Barley with Mushrooms and Roasted Delicata Squash

I have been meaning to post this recipe for a while, but November has been so darn busy! I came and went so quickly, I barely even had time to register it and now it’s December. And not only is it December, there’s about 6 inches of snow on the ground and I’m a week away from ending my stint here in Canada. Where does the time go? So before I say goodbye to my temporary home and all my new life-long friends, here’s a post about my new favorite squash and my new favorite wintery dish.

barley with mushrooms and squash

I’ve been really into barley lately. It’s got this great texture and it puffs up taking up a ton of flavor from the broth it cooks in. Also, it’s got all this protein and fiber, making it the perfect base of a vegetarian meal. This is called Pearled Barley. I buy it in bulk at the local natural foods store. And it cooks just like rice. So, as with rice, it has a lot of starch so it’s important to give it a good rinse under cold water until the water runs clear. Even after rinsing, as it cooks it gives off starch and the final product is very similar to risotto – creamy and rich – but with an nutty aroma and firm texture.

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Then there’s squash – I’ve always been a fan of butternut squash, but delicata squash is amazing! It’s sweet and creamy and because it’s smaller it cooks much faster (yay!). I drizzled the squash with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled a little salt, brown sugar and cinnamon on it and then roasted it in the oven at 350 for about 20 min, or until it was fork tender, and crazy delicious. Seriously, you could just have this as a side dish for any meal this winter and be happy.

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So, now that the squash is roasted and the barley is rinsed, it’s time to cook. I cook the mushrooms on their own, on medium high, and then set them aside until the last couple minutes of cook time for the barley, which takes a good 25-30 minutes to cook, so that they don’t get weird and rubbery. This is a really simple, straight forward dish to make, but it’s flavorful and hearty – and perfect for the winter.

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Ingredients: (makes 2 servings as a main course)

Squash

  • 1 delicata squash, opened lengthwise, seeds removed and sliced into 1 inch semi-circles
  • 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to drizzle over the slices
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon of brown sugar
  • a couple pinches (1/4 teaspoon) of cinnamon

Barley

  • about 10 medium cremini mushrooms (or any type you prefer), approximately 4 cups sliced
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, separated
  • 1 small onion (1 cup), finely chopped
  • garlic (optional)
  • 1 cup pearled barley, well rinsed and drained
  • 4 – 6 cups broth (vegetable or chicken, whatever you prefer), heated in a small sauce pan
  • 1 tablespoon of goat cheese, crumbled for the garnish

Instructions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Prep the squash and spread, skin side down, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with salt, sugar and cinnamon. Bake for about 20 minutes, until fork tender.

2. Wash, dry and slice the mushrooms. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to medium-high and sauté the mushrooms, tossing every couple minutes, until lightly browned – about 5-6 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

3. In the same pan, lower the heat to medium and heat another tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic (if using), season with salt and cook until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the barley and keep cooking another 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so that the barley doesn’t stick to the pan. It will start to give off a toasty smell.

4. Add 2 cups of broth, stir and lower to low heat to simmer gently until all of the liquid is absorbed. Then add another cup of broth, stir and allow to absorb again. Do this again 1 to 3 more times until the barley is al dente (just try one grain to see if the center is cooked through). The amount of liquid can depend on the barley, so just keep an eye on it. Add the mushrooms, stir and turn off the heat.

Serve with a few slices of squash and a crumble of goat cheese (or Parmesan if you prefer). Enjoy!!

Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Fall

Fall is here, which is kind of sad because it’s getting colder and the days are getting shorter, but it’s just. so. beautiful. I don’t know…there’s something romantic about the colors of the leaves changing and the cool air arriving. It’s cozy. Soups are good for cozy weather, but I’ll get to that in a moment. First…these trees!!

Rideau Canal

Last weekend we took advantage of that sweet spot between mid-september when most of the leaves have turned and the first serious rains which make the leaves fall off and took a little hike up into Gatineau Park. (By the way, I don’t just know these things – fall sweet spots and whatnot – the more experienced ones tell me. They say, “Lisa, it’s time. This is the weekend to go see the leaves.”)

Gatineau Park

They were right. And the views from the top did not disappoint.

Gatineau Park

It looks like a colorful carpet! And that’s lil’ ol’ Ottawa in the distance. We even saw a few Turkey Vultures.

