Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

In the blink of the eye, it’s April. What? Where did the time go? I’m quite sure that it was just the other night when I was doing my usual New Year routine…falling asleep wa-aaay before midnight, and here we are, and it’s April already. I think I write this every year. And yet every year, without fail, I can’t fathom how quickly the time passes. 

However, I do see the time passing…everyday as I look in the mirror! I see it in my children who are growing up so quickly that they’re not little  kids anymore. Even my baby turns 11 this year; him growing up is the hardest for me to wrap my head around. I know that’s how life works but it’s still very hard to get older and watch your children growing up and getting older themselves. I think what’s even harder is when you can remember your youth like it was yesterday. 

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Ok, enough of this getting older business! I’m just happy that I don’t let my age define me, in my mind, I’m still 21 🙂

So, how about all this spring loveliness? I may be a winter person, but I love when spring finally makes an appearance and everything begins to turn this beautiful green. The shops begin to liven up with spring colours and flavours. I know I’m not the only one who gets excited to see mounds of ruby red rhubarb, stacks of asparagus neatly tied up in bunches, zesty purple tinged spring onions and bulbs of pungent green garlic. The vibrant citrus of winter gives away to the feathery lushness of spring. I love how Mother Nature gives us so much joy every season with a variety of fruits and vegetables and an abundance of happy colours to keep our souls and tummies nourished.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Colorado’s growing season is still a while away. But this is one time I will buy non local because I’m tired of eating winter root vegetables! I need colour, I need freshness, I need variety! The farmers markets are starting up now but are mainly stocked with seedlings and plants. It won’t be till June when we get Colorado produce, and I cannot wait! My local farm stand carries a lot of green house grown produce right now and they are finishing up their fall and winter harvest. 

I didn’t realise how much I missed the green until we went to the Pacific Northwest a couple of weeks ago. It was such a difference between grey, snowy Colorado. Spring was in full force and it was really soul lifting to see the vibrant greenery and the colourful bulbs, all in full bloom. The incredibly, fragrant cherry blossoms laid out a snowy carpet under each tree and I came across a couple of heady honeysuckle bushes too and just stood there breathing in the heavy scent. 

Cherry Blossoms

I was really excited to be visiting that part of the country and looked forward to putting my camera to good use. Yeah….spring in the Pacific Northwest…nothing but rain. Every. Single. Day. All my photos ended up being taken with my iPhone. They’re not bad but not quite the artistic works I was hoping for! I was asked to share some, so here are my excellent iPhone photos. The photos maybe blah, but the experience was wonderful. I really enjoyed my time in a beautiful part of the country.

Portland port/downtown

Downtown Portland by the water

 

Downtown Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

Downtown Seattle from the Bainbridge Island ferry

 

Ferris wheel at the Seattle port

Ferris wheel by the Pike Place Market

 

Flower stalls at Pike Place Market

Flower stalls at Pike Place Market

 

One of the many fish stalls at the market

One of the many fish stalls at the market

 

More fish!

More fish!

 

Home away from home!!

Home away from home!!

This salad is a spring take on a winter salad I was making for many of the events at work. It ended up being quite the hit with lots of requests for the recipe. In that particular salad, I was using Farro grain tossed with roasted sweet potatoes, sautéed mushrooms and fresh spinach that was wilted in the heat of the warm salad. The whole salad was tossed in a sweet tart balsamic dressing and lots of fresh, citrusy herbs to liven up the heavy salad. Since winter is over, I have redone the salad with spring vegetables, this can be served warm, room temperature or cold, since these spring vegetables work well in all temperatures. I’m not a fan of raw mushrooms so I always cook mine but feel free to keep them raw if you don’t mind them that way.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

It’s a great accompaniment to roasted or grilled meats and you really don’t need anything else. I roasted my harissa chicken and we had this salad along side. Since the grains and greens are all in one, a big pile of salad and some chicken is all that is needed for lunch or dinner.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 10 servings

A chewy whole grain barely salad with spring vegetables in a white balsamic vinaigrette.
Ingredients
  • Barley Salad
  • 8 oz/250g pearled barley
  • 1 lb/500g asparagus
  • ½ lb/250g sugar snap peas
  • 8 oz/250g mushrooms, sliced
  • Young pea shoots or other field greens
  • 2 small watermelon radishes
  • ¼ cup chives, chopped
  • ¼ cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 cup/235ml vinaigrette
  • White Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • ½ cup/120ml white balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup/120ml extra Virginia olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey or agave
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced or grated
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Start by making the balsamic vinaigrette.
  2. Add a ½ cup white balsamic vinegar to a medium size bowl.
  3. Mince or grate the garlic clove with a Microplane, and add to the vinegar.
  4. Add the honey and mix together until honey has dissolved.
  5. Add the ½ cup olive oil whisking as you add to emulsify.
  6. Check for salt and pepper and season to your taste.
  7. Put aside until the barley is ready.
  8. Cook the pearled barley according to package instructions.
  9. You want to cook the barley to the firm side and not too soft as it will be in a salad.
  10. While the barley is cooking, prep the vegetables.
  11. Bring a pit of water to boil and once it reaches boiling, add the asparagus.
  12. Cook the asparagus for about 5 minutes pulling them out while they are still a vibrant green and crunchy.
  13. Pull them out into a bowl of ice water to cool them down,
  14. In the same boiling water, blanch the sugar snap peas.
  15. Once again, cook them briefly, 3 minutes, and pull them out while still green and crunchy into a bowl of ice water.
  16. Once the asparagus and sugar snap peas are cool, chop them into bite size pieces if desired.
  17. Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces and the sugar snap peas into halves or thirds.
  18. Sauté the mushrooms in a hot pan with 2 teaspoons oil
  19. Just lightly brown them to cook out the rawness and get a smoky flavour.
  20. Keep aside once cooked.
  21. Once the barley is cooked, drain the excess water if needed and rinse under hot water to get out the starchiness.
  22. Toss the barley with ¼ cup of the vinaigrette.
  23. When ready to serve, toss the mushrooms, asparagus, sugar snap peas, pea shoots or field greens and the herbs together.
  24. Add the remaining vinaigrette, start with ½ cup and add as needed.
  25. I used all 1 cup since the barley absorbs the liquid.
  26. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  27. Serve warm, room temperature or cold.

