just presented you with a trendy, whole-ingredient grain bowl: yes, sliced avocado would be a lovely addition too.
Spring Quinoa Bowl with Asparagus and Peas (adopted from Two Peas & Their Pod)
Serves 2


For the bowl:
½ cup raw quinoa
6 oz asparagus (about 10 thick spears), trimmed
½ cup English peas
¾ cup chickpeas
4 radishes, sliced
¼ cup toasted pepitas
2 Tbsp parsley, chopped
2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
2 large handfuls of arugula (about 4 cups)

For the dressing:
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp honey
Salt & pepper

1.     Roast the asparagus. Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Lay out a sheet of tin foil over a baking pan, and toss asparagus with 1 tsp olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake until just tender, 12 to 15 minutes (less for thin spears). After they’ve cooled, chop spears into 1-inch pieces.
2.     Cook the quinoa. Rinse quinoa thoroughly under cold water, then place in a small saucepan with 1 cup of water. Cover pot and bring to a boil, then simmer until liquid is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

3.     Make the dressing. Combine the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, oil, mustard, honey, salt, and pepper together and whisk thoroughly. Adjust seasonings to taste.

4.     Assemble the bowls, dividing the ingredients equally between the two.  Start with placing the arugula in a wide, shallow bowl. Top with half the quinoa, asparagus, peas, chickpeas, radishes, and egg.  Drizzle the dressing. Top with pepitas and parsley before serving.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

3 Ingredient Tahini Chocolate Truffles

Valentine’s Day is upon us, which means chocolate is very much top of mind for this little lady.  For moi, the darker the better.  I love the deep, rich flavors of cacao, mixed with as little sugar as possible to keep that rich, teetering-on-bitter flavor. So when I came upon this 3 Ingredient Tahini Chocolate Truffle recipe—two-thirds of which are 70% pure cocoa or greater—I was hooked. When I discovered the third ingredient was tahini, I was sold.

The recipe is really just two ingredients, dark chocolate and tahini. The third, unsweetened cocoa powder, serves a predominantly aesthetic role, reserved for dusting at the end to make the chocolates pretty.

Might so few ingredients in a truffle make it bland, or lacking in flavor? Truth be told, just the opposite. The two ingredients are so wonderfully complex, they almost make a mockery of the idea. The chocolate is sweet and rich, with undertones of vanilla, while the tahini is nutty and buttery; I would argue, the most flavor-nuanced fat source there is. Together, they are a gourmand delight, an unparalleled zenith of luxurious, silky flavor.

And while their taste is certainly fancy, the prep is anything but. It’s actually comical just how unfussy this recipe is. Even parts dark chocolate (melted) and tahini are stirred together, then poured into a baking sheet lined with plastic wrap. After an hour in the freezer, this truffle-block is ready to be cut into any shape you please. Mine naturally formed into mismatched rectangles, which after being rolled in the cocoa powder, managed to look awesomely cosmopolitan—like they belonged on an artisan chocolate shop shelf next to your most extravagant, hipster chocolate bar.

In reality, not so much. I used half a bar of Raaka dark chocolate (admittedly fancy, that was a gift) and half of the Nestle semi-sweet morsels I keep on hand for baking.  For the tahini, I used Seed + Mill brand—where this recipe hails from, and the only tahini I recommend. As I wrote about in a previous post, Seed + Mill sources their sesame seeds from a small town in Ethiopia, called Humera, where climatic conditions make their tahini wonderfully, naturally, sweet. (It's also the reason why no one will believe you when you tell them these truffles have zero added sugar).

If you like, feel free to experiment with using spices to dust in tandem with the cocoa powder, maybe a sprinkle of sea salt, cayenne, or cinnamon. That being said, this recipe is true to it's name, and I assure you that the 3 ingredients alone indeed yield perfection.

And health! Both the flavonoids in cocoa and phytosterols in sesame help lower cholesterol and contain anti-inflammatory properties. The ingredients are also mineral powerhouses, with significant sources of iron and zinc. They are even linked to healthy skin—flavonoids fight against skin damage and free radicals, while sesame's high zinc and copper content aid in collagen production.

Happy Valentine's Day!

3 Ingredient Tahini Chocolate Truffles
Makes 30 bite-sized truffles

1 cup best quality 70% dark chocolate
1 cup Seed + Mill Pure Tahini
Cocoa powder for dusting

1. Melt chocolate in a bowl, add tahini and stir to combine.
2. Line a loaf tin with plastic wrap and pour in the chocolate mix. Place tin in freezer for 1 hour.
3. Remove chocolate from plastic wrap and slice into squares, rectangles or any abstract shape you like.
4. Dust with best quality cocoa powder.