Gatineau Park

A couple more, and then I’ll tell you quickly about my soup.

Gatineau Park

Gatineau Park

Really, the soup is simple; I needed an excuse to show you all the fall! I know most of you, my lovely readers, are still in hundred degree weather that shows no signs of ever letting up, and I’m sorry about that. And about what it’s doing to our beautiful state. And you probably don’t feel like even thinking about making or eating or even looking at soup. But I do. You all can just keep this one in your back pocket for when the temperatures do finally cool down.

Butternut Squash SoupIt’s a quick and simple soup with a rich silky texture. Oh, also, it has like only 200 calories per serving. That’s always nice. Also, if you’re totally bored just thinking about cutting and peeling that sucker, you could slice it down the middle and then roast it in the oven.

Curried Butternut Squash and Coconut Milk Soup

Makes 4 servings or 8 cups

Ingredients:

4 pounds butternut squash, peeled and chopped into cubes

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons curry powder

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less or not at all – up to you!)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can of light coconut milk (reserve 1/4 cup for garnishing, if you want)

1 or 2 cups broth (whatever kind you like, I use vegetable)

1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds (optional)

  • Peel and chop the butternut squash and chop the onion.
  • In a large pot, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until they start to lightly brown. You may need to lower the heat so you can get some color, without them burning or sticking to the bottom of the pan. About 5 – 8 minutes
  • Add the spices to the onion and stir to toast the curry a bit. About a minute
  • Add the chopped butternut squash, coconut milk, and then add broth until the liquids just barely cover the squash. Cover and bring to a boil and then lower to a simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender, stirring occasionally.
  • In the mean time, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds (if using them) either in a pan or in the oven. Keep an eye on them – they toast super fast and I am guilty of throwing away more than one batch!!
  • Use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Or pour it into a stand-up blender in batches. Serve and garnish with a tablespoon of the reserved coconut milk, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the pumpkin seeds.

beer & orange glazed chicken and barley risotto

Sometimes, you just gotta have a bunch of your friends over and feed them. I love dinner parties. Maybe because you don’t have to wear shoes. Or maybe because you can just keep opening bottles of wine all night, long after the last of the food has been eaten, just enjoying that special chemistry that can only exist over a table full of empty plates.

Anyway, I’ve been needing an excuse to try this chicken recipe I found on another food blog that just looked so yummy and I needed some guinea pigs to try out the concept of barley risotto. Luckily, when food is involved, usually your friends will be willing subjects.

This beer and orange glazed chicken recipe, which I got from How Sweet It Is, is so so good. Also, it’s super easy, but it tastes like a lot of work went into it – perfect for impressing guests.

Beer orange glazed chicken

The chicken comes out juicy with a crispy skin and that sauce…oh, the sauce… The key to that crispy skin is searing both sides in a piping hot pan before putting it into the oven to finish cooking. In the original recipe, she uses a cast iron skillet, but I don’t have one, and even if I did, I needed to make chicken for 7 people. So I seared the pieces in a pan – super important: don’t move it around, just be patient and leave it about 2 minutes on each side so that it gets golden brown – then used some of the beer to get the yummy bits off the bottom of the pan and added both the chicken and the glaze to the dish before popping it into the oven.

Citrus chicken barley risotto

Then I also made risotto, which is a little more labor intensive, but always worth the trouble. I read about using barley for risotto in the Cooks Illustrated and was curious. I’ve been experimenting with grains lately because, while rice will always hold a special place in my heart, it doesn’t give you a whole lot of nutritional benefits on it’s own, whereas barley, for example, has much more protein and fiber. It also has a nutty flavor and a chewy texture, like al dente pasta, so it works perfectly for risotto which can get a little mushy if you overcook it even slightly.

I used white wine (what was left from a bottle of verdejo that love), mushrooms, chicken broth and a little parmesan cheese to pack in as much flavor as possible as that barley cooked and I have to say it was a successful experiment. I’m not saying I’ll never make it with rice again, but it’s going to be perfect for a vegetarian meal on it’s own since it will keep you full longer than rice.

orange beer glazed chicken and salad

And to round it off and get some green in there, a nice light salad. I’m also really into adding fruit to salads lately. I adore summer fruit, so I try to consume as much of it as I possible can to make up for the fact that I have to go back to eating bananas and apples in the fall. It’s like a three month race to eat as many peaches, cherries and heirloom tomatoes as I possibly can. So yeah, I’ve been throwing them into big ol’ salads lately, especially on those really hot days, and it’s awesome. This one’s got some mixed greens, white peaches, toasted pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese with a lime juice and olive oil vinaigrette – simple stuff.

plated

Mmm hmm, that’s some dinner right there.