Barley Salad with Spring Vegetables

One of the great things about these whole grain salads is that the vegetables can easily be swapped out with the seasons. I’m envisioning heirloom tomatoes, copious amounts of mint and basil, grilled squash or even corn for a summer take.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous start to the week. I am off this week so I’m having  wonderful time! I am excited to take part in BlueStar training event on Wednesday but what I’m really excited about is getting to visit Uncorked Kitchen

Uncorked Kitchen is a food kitchen in Centennial, Colorado, where events, cooking classes, couples classes, corporate events, take place. Their kitchens are outfitted by BlueStar ranges which are some of the most powerful ones in the market (open burners) I haven’t had an opportunity to play with any of these so I’m thrilled to finally get a chance. I’m also thrilled to be attending Uncorked Kitchen because it opened a few months ago and is having great success. I’ve been wanting to drag my husband to a cooking class but let’s just say, they’re a little pricey. So, on Wednesday, since it is a training class, we’ll be going for free with the other guys and girls from work. Score!

Jujeh Kebabs and Baghali Polo

Jujeh Kebab and Baghali Polo

Growing up in a household of 6 children was noisy to say the least. My youngest 2 brothers were definitely boys, loud, active and generally just a pain in the neck. My mother was kept busy by their antics, and boyish tendencies of inquisitiveness, rowdiness and poop humorousness.

A flat in Central London was probably not the best place for active boys but we managed. It was a very large flat with huge ceilings and long hallways. These hallways were a favourite of theirs and they would sprint up and down them. There was no such thing as a leisurely stroll or long distance marathon, it was always the 100 metres dash. 

The flat may have been large and palatial but the floors were still paper thin under the thundering charge of boys, racing their cars or their Star Wars X Wing fighters or whatever new toy was the flavour of the month.

The lady who lived in the flat below was none too pleased with the boys. But before you feel sorry for little old granny having to live with the constant noise of young boys hurtling down the hallways, let me tell you, she was no granny. That woman was rail thin, had a colourful mouth on her and might have been a tad racist. She had no problem beating up on the ceiling with her witchy broomstick cackling at the boys to quiet down and even had the nerve to fly up to our door one day and shriek at us. Little old British witches don’t take crap 🙂

Jujeh Kebab and Baghali Polo

We tried as hard as we could to control the boys but there really was no way to make 4 and 5 year old boys understand the plight of old, cranky women. So, my dad did the only thing he could, he offered to buy out the woman’s flat, cauldron and all, and told her to move on. She did. 

We bought the flat downstairs, renovated it, and put it up for rent as an investment property. When it wasn’t housing tenants, it was hosting visiting family members from overseas. Great thing about the tenants was that they couldn’t complain about the noise even if they wanted to, we were the landlords. They had an amazing, fully decorated and furnished flat in Central London with great rent. I’d put up with the noise too.

Fava Beans

When the older of my 2 younger brothers fell ill with childhood leukaemia, things suddenly went quiet. There was no more running up and down the halls, only running back and forth from hospital. Those 3 years were some of the hardest, for my little brother and for us. He eventually passed away, couldn’t fight the fight anymore, the endless medication, needles, radiation and gave up. My 6 year old brother lost his best friend and play mate. I lost one of the sweetest boys I’ve ever known.

Slowly, it took a lot of time to get over his death, we managed to resume life. My parents realised they still had 5 other kids to care for and raise. My older siblings were adults so they offered a lot of support to my parents. The house slowly began to hear the sound of laughter again, parties with friends and family.

Jujeh Kebab and Baghali Polo

Even with my older sister married and away, there were still 4 kids with school and school issues, and friends and drama. My youngest brother was still quite a trouble maker. He liked to harass the teachers and there were constant complaints about his behaviour. He and my sister didn’t get along either so there was a constant torrent of words to get them to stop fighting, or for him to unpin her from the floor where he kept are subdued by sitting on her. Then there would be more shrieks and scuffling as he threatened to toot on her whilst sitting on her! Yes, it was still noisy. Add to that friends coming over, my brother going out, the front door was a revolving door of activity. I kept myself busy, mainly had my nose stuck in my studies and most of the time, I’d escape to a friend’s house just to get away from the noise!

