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Archive for the ‘Spicy’ Category

At first glance this soup might look suspiciously similar to the one posted before it. Pureed, a bit orangey, some green stuff on top. The taste, on the other hand, is very different. The soup represents my first attempt at putting myself out there and making friends with cauliflower. Just like brussel sprouts before him, the cauliflower is one of those vegetables I intuitively stayed clear of for most of my life. Oh cauliflower, how could I have been so wrong about you? So much for listening to your gut.

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For my final quinoa trick (at least for a while), I felt it was only appropriate to give a shout out to the ancestral origins of this seed/vegetable ingredient. That, and I think I’m truly obsessed with all things Peruvian these days – pisco, quinoa, Macchu Picchu, you name it. I first came across ‘quinotto’ (quinoa risotto…clever,  or annoying? I’m undecided) during one of the best dinners I’ve had in Boston at Taranta and have been enamored with the idea of this dish ever since. Peruvian restaurants seem to be the new sexy thing in innovative haute cuisine and I for one am firmly seated and belted in to the bandwagon. Last week was a true Peruvian dining-lover’s paradise at my house: one roommate and I went to a cultural benefit dinner at a local restaurant where we sampled authentic cuisine and were treated to a demonstration on how to make ceviche (coming soon to an Esculent blog near you!), and another roommate returned from her trip to visit Peru bearing a wealth of spices for us to experiment with. Oh happy day! With that, the quinotto was finally ready to make its appearance.

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Here it is, installment #3 of my quinoa adventure. I’ve never made a veggie burger before, but it makes sense that quinoa would find its way here. The protein and mild flavor make quinoa a perfect candidate for creating all sorts of burger varieties. I had some leftover curried lentils (p.s. watch your lentils when you’re cooking, they are far less appetizing when they burn) so I decided to go with an Indian flavored version.

The important thing here is to make sure you include an ingredient in your patties that will make them stick together. I must confess that I tried to cook the burgers without an egg in them, quickly realized that the end result would look more like mush than burger, and took what were by then little piles of quinoa out of the pan to start over. Luckily, it worked out much better when I just added an egg and a little scoop of breadcrumbs. Much more burger-like then. I would imagine you could go to town with this kind of idea…whatever kind of flavors you’re in the mood for would likely end up as something delicious. Just don’t forget the egg!

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I’m not one for prepared foods, more often I find something satisfying about learning what constitutes the different flavors and nuances in a dish. Certainly that’s subject to how involved of a process you want your food preparation to be, but I generally err on the side of start from scratch. That being said, this week I wanted to share with you one of my favorite pre-made spice blend bases, sofrito.

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Sofrito has its roots in Spain but variations of this spicy sauce blend are common in Latin, Caribbean, and Mediterranean countries. In Spain, the sauce is pre-made sauteed garlic, onions, and tomatoes in olive oil. In Italy it generally consists of chopped onion, celery, carrots and seasoning. Basically, sofrito is a time savor and if you get a good authentic blend it’s often a better flavor marinade than market supplies, time, and lack of cultural teachings will allow. This one that I use came directly from Puerto Rico by a lovely woman I know who has family there and was kind enough to indulge me during one of her visits. Puerto Rican sofrito has recao (a tropical member of the cilantro family), cubanelle peppers, onion garlic, tomatoes, and aji dulce peppers. See? It’s not often you come across these ingredients at the local Stop n’ Shop, making this jar decidedly worth the investmest. It seems to last a while, too.

Puerto Rican sofrito often makes its way into many stews, rice dishes (the famous arroz con pollo comes to mind), sauces, and soups. Although I haven’t sampled many other brands of sofrito, I can tell you that the one above is not too spicy to leave your taste buds singed for days, but it does give your food a kick.I don’t make a lot of stews, but I have used sofrito to flavor sauteed shrimp, pork and rice, and some black bean soups. Usually if I’m making a half a pound of meat, I’ll put in a full teaspoon of sofrito that I saute together with onions or garlic as the first step. For a soup, maybe a tablespoon…it all depends on how spicy you like things, so if you’re nervous go slow and add a little at a time until it tastes how you’d like it. This week, I’m going to sofrito up some ground turkey and avocado that I still have lying around. I’m making it up as I go, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it works out. Check back in for the results and if you have used sofrito before, share how you best like to use it!

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