Moroccan Kamut Salad

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I was recently perusing the grains at the grocery store and came across one that I had never seen before: KAMUT®. It looked like wheat berries, which I love, and it came in pretty packaging, an attribute for which I will eternally be a sucker, so I tossed it in my basket to try at home after a little Internet research. The brand I bought was Bob’s Red Mill Grains of Discovery series.

Ancient grains are supposedly hot this year (who decides these things?), so I have completely bought into whatever marketing scheme placed the attractive bag of wheat on the shelf and subsequently into my cart. . . then into my kitchen, onto my dinner table, and. . . within this blog post. Should I have named this post “Meta Kamut® Salad?”

I can guarantee you I am not being paid by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Grains to write this post, so let’s learn something, shall we? First, KAMUT® is the trademarked name for a certain type of Khorasan wheat (turanicum variety Q-77). The exact origin of Khorasan wheat is unknown, but it is believed to have been originally cultivated in the Fertile Crescent. According to one legend, Khorasan wheat was once near extinction until an American airman mailed some seeds found in Egypt back home to his family in Montana in the late 1940’s to cultivate, thus reintroducing the grain to modern cuisine. It’s a nice story that I don’t think I believe, but it does make for good dinner conversation. If you are blessed with a table full of dinner guests who believe in dining without smart phones, you could really embellish this tale into a great story, without fear of someone fact-checking you halfway through the main course.

Khorasan wheat grains are roughly twice the size of the common wheat kernel which makes them very attractive in salads. They have a nutty flavor with a pleasant chew when cooked properly. They can also be milled into flour for use in baked goods. One clear advantage of Khorasan wheat over common modern wheat is that it has a much higher protein content; at seven grams per serving, it has up to 40% more protein than common wheat. Khorasan wheat also contains a higher percentage of selenium, zinc, magnesium, and amino acids. Full nutritional information is available on the Bob’s Red Mill website.

Would all of these spices marry up with this ancient grain, feta cheese, kale, carrots, and pomegranate arils anywhere in the world besides my kitchen? Who knows, but the combo tastes pretty awesome. This salad is tasty served warm or cold. Plus the salad is a nutritional powerhouse that would make for great make-ahead lunches that would leave you satisfied all afternoon.

I enjoyed the flavor and texture of the Khorasan wheat so I think I will use it again. However, this ingredient does require a little planning, as the wheat berries have to soak in water overnight. Not a quick go-to pantry ingredient, but one that is worth the wait if you plan meals better than I do most nights.

Moroccan Khorasan Wheat Salad (serves 4)

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup KAMUT® brand Khorasan wheat berries
  • 3 cups low sodium vegetable stock
  • 4 threads saffron
  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil, divided (2 + 1)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 large carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 bunch of kale, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 ounces crumbled feta
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

  1. Cover wheat berries in water and soak overnight, or at least six hours.
  2. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring vegetable stock to a boil. Add saffron and wheat berries and simmer, covered, for 50-60 minutes or until tender.
  3. In a large pan, heat 2 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and carrots and saute until onion is translucent. Add spices (ginger through cayenne) and saute for 1-2 minutes, then remove from heat.
  4. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add garlic and kale and saute until wilted. Add lemon juice and turn heat to low.
  5. Add carrot-onion mixture and wheat berries to large pot with kale and cook until warmed throughout.
  6. To serve cold: remove from heat to refrigerator, chill this mixture for at least one hour, then add feta, pomegranate, and salt and pepper to taste.
  7. To serve warm: remove from heat, add feta, pomegranate, and salt and pepper to taste, then serve immediately.
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A Bright Idea for Ingredient Storage

Since we moved into our new home last month, Kyle and I have been wading through a sea of stuff that needs to be organized. Organizing our kitchen has been a fun challenge, and my ingredients and equipment are constantly moving as I figure out the layout that is best suited to my workflow. I have come up with a few solutions that put the “fun” in functionality and I love how they are working out. I borrowed a trick from the cabinet-challenged kitchen of my very first apartment, and put an IKEA BILLY bookcase in the kitchen for open storage of my cookbooks and pantry overflow.

See that second shelf? I borrowed the idea of storing grains in Ball jars from Emily at Daily Garnish. She has used this organization trick in two tight spaces: the kitchens of her Alexandria, VA home and her Seattle, WA home. It works fabulously in my bright Richmond kitchen!

I used wide mouth quart jars for rice, quinoa, couscous, and lentils. Then I expanded on the idea to store smaller quantities of ingredients with shorter shelf lives, like nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, in regular pint size jars. I have my rolled oats in a larger airtight hinged Mason jar in the middle of the mix.