My older brother, when he wasn’t out with his friends, always had friends over. He had the bedroom near the front of the flat so his friends would just climb in through his window. It was also where they all smoked and there would always be a pile of cigarette butts right outside his window strewn all over the garden. His window was obscured by the trees and bushes in the garden area up front so they were able to keep themselves hidden.

Baghali Polo

Now, my brother’s friends were mainly all Iranians. Great guys, all of them. Not only were they handsome, especially to a 16 year old who insisted she liked tall, dark and handsome (but married short, very pale and cute), they were just wonderful people, they’re still wonderful because I’m in touch with a couple of them still. They visited when we moved to America and with Facebook, all things are possible.

So, these Iranian friends loved to eat. They loved my mother’s cooking and she would feed them all the time. My introduction to Persian food and cooking was through these friends. 

The very first time I went to a Persian restaurant was with my brother and one of his friends. My sister and I had just returned from a trip to America and my parents had stayed behind to start the paper work for our eventual move. My brother picked us up from the airport and that night, it was Persian food for dinner.

Fava Beans

The restaurant was a hole in the wall. Rustic, wooden tables with benches set up communal style. The clink and clank of glasses, patrons downing tart and bubbly doough, breaking off pieces of the big sheets of Iranian bread and wrapping up cheese and vibrant, aromatic herbs. There was lentil soup being slurped and mounds of glistening, bejewelled polos, heady with the scent of saffron and long metal swords filled with tender, juicy meats grilled to a luscious, golden brown. I was in heaven.

That day began my love affair with Persian food. My plate wasn’t even a fancy polo or anything involved, it was just the juiciest and most flavourful skewer of kobideh kebab and the most fairy light rice I’ve ever eaten. Since then, I’ve been eating it, researching it, cooking it and perfecting it.

I guess my love for Persian food was inevitable, after all my name is from the Persian language. It means “exquisitely beautiful” 🙂 I love telling people that here because I like to see them react, usually uncomfortably, because they don’t know what to say! I keep a very straight face when I tell them 🙂

I make Persian food at home all the time but have never really posted anything. I eat Persian food out all the time too, it’s one of my favourite cuisines to eat out. 

Baghali Polo

I decided to finally post two recipes mainly because I found beautiful, fresh fava beans at the farm stand and wanted to make the dill and fava bean polo (pilaf/pullao) called baghali polo (baghali means bean in Farsi) In Houston, we used to frequent a hole in the wall Persian place with some amazing food but then they became quite the success and went from hole in the wall with butcher paper covering the tables to fancy, schmancy tablecloths and expensive wines. The food lost its appeal along the way but picked up some grand prices instead.

They used to have great dill rice with chicken jujeh kebabs. This jujeh kebab is simple, flavourful, aromatic and absolutely delicious. No huge list of ingredients for a marinade, no fussy prep, just simple, rustic meat on a grill. 

The baghali polo is also simple but the addition of dill and saffron elevates the dish to a somewhat fancy standard. It’s very much at home as a Sunday or even a weeknight dinner, like we had, but equally at home on fine china celebrating a special occasion.

So, a side note about fresh fava beans, buy plenty! Three of the pods I shelled didn’t have even one fava bean! I bought 1.5 pounds of fava beans in their pods, and got one cup total. Buy at least 2 or even 3 pounds just to be safe! One cup of beans were enough for us because my kids don’t like too many beans. But if you like lots, I’d definitely use about 2 cups. 

Jujeh Kebab and Baghali Polo

Now, a note on the dill; some recipes use A LOT of dill. The rice is green. Now, I like dill but it’s quite a strong flavour and also if you don’t happen to have access to a Persian store where they sell huge bunches of dill for a $1, you will easily spend $12 buying just the organic dill. I spent $4 for a handful of dill. But, it was enough and has enough flavour for us. So, you can definitely control the quantities. If you like mild dill flavour and a scattering of fava beans through out, you’ll like this recipe without changes. If you want a much stronger dill flavour and more beans,  just increase the quantities. You can also use frozen favas and eliminate all the peeling of the tough outer skin and the uncertainty of empty pods. Use fresh dill though, not the dried stuff.