 

Beer Glazed Citrus Chicken recipe from How Sweet It Is – check her out, she makes some good lookin’ food!

Barley Risotto with Mushrooms (as a side dish, serves 8, at least)

What you need:

2 cups pearl barley (rinsed)

5 – 8 cups of broth (chicken, veg, whatever you like)

1 cup white wine

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 lb mushrooms (I used cremini)

1/2 cup parmesan cheese (freshly grated if possible)

1/4 cup parsley, chopped

What you gotta do:

1. Bring the broth to a boil, then leave it on the minimum heat, covered on the stove to keep warm. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil and add the onion, cooking on medium-low heat until soft (about 10 minutes) and then add the garlic, cooking another minute or so.

2. Stir in the barley and increase to medium heat, cook stirring often for about 5 minutes until the barley is lightly toasted and aromatic. Add the cup of wine and continue to cook, stirring often, until it’s absorbed completely (about 2 minutes).

3. Stir in 3 cups of broth and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until absorbed completely and the bottom of the pan is dry (22 – 25 minutes). Add 2 more cups of broth and continue cooking, stirring occasionally until all of the liquid is absorbed again (18 – 20 minutes). Then continue to cook, adding 1/2 cup of broth at a time and stirring occasionally until it’s completely absorbed, until the barley is cooked through but still a little firm in the center.

4. While the barley is cooking, wash and slice the mushrooms and then, in a large pan add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon and cook them on medium high heat until lightly browned. If any liquid accumulates in the pan, you can drain it off into the barley (more flavor!) and then continue browning.

5. When the risotto is done, turn off the heat and stir in the parmesan cheese, mushrooms and half of the parsley. Add salt and pepper to taste. Use the other half of the chopped parsley on top, to garnish.

 

 

Coconut Curry Lentils

Getting to spring around here feels like a little game of two steps forward, one step back. This week we had the warmest day in the two months I’ve been here (38 degrees – watch out!) followed immediately by one of the largest snowfalls in the two months I’ve been here. As I see pictures go up on various social media sites from friends and family around the world, all of them excited about the first flowers, picnics, and cañas al sol, I can’t help but feel a little left out. Apparently this is the worst winter Canada has experienced in 20-some years. So, I’m just warning you, when it does arrive, I’m probably going to talk about it a lot (not that I don’t already talk about it a lot).

Cold weather requires warm food. Lentils are filling without being heavy so they are perfect for winter (or Canadian spring) when you need some serious food as fuel to stay warm out there. These coconut curry lentils are so savory and comforting, and a little sweet from the winter squash.

Coconut Curry LentilsStart by letting the lentils soak over night, or if you plan to cook at night, you can let them soak during the day while you’re at work. You don’t have to soak legumes, but they cook much faster if you do. Soak them at least 8 hours in the pot you’re going to cook them in, covered by 2 or 3 inches of water. Then drain the water and fill the pot with fresh water, again covered by a couple inches. Then cook for 20 -30 minutes at a very soft simmer, so they don’t break apart, until they are tender.  1 and 1/2 cups dry lentils equals about 4 cups cooked, which will give you minimum 4 servings. I did this in the morning while I was having breakfast and getting ready for work, then I just drained the water and let them cool all day, but you can certainly do this while you make the remainder of the recipe.

Next, prepare the squash. I used one whole acorn squash, but, due to their irregular shape, they are kind of a pain to peel. Butternut squash or any other winter squash you like will work too. Cut, scoop out the innards and peel, then cut it up into 1 inch cubes.

Acorn squash

Then, in a large pan, heat 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté 1/2 of a large onion and 1 clove of garlic, both finely chopped. Add 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of yellow curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.

Spices

Side note: I love these adorable little spice jars!

Once the onion is translucent, add the squash and cook for a few more minutes at a medium-low heat. Then add about 4 cups of fresh spinach. Give it a rough chop first so the pieces aren’t so big. That cooks down really fast, so once it does, add the cooked lentils, 1/2 cup of cashews, 1 whole can of coconut milk + a can-full of water.