And this is only the beginning. I also have clever solutions for storing my spices and linens, which I will share in a future post. I have a box of miscellaneous kitchen equipment that is still looking for a home, and I know I have a lot more arranging and rearranging ahead of me, so we aren’t out of the woods yet. Do you have any kitchen organization tips to share? I could use a few more bright ideas before all the pieces fall into place!

Vegetarian Stuffed Acorn Squash and Thanksgiving Recipe Roundup

Thank you to everyone who commented with congratulations on our new home. Kyle and I are very excited and hope to move in by Christmas. Can you believe we are nearing the end of 2011? I feel like summer was not that long ago and here we are a week before Thanksgiving. Have you planned your menu yet?

I was thinking about vegetarian “special occasion” main dishes last week and decided to mix things up with a new grain. You might recall that barley was served on the vegetarian plate at the Foodbuzz Festival 2011 gala dinner. I had tasted barley in soup before, and of course I’d also had it in beer but I had never tried barley as a side dish before the Foodbuzz Festival. So when I wanted to make a quinoa stuffed acorn squash last week and discovered that I had to run to the store for some more quinoa, I decided to pick up barley instead.

This dish was spicy, nutty and a little sweet. It’s a protein powerhouse with garbanzo beans and barley in every bite. I found it to be very filling and delicious. Served with a fresh salad or sauteed greens, this stuffed squash is a hefty vegetarian main dish that is perfect for Thanksgiving.

And in case you need even more inspiration for your holiday menus, here are my top vegology recipe picks for a very veggie holiday weekend.

Veggie Pot Pie – all the comfort, none of the meat

Cauliflower Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce – very scalable and creative, can serve two or twenty two

Butternut Squash with Spinach and Feta – a great side dish for potluck meals

Pumpkin Chili – football anyone?

And here is a new one to add to the list:

Barley Stuffed Acorn Squash (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 2 large acorn squash, halved and seeded
  • cooking spray
  • 1 cup uncooked barley
  • 2-1/2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 carrots, sliced
  • 1 – 15 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup raisins (or dried cranberries if you wish)
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Prepare a rimmed cookie sheet with cooking spray. Place squash halves cut side down on cookie sheet. Bake 30-40 minutes or until tender.
  3. While the squash is baking, prepare the filling. Heat barley and 2 cups of the vegetable broth in a saucepan over medium heat until boiling, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add carrots and cook 4-5 minutes. Then add garbanzo beans, raisins, curry powder and cumin. Stir to combine.
  5. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of vegetable broth to the pan with the vegetables and let simmer until vegetables are tender and liquid has reduced.
  6. When the barley is finished cooking, combine with vegetable mixture in a large bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. When the acorn squash is done baking, flip the halves over and butter the flesh. Sprinkle the brown sugar over the insides of the squash halves. Plate and fill with barley mixture, serving one squash half per person.

 

Tempeh Celebration

I have been a vegetarian for 2 1/2 years and I have never prepared tempeh. Tofu is a staple in my refrigerator, and beans are a staple in my pantry. I always have eggs, milk, and yogurt on hand. I have the protein thing down.

However, meat substitutes are strangers to my kitchen, except for those that arrive in little white Chinese takeout containers tucked inside brown paper bags. We have a small Chinese restaurant around the corner with an extensive vegetarian menu with plenty of mock meat options, mostly made with seitan. I recently ventured into the world of cooking seitan, which I wrote about here.

In celebration of our new dining room table, I embraced the theme of new beginnings and chose to make tempeh for the first time. And that is how Korean BBQ-Style Tempeh became the first meal served on our new table.

I picked up my tempeh at Trader Joe’s awhile ago and it has been sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for this occasion. When I popped it out of the package, I thought, what on earth is this?

Mystified, I left the grainy beige blocks on my counter and hit Google.

Tempeh is a whole soybean product that originated in Indonesia on the island of Java (ooh, I love me some Java Estate coffee) that is created by a controlled fermentation process which binds the soy into blocks. The soybeans are soaked to soften, dehulled, and spread in a thin layer for fermentation. This process causes the beans to fuse together and form a large cake which is then sliced into blocks before packaging. The tempeh that I chose also included other grains: rice, barley, and millet.

Tempeh is a very nutritious food that is high in protein, fiber, and vitamins. They’re not kidding when they call this block of tempeh a “powerhouse.” Check out the great nutritional information at World’s Healthiest Foods. This site is great for looking up the nutritional value of certain foods plus the reasons why your body needs these nutrients. Here are the nutrition facts for TJ’s Organic 3 Grain Tempeh, which I used in the recipe below.

20 grams of protein per serving? What?!?! Amazing. Now let’s get cooking.