Jujeh Kebabs and Baghali Polo

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 6-8 people

Delicious Persian dill rice with fava beans and juicy, chicken kebabs.
Ingredients
  • Jujeh Kebabs
  • 3 pounds/1.5kg boneless chicken breasts, medium size cubes
  • 3 small onions or 1 large, in chunks
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • pinch of saffron threads, optional
  • ½ stick/57g butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons oil, for brushing on
  • salt and pepper
  • wooden skewers, 10-15 bamboo ones or large metal ones
  • Baghali Polo
  • 3 cups/500g Basmati rice, soaked about 15 minutes
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups fresh, shelled or frozen fava beans
  • 2 cups of fresh dill, tough stems removed
  • a pinch of saffron threads
  • 2 teaspoons advieh spice (or seven spice mix), optional
  • water
  • salt
Instructions
  1. Jujeh Kebabs
  2. In the bowl of a food processor, throw in the onion chunks and whiz until pureed.
  3. In a large bowl, add the chicken cubes, the pureed onions, lemon juice, turmeric and the saffron threads, breaking them up between your fingers as you add them.
  4. Allow to marinate for about an hour, or while you prepare the rice.
  5. Once the polo is cooked, grill the chicken.
  6. Skewer about 5-7 pieces on a wooden skewer.
  7. Repeat till all the chicken is used up.
  8. Keep the same size pieces on the same skewer so they will cook at the same time.
  9. You can add bell peppers or onions to the skewer if desired but I find chicken cooks the best and most evenly when it's by itself.
  10. Fire up a grill and keep it at medium heat.
  11. You can also do these in the oven at 400F/200C
  12. Once the grill is heated and ready, grease the grates with some oil or spray.
  13. Brush the kebab skewers with some oil and sprinkle with salt.
  14. Place the prepared skewers on the hot grill.
  15. Grill 8-10 minutes on the first side and the flip and cook until done, another 6-8 minutes.
  16. Baste with the melted butter at intervals to keep the chicken moist.
  17. Some of the bigger chunks may take a little longer, about 12 minutes a side.
  18. Once the chicken is golden browned and nicely charred and is firm to the touch, remove from the heat and place under foil.
  19. Grilled tomatoes are a great and classic accompaniment to Persian kebabs.
  20. Baghali Polo
  21. Heat a large sauce pan on medium heat with a tablespoon of oil and 2 tablespoons butter.
  22. Drop in the chopped onions and sauté.
  23. While the onion is cooking, bring a small pot of water to boil.
  24. Drop the fava beans into the boiling water and cook about 5 minutes.
  25. Remove from the heat, and scoop out the fava beans into a bowl of ice water.
  26. This hot and cold trick with help loosen the thick skin around the fresh fava beans.
  27. If you are using frozen, buy the ones where they are peeled already.
  28. Remove the thick skin around the fava beans.
  29. If you squeeze gently, the tender fava bean should pop out of the skin quite easily.
  30. Place in a bowl to the side.
  31. Once the onions have caramelised and are golden, add the garlic and cook a minute.
  32. Add the shelled and peeled fava beans and toss around for a minute.
  33. Not too long since they are already blanched.
  34. Pull off the heat and place aside.
  35. Roughly chop the dill.
  36. Soak the rice for about 15 minutes.
  37. Heat a big pot of water to cook the rice.
  38. Once the water comes to a boil, add 3 teaspoon of salt and carefully add the drained and soaked rice a little at a time.
  39. Keep the water boiling and bubbling.
  40. Stir the rice carefully and at intervals.
  41. Once the rice grains have elongated and are ¾ done, they still have a bite, remove from the heat and drain with cold water running.
  42. Carefully run a little cold water over the rice to stop it from over cooking in the strainer.
  43. In the now empty pot, drizzle in 4 tablespoons of the melted butter into the bottom.
  44. Add half of the cooked rice and mix gently.
  45. Layer the onion and fava bean mixture and all of the dill.
  46. Place the remaining rice over the top in a mound.
  47. Crumble the saffron into the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter.
  48. Make vent holes in the rice using chopsticks or a wooden spoon handle.
  49. Sprinkle some water over the rice and into the vent holes.
  50. About a ¼ cup/60ml
  51. Pour the butter saffron mixture over the top of the rice.
  52. If you are using the advieh, a Persian spice mix, sprinkle it over the rice now.
  53. Place on low heat and steam for 20 minutes.
  54. After 20 minutes, remove from the heat and leave untouched for another 10 minutes.
  55. Don't open the lid, allow to steam.
  56. After 10 minutes, fluff up and mix the rice altogether.
  57. Place on a big dish, sprinkle with sumac and serve with the jujeh kebabs, and more butter if desired.

Jujeh Kebab and Baghali Polo

Have you tried Persian food? What is your favourite cuisine to eat out and to make at home?

So, thank you all so much for your kind comments on my last post. I felt a little guilty and bit of a fraud but totally humbled by all your kind words. I’m really not that good, or considerate or kind. There are so many others who deserve those titles. During Ramadan, we all try to be better and change our habits for the better for the rest of the year. We try, I try. It doesn’t always stick with me though. Still, I appreciate your kind words and I will try very hard to be the person you think I am!

Have a wonderful week, my friends!

Kale and Meatball Soup

Kale and Meatball Soup

Well, we’re in the second week of Ramadan and the fasts are going well. They are long and it’s been really hot here in Denver but we’re managing. The air conditioning has been turned on, I held on as long as I could because I do enjoy the electric bills when the AC and the heat are off. Alas, when the temperature reached 85F/29C on the thermostat, I decided it was time to turn on the cold air!

The fasting is not terribly difficult, really. I can manage without the food but it’s the no water and heat that does one in. We manage though, the rewards of the month make it all tolerable.

Kale and Meatball Soup

Ramadan isn’t all starvation, crabbiness and hardship, we do enjoy some great evenings where we open our fasts with our friends. Last two weekends we’ve been invited to iftar (breaking of the fast) by our close friends and both evenings were incredibly pleasant with good friends, good conversation and good food. I’ll be having them all over this Friday. I happen to be off this weekend for July 4th so it was a good weekend for me, Though once again, when I have a weekend off from cooking, I’m spending the day cooking for even more people! It’s all good. I’m still working on my menu but it will be either Indian or Middle Eastern.