Spinach and lentils

And that’s all there is to it. Let that simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated. The consistency should be thick, not brothy. Top it all off with about 1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro. I adore cilantro, but if you don’t feel as strongly about it as I do, leave it out, or substitute basil! That would be equally amazing.

Coconut Curry LentilsIt’s ready to serve right away, but also stores nicely. And now I’ll shamelessly plug my mom’s amazing ceramics! She gave me this bowl last time I was home, said it was a “mistake” and that the glaze somehow slipped off, but I love it! It reminds me of waves. Everything tastes better out of a pretty bowl!

ceramic ocean bowl

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!! I heard Ottawa takes it seriously, so I’m going to get out there and have myself a green beer!

Coconut Curry Lentils – Recipe (Serves 4-6)

  • 1.5 cups dry lentils or 4 cups cooked lentils
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1.5 tablespoons yellow curry
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash) peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup cashews
  • 1 can coconut milk + 1 can full of water or broth
  • 1/2 cup cilantro or basil, chopped

It’s Good to be Back

It’s been almost a year since my last post and I’m thrilled to be back. What could have possibly kept me away from cooking, my most favorite activity? The most intense and stressful year of my life.

I was accepted into an international MBA program through the Institute of Exterior Commerce of Spain so that I could learn what I need to pursue my career goals of working in the import/export of gourmet foods and wine. It’s been an amazing experience, though exhausting, but I was lucky enough to share the journey with some amazing and intelligent people.

So, now I’m back in California, enjoying my newfound freedom from projects, exams and presentations. And with that freedom I’m enjoying the fresh produce that summer brings us. My inspiration for this dish? Heirloom tomatoes, of course!

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Heirloom tomatoes, avocado, mango, beets, grilled corn, goat cheese and pistachios with a lemon, cilantro and extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette. Simple and fresh for a hot summer’s day. And homemade (on the grill) rosemary focaccia.

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ingredientes

focaccia

So, there will definitely be more to come from my summertime home, relaxing on the porch and enjoying California.

porch

flowerI’m heading up north next to enjoy the scenery of the central coast and the bay area. And to drink wine and eat delicious food with friends and family.

It feels good to be back in my wordpress world 🙂

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California Tapas

I’ve been on a blog vacation since I arrived home two weeks ago. This, of course, does not mean that I have not consumed blogworthy foods or that I have not been cooking. On the contrary, my friend! I’ve been enamored yet again by all of the fresh delicious foods available in California. Whole Foods’ produce and cheese sections alone…it’s like heaven. Heirloom tomatoes! They represent summer for me and I think that in two weeks I’ve already consumed 10 pounds of them. I’m told to choose two cheeses because we are having guests over and need an appetizer and I struggle with commitment issues in the cheese section. So, when my parents suggested I make dinner for some friends I got a little ahead of myself and decided that a variety of tapas was the way to go. And this is the story of how I ended up the most full I have been since my uncle in Spain challenged me to eat a one pound steak…

First course: Grilled Pizzas

Three varieties to be exact.

Number 1: Olive tapenade with red onions, finely shaved zucchini, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese.

Number 2: Mushrooms and leeks with brie.

Number 3: Fig jam with figs, mozzarella, and prosciutto.

Trader Joe’s dough – why make your own when you have this (and you know I like to make my own stuff!) – on the grill is just phenomenal. The heat you can’t quite get in the oven, you’ve got on the grill. Plus, fire! It’s pretty simple to do – just stretch the dough on a lightly floured surface, lightly oil the grill, and toss it on there. After about 5 minutes, take it off, flip it and put your toppings on the grilled side. Then put it back on the grill, off of the direct heat, for about 10 minutes. When making three it’s super helpful to have plates with the ingredients all cut and ready to go for each pizza.

Can’t forget the wine! Alban Vineyards: a California Syrah with rich dried fruit flavors.

Alban

Second course: Caprese salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Burrata cheese, and Basil

I’m having a love affair with Burrata. I used to think that fresh mozzarella was the best thing ever…and then I met Burrata. There isn’t much more to say about that. So, heirloom tomatoes, basil, olives, and a balsamic reduction. THE summer salad.