I decided to marinate the tempeh in a Korean BBQ sauce for starters.

When the sweet and tangy smell of this sauce hit my nostrils, I thought of a Korean barbecue place I had been to in Manhattan that served up steaming hot rice bowls stuffed with tofu, that came with a variety of vegetables, toppings, and sauces on the side. My friend Melissa and I delighted in tossing the ingredients together as we ate and seasoning the results to taste. It felt like we were cooking our own meals, which is probably why we loved it so much.

I decided to do my own take on the concept by serving the components of the dish separately and lightly seasoned so Kyle and I could build our own bowls. In the spirit of construction, why not? We started with black pepper linguine.

Then we added sauteed vegetable slaw (onion, broccoli, carrots, cabbage).

And then I pan fried the marinated tempeh and crumbled it into bowls.

And made complete with seasonings…

It was totally delicious – almost like the real thing!

Oh how I miss NY…

Our tempeh adventure was made complete with the addition of a locally brewed beer. Cheers to new beginnings!

Eight Ball Zucchini

I have been almost completely absent from the internet for about one week due to my beautiful and relaxing vacation at Massanutten! I make no apologies for neglecting my facebook posting and blog reading/writing duties because: how could you spend your time on the laptop when you get to wake up to this every morning?

I was super excited to arrive at our condo last week for my first trip to this resort, especially since we were going to have a full kitchen in the unit. I decided to try making the eight ball zucchini that I picked up at the farmers’ market over the weekend. The plan was to prepare stuffed zucchini in my apartment kitchen, place them in a baking dish, and then pop them in the oven when we arrived at the resort to enjoy for dinner after unpacking and such.

I wrote a little about these zucchini in my last farmers’ market post. The zucchini I used were about the size of a softball, and colored forest green with  yellow-orange striping. They are the perfect size for one person, unlike the mammoth sized zucchini that I often see at the market in summer in Virginia. I like how easy it is to scale recipes using eight ball zucchini. You can just throw in one per person, whether you are cooking for one or cooking for a crowd.

First, I sliced off the tops and scooped out the insides, leaving about a 1/4″ thick wall around the outside of the squash. I used half of the zucchini pulp in the stuffing and saved half to make zucchini bread later in the week. I kept about a cup of zucchini in this adorable little container that I picked up at Fishs Eddy in NYC.

Next I prepared quinoa as a base for the stuffing. Quinoa (pronounced “keen-wah”) is a grain-like plant which is harvested for its edible seeds. It originated in South America and was grown in the Andes mountains by the Incas. It is sometimes referred to as “Inca Gold” based on the gold color of its seed coat.  The quinoa that is commercialized in North America is often sold with its bitter casing removed so that it can be more easily prepared at home. The quinoa that I purchased had already had its casing or “saponins” removed through soaking and rinsing. I usually give it a quick rinse in a fine mesh strainer before cooking anyway.

Quinoa is prepared similarly to rice. I measured one cup of quinoa to two cups of water in a saucepan and cooked it over low-medium heat, covered, for about fifteen to twenty minutes. Quinoa is a good ingredient for vegetarians, so Kyle and I incorporate it into our diets as much as possible. It is a great source of protein, fiber, and essential amino acids. Besides, we love the nutty flavor and grainy texture. Here is what it looks like after cooking. The seed becomes soft while the white spiral remains crunchy.

To the quinoa I added fresh corn kernels, diced tomatoes, diced green bell pepper, minced onion and garlic, black beans, cilantro, olive oil, crushed red pepper, salt and black pepper, and a bit of this Mrs. Renfro’s salsa verde that is one of my new favorites.

I also tossed in a little shredded sharp cheddar cheese for good measure.

Finally, I stuffed the zucchini balls and wrapped them in a baking dish to transport them to the mountains. I had a ton of leftover filling (on purpose) in a separate container for us to heat up and enjoy throughout the week. We drove the two hours to the resort with the faint smell of stuffed zucchini wafting from the backseat of the SUV.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into our spacious condo to discover this:

No oven!

Luckily, I remembered how my Dad used to make me and my sister “baked” apples in the winter by microwaving fresh apples stuffed with brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, walnuts, and raisins. So “baked quinoa-stuffed eight ball zucchini” quickly became “microwaved quinoa-stuffed eight ball zucchini.” No harm done, they turned out beautiful and delicious after seven or eight minutes in the microwave, followed by four minutes of rest.

And, by the way, nothing pairs better with microwaved quinoa-stuffed eight ball zucchini (with a side of kitchen-appliance-induced panic) than a bottle of South Australian Jim Jim Shiraz.

Thanks Mom and Dad for cheating on your baked apples, or I might have been completely lost on this one!