For the last three weeks, I’ve started a new project with the company for whom I do the cooking and product demos. I’ve started “teaching” cooking classes for specific brands, so clients who have purchased a specific brand and would like to know the use and care of their new appliance, can sign up for these classes. Between me, the sales guys and the appliance reps, we teach use and care and I teach the cooking basics for their new range/oven/cook top and so on.

Kale and Meatball Soup

I’ve done 3 classes so far and they have been quite fun. The clients are appreciative and they really enjoy the food! For me the fun part is creating a menu to tailor to the product they’ve purchased and interested in learning about. It’s not as easy as it sounds! I have 2 hours to get the food ready to eat whilst telling them about oven modes or induction technology or range functions. The rep from the company helps a lot by fielding many of the technical questions while I get the food in the oven. At the end of it, they sit down to enjoy the meal that’s prepared in the appliances they have purchased or will purchase. All in all, it’s been a learning experience for me as well. So far, I have done Thermador, Wolf and Dacor classes. The one last week was one for Wolf SubZero and I had 13 people! It turned out to be quite the party. I prepared a full Moroccan themed meal and the guests were in heaven. They all thoroughly enjoyed the food which made me very happy because, since I was fasting, I cooked the entire meal without tasting!

So, that’s what’s been keeping me busy of late. It does take up my time because all the shopping and prep is done by me and I spend an awful lot of time grocery shopping. Seems like I live at either Whole Foods or Specialty Appliance!

Kale and Meatball Soup

This soup, I know it’s the heat of summer and you must think I’m crazy posting a soup recipe but when you’ve been fasting for 17 hours, soup is a great thing to break the fast with. It’s a complete meal and a very nourishing one. This Kale and Meatball Soup is very hearty and filled with rice, kale, beans, chicken broth and meatballs. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my bowl of soup with a side of sourdough toast. Another thing about fasting is that it tends to shrink your stomach so you don’t eat as much. The soup is a perfect, it’s filling but not overly heavy. It’s quite a light meal which is perfect because as soon as we finish eating, we really are almost ready to go to bed (to get up at 3 am to start our fast again),

Hopefully, for my Southern Hemisphere friends, this is an opportune post and also for the Ramadan fasters. For my friends on this side of the world, just book mark this for winter, it’s really good!

Kale and Meatball Soup

Kale and Meatball Soup

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 10-12 servings

Ingredients
  • 1 pound/455g ground beef
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¾ cup brown rice
  • 10 cups chicken broth
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 1 bunch kale, chopped
  • 1 15oz tin kidney beans
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • squeeze of lemon
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. To make the meatballs, mix the finely chopped onions, garlic and parsley together.
  2. I put all the ingredients for the meatballs in my food processor and whiz until the onion, garlic and parsley are combined with the ground beef, add salt and pepper and mix through.
  3. Put a thin layer of oil in a fry pan or cast iron pan on medium high heat.
  4. Drop little balls of meatball mixture into the oil and brown.
  5. You can shape them in your hands and make them round or just drop rough bits into the oil.
  6. You can also drop them straight into the broth without frying but I wanted them a little brown so while the soup was simmering I browned up the meatballs.
  7. Once the meatballs are fried, keep them to the side until the soup is done.
  8. To make the soup, sauté the onions in a big pot or pressure cooker (the easiest way to make soup)
  9. in a tablespoon of oil.
  10. Once the onions are softened, add the garlic and cook a minute.
  11. Add the tomato paste and cook out the raw taste for a minute.
  12. Add the rice and coat with the onion tomato mixture.
  13. Add the broth and bring to a boil.
  14. If using a pressure cooker, put on the lid and bring up to pressure and cook according to your cooker instructions.
  15. In my pressure cooker, it takes 15 minutes to cook brown rice, so I set the time for a bit less.
  16. I cook the rice for 12 minutes and then depressurise and carefully open the cooker.
  17. I add the turmeric, carrots, celery, potatoes and kale.
  18. Put the lid back on and bring up to pressure.
  19. I cook the mixture under pressure for another 4 minutes.
  20. After 4 minutes, depressurise again and carefully open.
  21. The vegetables should all be soft.
  22. If the liquid looks low, add a cup or two of water if needed.
  23. Add the kidney beans and the meatballs.
  24. Check for salt and pepper.
  25. Add a squeeze of lemon to finish.
  26. If you are not suing a pressure cooker, follow the same order but the brown rice will take about 30 minutes to cook.
  27. The vegetables will also take another 15 minutes to soften.
  28. Cook the soup for another 5-10 minutes after the addition of the meatballs and kidney beans.
  29. The soup will turn out the same but the time will be a bit longer.
Notes
You can use any kind of green you want and any kind of beans. Even lentils would be good. I actually used broccoli greens instead of kale because I found a fresh bunch at my farm stand. The broccoli greens were so sweet and perfect in the soup. I wrote the recipe with kale because I'm not sure broccoli greens are available everywhere.

Kale and Meatball SoupSo, it’s hot and this is soup, but it looks good doesn’t it? It tasted awesome and just what I needed after a long, tiring fast. 