Third course: Gambas al Ajillo (Shrimp with garlic)

This is a typical Spanish tapa. Olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes are heated to cook peeled fresh shrimp. The sauce is as good as the shrimp and this dish must be served family style with some bread to soak up the sauce. An all time favorite in my home and my Dad made this one.

And another bottle of wine, of course! This time from the land I currently call home, Castilla y Leon.

Fourth course: Chicken Satay and Seared Scallops wrapped in Prosciutto

The pictures are getting a little dark as the night progressed. This chicken satay recipe is from foodandwine.com and it’s a winner. It’s super easy and, most importantly, delicious. Shallots, garlic, lemongrass, jalapeño pepper and fresh ginger get ground into a paste in a food processor and then soy sauce, fish sauce, ground coriander, brown sugar, and ground pepper are mixed in until you’re left with a thick paste. Half of it goes to marinading the chicken strips and the other half you cook in a little bit of oil and then add coconut milk and peanut butter to create a thick sauce. Here’s the link to the original recipe: Gingery Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce

I’m getting hungry… These scallops are wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto and seared in a bit of butter with sage leaves. After taking them out of the pan, we deglazed the pan with a couple tablespoons of white wine (the one we were drinking) and poured the sauce over top. Scallops are one of my very favorite creatures from the sea and their natural sweetness goes perfectly with salty prosciutto. The key here is not to overcook them, just a couple minutes on each side on a high flame so you get that beautiful brown sear.

Last, but certainly not least, dessert: Individual Peach Crumble

I had to do something with all the incredible peaches that are around right now. These little dishes got filled with sliced peaches that had been tossed with sugar and  cornstarch. I borrowed these measurements from a recipe for Peach Cobbler.

I baked them just like this for 10 minutes at 425º F (218ºC) and then topped them with a crumble topping. Then they went back into the oven for 15 more minutes until the tops were golden brown.

So delicious. The crumble topping is one I borrowed from my aunt’s apple pie – 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 tbsp ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup cold butter cut into cubes, and 1 cup of sliced almonds. You have to mash the butter into it until the chunks are small and all the ingredients are mixed well and then you sprinkle this topping over the peaches. It all spreads out as it cooks to make a uniform topping.

As the month goes on, I’ll bring you more from the land of sunshine. It feels good to be home! And on vacation!

Pasta Salad with Cilantro Shallot Dressing

It’s hot out. I love it, but it’s true. And when it’s hot, I like to eat food that is not. Pasta salad is one of my favorite meals – sometimes I’ll be eating pasta salad for lunch for like 5 days in a row. So I’ve been looking at a lot of summer salad and pasta recipes online lately and nothing feeds cooking inspiration like an empty fridge, so off to the market I went. And here’s what I came up with: lots of fresh veggies with a cilantro and shallot dressing (which I borrowed from the corn relish from the Calabaza Soup recipe I posted back when a hot soup was an essential part of my diet).

You could totally change/substitute the veggies I’ve used for any you prefer, but this is a good combo that’s readily available in the summa time.

First, mix the dressing so that it has plenty of time to get good flavors going. One shallot, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoon); fresh cilantro, also finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons); 1/4 teaspoon of salt; a pinch of sugar (or a dollop of honey); about 3 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice; and last but not least, about 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Mix all of this together and let it sit while you prepare the salad.

Also, while you prepare the salad you should get a pot of water boiling for the pasta.

Now for the salad. First, cucumber: about 1/2 of a cucumber, peeled and cut into 1cm square cubes.

Then, one avocado.

Then, some cherry tomatoes, quartered.

Next, cheese. I used a fresh cheese that I’m not sure I’ve seen outside of Spain, but it’s very mild and very soft. Maybe a fresh mozzarella would be a good substitute, or even a soft goat cheese. You could even go a creamier route and use ricotta.

And, corn (a small can, well drained). I love corn in salads… It’s a fact.

Next, some arugula. I love the peppery taste arugula gives salads, but you could also use mixed baby greens or baby spinach too. And last but not least, the cooked pasta. This was one cup, uncooked.

Right before you’re ready to eat, toss it with the dressing. I made this for two people, though my proportions got away from me a little bit, so probably 3 people could have eaten this… Anyway, the point is, adjust your proportions of veggies and pasta according to how many people you’re making it for.

Enjoy!