I hope you all had a relaxing weekend and are ready for the week ahead.

Have a great one! I’ll be here, fasting and cooking (without tasting 🙂 )

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Well, whaddaya know? I managed a post sooner than 10 days! I’m trying. I just need some organisation and an urge to actually cook and motivation to take photos rather than just gobble the food down. It really is hard sometimes to cook and spontaneously take photos. I never really cook for just the blog, I cook for the family and we always eat it after all the photos have been taken. However, there’s just no time sometimes and it seems like I will have to schedule blog cooking!

Red chard, mushrooms, and tomatoes

Do any of you cook for your blogs specifically? I know sometimes I really want to try a new recipe so those days are always planned and probably the most organised!

I have changed my photography area around a bit and moved almost everything into the kitchen and dining room. It has made it easier to shoot as I cook. My photography has always been quite minimalistic; I don’t use too many props or over style so this has made it even easier. At the graduation party, we pushed our huge 10 seat table back against the wall to do buffet style food and to make more room in our dining room. We’ve left it like that; I like the extra room and it still seats 6 of us for dinner. The extra room allows for my tripod and plenty of room to move and shoot. This has made my life a little easier and a bit more organised!

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

The children are out of school and I don’t think I’ve seen a couple of them since last week! The new graduate sleeps in, gets up, showers and leaves. I don’t see her till the next morning, where she proceeds to repeat the previous day. The 14 year old has become a gypsy, and only turns up once a week to get her allowance. Laith is the only one keeping me company at home. I’m not good company either since I’m busy with work related menus, recipe testing or reading manuals and always have my head buried in my iPad, my computer or in a bag of flour. He’s really good at keeping himself entertained.

Sauteed red chard and mushrooms

So, the other day I was tagged by a very sweet blogger and though I don’t do all these award type things, I did want to thank her for thinking of me and giving me the Liebster Award. I didn’t realise that award was still making the rounds! She asked me so nicely to answer the questions she posted that how could I refuse? So, just for you, Habiba, here are my answers to your questions and I will tag a few of my blogger friends as well.

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Where are you answering these questions from right now? I’m on my Mac in my bedroom in Westminster, Colorado. It has finally stopped raining and turned out to be a beautiful day.
Where did you go on your last holiday? Last holiday was the kids half term/spring break so we headed off to Houston, Texas to see my dad and brothers. My sister joined us from Columbus and many aunts were visiting from overseas so it was a nice reunion.
What’s your favourite book? I have so many! I love British classics and am finally reading some American classics. My favourite probably has to be Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.
Favourite movie? Once again, too many! Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones, Midnight in Paris but for a sappy love story, I adore Bridges of Madison County with Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep
Did you go to university, and if so, what did you study? Now, this question is a bit of a sore spot with me. I sat my A levels and accepted an offer to Imperial College of Science and Technology (and Medicine now, and also happens to be #3 in the top colleges in the world) At the same time, my parents decided the move to America. Being Indian parents, there was no way in hell they were leaving me behind. I had no choice but to say bye to my dream of studying engineering at one of the most prestigious research colleges in the world. Am I resentful, a little. I try not to think like that but sometimes, the regret is too much. As a result of their decision and the stress of moving countries while studying, I did quite poorly in my exams, so the dream was shot anyway. I did start college classes here and got as far as two years, still in engineering but ended up getting married and kids came along very soon. I also went back to school after 3 kids and 10 years later, aced my classes too, I might add, but it was impossible to continue with everything at home and work. I will get back and finish one of these days! That’s a promise to myself 🙂
Dream job? Hmmm…..back in the day I would say it would be an engineering or science research. Some would say since I write a food blog, and am so much into food, I am doing close to my dream job now. Getting a chance to use the newest technology in high end home appliances, to be able to cook, demo and meet new people is quite a fun job. I do enjoy my job but it’s so funny that it’s something that I would never have thought of doing when I was younger. Anything that remotely was thought of as a “woman’s job” was something I had no interest in! And here I am!
Favourite fruit? Citrus and berries, though there is nothing better than a perfectly ripe, local, peach from Colorado’s Western Slopes.
Which would you pick: cookies and milk, or cookies n’ cream ice-cream? Coffee and cookies maybe but not milk! I’ll take ice cream, but plain vanilla!
Apple or Android? Apple all the way! Done Android and Windows, not a fan
Batman or Superman? Batman, because he’s just a very rich man with a lot of fancy toys. Batman is actually my favourite superhero 🙂
What’s the last thing you searched for on Google? Ozone therapy (for my RA)

So, there you have it. I’d like to thank Habiba from EatWriteBe for my award. I’d like to pass this award onto a few bloggers and you guys don’t have to do it, but I wanted to let you know I appreciate your support, the stories you share with us and for just being awesome people!

Cocoa and Lavender 

Glamorous Glutton

Savoury Table

Hotly Spiced

Kitchen Riffs

Rambling Tart

PlusAteSix

The people behind these blogs are more than just bloggers, they are my friends. Through our blogs and our comments and thanks to Facebook, we stay connected, talk and laugh just like we were in the same city. They are always the first to comment when I write a new post and are always there whether I write 4 times a month or barely once every two months. Thank you!! 

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Onto this recipe, it’s delicious! This was also a dinner from vegetarian week a couple of weeks ago and it is one of my favourite vegetarian dinners. Risotto in all forms is my weakness. I try to make risottos often since you can make them vegetarian, they are gluten free and I love them as does my eldest. Makes one’s life easier.

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

This is an all in one dish, the vegetables are incorporated into the risotto and you can have it straight up or with a fresh salad. I like a bit of crunch so I like to serve mine with a cucumber and red onion salsa on top, or whatever crunchy thing I have in the fridge.

I also like to use brown rice in my risotto. I buy the short grain brown rice and though it doesn’t get as creamy as regular white risotto, it’s still pretty gooey and satisfying. I make my brown rice risotto in my pressure cooker and do away with the stirring and pouring. 20 minutes in the pressure cooker is all it takes (time will depend on your cooker instructions). 

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto-5

Red Chard and Mushroom Risotto

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8 servings

A creamy, filling risotto made with brown rice and filled with sautéed red chard and mushrooms.
Ingredients
  • 8 oz/225g mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 bunch chard or 455g, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 cups/455g brown rice, short grain
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 tomato, large, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 4 cups broth, good quality vegetable or chicken
  • 1 cup water
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Lemon juice, a squirt
Instructions
  1. Start by sautéing the red chard and mushrooms.
  2. In a large sauce or fry pan, add the butter and a tablespoon of oil.
  3. Add the chopped garlic and cook a minute.
  4. Add the sliced mushrooms.
  5. Sauté the mushrooms until they release their water and begin to brown.
  6. As they begin to brown, add the chopped red chard stems, cook for a bit and then add the leaves.
  7. Cook until the leaves are wilted, the stems ate softened and most of the liquid has evaporated.
  8. Add the pepper flakes, and season with salt and pepper.
  9. Keep the sautéed vegetables aside while you cook the risotto.
  10. In a pressure cooker, add the 2 tablespoons of oil on medium high heat.
  11. Sauté the onions until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes.
  12. Add the 2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook a little to get the raw taste out.
  13. Add the chopped tomatoes and cook about 2 minutes to soften.
  14. Add the risotto or brown rice and coat with the oil and seasonings.
  15. Add 1½ teaspoons of salt and a few grindings of pepper to the rice.
  16. Add the broth and the water.
  17. Bring up to a boil and put the pressure cooker cover on.
  18. Once the cooker reaches pressure and there's a steady steam, lower the heat to a low setting, and set the timer for 20 minutes.
  19. Check with your manufacturer's instructions and cook accordingly.
  20. I have a Fagor pressure cooker, a pretty simple one and this works for me.
  21. If you are cooking it the traditional way, and using brown rice, it will take longer and you may need more water or broth as the risotto cooks.
  22. Use hot broth and water.
  23. Pour in half of the liquid and let it simmer.
  24. Stir occasionally but you don't have to stir constantly.
  25. Once the liquid has absorbed, add the rest and continue cooking until the risotto is done.
  26. You may need to add more broth/water if the rice is still hard.
  27. Continue cooking until done and the rice is creamy.
  28. Stir in more water or broth if it's too dry.
  29. Add the sautéed red chard and mushrooms and mix well.
  30. Add as much Parmesan cheese as you like!
  31. I add about ½ cup to the cooker and mix till creamy.
  32. A squirt of lemon brightens all the flavours.
  33. Serve in bowls with crunchy red onions or cucumbers on top.

 

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Ok, so this post got away from me, it’s a tad long but it seems like it’s feast or famine with me 🙂

Hope you’re all having a good week so far! 

Have a good one.

Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

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I may have disappeared again. In my defence, I tried really hard to not only get this post out earlier but to visit as many of you as I could. I didn’t get to post this last week and I missed many of you. It was just a very hectic week.

My daughter graduated on Saturday and it was a lovely ceremony and a bit bittersweet and emotional. This was my first graduation as far as my children go. My eldest didn’t walk and so robbed me of my proud mommy moment. 

Baby Broccoli

In England, we don’t have all this graduation business. We sit our exams, we enjoy our summer as much as we can, and in August nervously await with baited breath for the postal flap in our door to fly open and letters to drop on the floor, hoping one of the envelopes is from the Examination Board. Then we squeal with excitement or moan with regret, either way, that’s it, that’s our graduation pomp and circumstance.

I may not have all the hullabaloo at my “graduation”, however, it was still very nice to be a part of daughter’s big day. I tried to hold back the tears when we walked down to greet her after the ceremony. A few photos and then our moment was done. She waved to us as she disappeared into the sea of blue clad graduates to enjoy the day and the many parties. I anxiously hoped she remembered that we also had a party going on later that day and she needed to make an appearance!

broomfield High School graduation

Saturday was also my son’s 10th birthday. He was such a great brother and made way for his sister to own the day. He graciously took a back seat so she could be the star. 

We had a lovely BBQ with many of our good friends. It has been raining here for a good two weeks with really cold temperatures and Saturday was no different! It poured down! Thankfully, we have a huge front covered porch and we do most our cookouts under the porch. We had two grills going, a gas and a charcoal. We grilled burgers, chicken kebabs and vegetables. I made a quinoa salad with fruit, a Caprese pasta salad with a balsamic vinaigrette, grilled vegetables with a Herbes De Provence vinaigrette, and tangy, South Indian lemon rice. 

Graduation Food

Chips, salsa, Feta dip and a spicy black bean dip with assorted olives and vegetables rounded out the savouries. Dessert was a blueberry cobbler, grilled nectarines and pineapples with pound cake and ice cream, and assorted fruit. A wonderful friend made a beautiful cheesecake. We had plenty of sweets! Sweet ice tea, Southern style, and lemonade quenched our thirst. I think everyone enjoyed themselves! 

One thing about cookouts is they don’t really allow you to sit for too long with your guests. I was running constantly from the grill to the food tables. Once the food was done though, I had a chance to sit and converse.

Pepper Jack Macaroni and Cheese-1

In the U.S. it was Memorial Day weekend so my husband and I were off from work on Saturday, but what did I end up doing on my day off from cooking at the store? Cooking for an even bigger crowd. I’m a glutton for punishment. 

Were any of you aware that last week was National Vegetarian Week? I stumbled upon it while I was reading some article but then decided to run with it! It’s the excuse I used to cook vegetarian all week long. My eldest loved it because for once, she could eat everything and wasn’t relegated to the sides! 

I loved it too. Dinner was uncomplicated and easy to throw together. It took me only an hour each day to get dinner on the table. No dealing with cleaning meat or chicken, waiting for it to defrost, soften, and so on. 

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This Mac and Cheese was dinner one day along with sautéed baby broccoli and baked kale chips. I jazzed it up a bit by using Pepper Jack since I love Pepper Jack cheese. It added a little kick without too much heat. 

I also didn’t use macaroni but pasta shape known as pipe, Whole Foods has an excellent organic one I like to use. I just think they look cool and I’m like a little kid when it comes to pasta shapes.

pipe pasta

Pepper Jack Mac and Cheese

Rating 

Prep time: 

Cook time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 8-10 servings

A creamy mac and cheese using pepper jack cheese for a spicy kick.
Ingredients
  • 1 pound/ 455g macaroni or any short tube pasta
  • 9 ounces/255g Pepper Jack cheese or other spicy cheese, shredded
  • 3 ounces/85g white Cheddar cheese,shredded
  • 4 tablespoons/55g butter, unsalted
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 3½ cups/830ml milk
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon honey Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric, optional
  • 2 slices bread ends
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
Instructions
  1. CHEESE SAUCE
  2. In a large saucepan melt the butter.
  3. Once the butter is melted add the flour and mix to make a roux.
  4. Cook a little to get the raw flour taste out.
  5. Add the nutmeg.
  6. Slowly add the milk and stir with a whisk to make sure it doesn't get lumpy.
  7. You can warm the milk so the sauce is lump free but I never do and I've never had a problem with a lumpy white sauce.
  8. Once the white sauce begins to bubble and thicken, pull off the heat and add your cheese.
  9. The heat from the white sauce should be enough to melt the cheese but you can put it back on the burner with the heat off.
  10. Mix the cheese until all is melted and homogenous.
  11. Add the honey Dijon mustard or your mustard of choice, and the turmeric if using.
  12. The cheese I buy is an organic, natural cheese from Whole Foods and it has no colouring.
  13. Pepper Jack by nature is a white cheese.
  14. So, to get the yellow colour of mac and cheese, I add a touch of turmeric.
  15. If you are using yellow cheddar, then you can omit the turmeric.
  16. Keep the sauce to the side as you boil the pasta.
  17. Follow the package directions to boil your pasta but boil it three minutes shy of the recommended time.
  18. You want a good bite when you pull it off the heat.
  19. The pasta will cook further in the sauce when it's baked so over cooking it now will give you a mushy mac and cheese.
  20. Keep a little of the pasta water to thin the cheese sauce if needed.
  21. Once the pasta is ¾ cooked, drain it and reserve some pasta water.
  22. Mix the pasta into the cheese sauce, coating evenly.
  23. Add a bit of pasta water if it seems too gloppy.
  24. Have a buttered baking dish ready and pour the mac and cheese into the prepared dish.
  25. If you'd like a crumb topping, take some bread ends or heels, I used the thick bread heels of a heavily seeded and grained bread, cut into small cubes and toss with olive oil.
  26. Scatter over the top.
  27. Preheat the oven to 375F/190C and place the mac and cheese on the centre rack.
  28. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly and the croutons are golden brown and crispy.

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So, yeah, this isn’t a very original post because there are a million mac and cheese recipes out there! But hey, it’s a post and it really was quite tasty with the creamy, spicy cheese, the funky pasta and the crunchy croutons on top. But I am slowly getting there and back in the kitchen. The mind has been a bit slow churning and I finally figured out that it may have been the new meds I started. Well, my job revolves around cooking and so does this blog, if I can’t be creative and motivated then where will I be? So, I stopped taking the new meds. I hurt a bit more but my mind is my own now.

Did any of you cook vegetarian food last week? It’s been really fun to see all the fresh, spring flavours on the blogs and then the autumn flavours coming from the Southern Hemisphere. Y’all are definitely inspiring! Can’t wait to see more seasonal goodies!

Have a great week everyone!