WARM QUINOA SALAD

Ooooh – you’re in for such a treat with this superb winter salad. Last week I was lucky enough to eat at Fig restaurant, which is located at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica. I was very excited as I’d heard chef, Ray Garcia, doesn’t just pay lip service to “Sustainable” cuisine, but he actually lives and breathes it. You’ll find him wondering around the local farmer’s markets, purchasing only what is fresh and seasonal to cook up into some of the most exquisite dishes I’ve tasted in years.

I was given a little bag of red quinoa and a recipe on leaving the restaurant and decided to give it a go this weekend. The result was utterly delish – and here it is. I have taken a few liberties and customized it according to what I could find at my farmer’s market.

3 1/2 ounces quinoa (red quinoa if possible)

1 1/2 cups of veggie stock

1 sprig rosemary

1tbsp olive oil

1 small bunch of broccolini (or broccoli florets), chopped into bite sized pieces

1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and cubed

2 ounces swiss chard, stalks and veins removed, roughly chopped

2 ounces butternut squash, cubed

1 ounce slivered almonds

 

Dressing:

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup raw honey

1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar

1cup olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

 

Reduce the orange juice down to 1/2 cup by simmering in a pan, and then chill. When cool, mix with other dressing ingredients and set aside.

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F and roast butternut squash sprinkled with a little olive oil until it’s tender (about 20 minutes.)

Cook quinoa in the stock, adding the rosemary. When cooked, drain and toss in a little olive oil.

Saute apple, Swiss Chard and blanched broccolini (to blanch, simply add to pan of boiling water for 1 minute).

Mix roasted and sauteed veggies with quinoa and dress with a little of the dressing. Careful not to overdress the salad, you’ll have a lot of dressing over, which you can keep in a jar for later.

Sprinkle with almond flakes.

 

HOLIDAY STUFFED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

I’ve been cooking up all kinds of Seasonal veggie entrees for my family for the past two weeks, and their favorite is this stuffed butternut squash, which I think makes a perfect vegan Holiday Meal. If you’re not veggie and having turkey, it also makes for a lovely post-turkey (when you’re sick of the sight of it,) supper.

You can use any kind of squash, but Butternut is my favorite for this one.

Serves 2

1 medium Butternut squash, halved & de-seeded

1/2 cup quinoa

1/2 cup fresh cranberries

2tbsp grapeseed, canola or olive oil

1 small onion, minced

2 shallots, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)

1 cup brown mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/2 cup walnut peices

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1tsp agave nectar

1/2 cup of chopped fresh flat-leaved parsley

 

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F

Rub the cut side of the squash with a little oil to prevent sticking and place them flesh-side down on a greased baking sheet. I used recycled aluminum foil to avoid too much mess. Place them in the oven for about 30 -40 minutes or until they are tender when a knife is inserted. I would check them after 30 minutes because they might be ready – in my experience, over-baking them isn’t great as the whole thing can collapse and isn’t as pretty when serving.

Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile cook the quinoa according to the package directions. If you don’t have package directions (you can buy your quinoa in the bulk bins,) you’ll need to boil 1 1/4 cups of water, add the quinoa, and simmer on a low heat with the lid on, until all the water is absorbed.

For the last 5 minutes of cooking time for the quinoa (usually takes about 15 minutes total) – so after 10 minutes, add the cranberries. When cooked, fluff up with fork and set aside to cool.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and fry the onions, shallots, and garlic on a medium heat until they are just about to brown – keep stirring all the time, as you don’t want the garlic to burn. Add the mushrooms and fry for a further 3-4 minutes. Stir in the walnuts thyme, agave, salt and pepper and fry for a further minute or so. Remove from the heat.

Scoop most of the flesh out of the butternut nut squash, making sure the skins stay well intact and place it in a large bowl.

Add the quinoa & cranberries and gently fold into the soft squash. The key here is not to mix, but to gently combine, because you don’t want the whole thing turning into a mush.

Add the onion/mushroom mixture and again, gently combine. Finally mix in the parsley.

Spoon the mixture into the shells and place them on a baking sheet, and cover each one with a piece of foil. ¬†Place in a medium oven (350 degrees) for 20 – 30 minutes. You can easily prepare this whole thing the day before and chill overnight. If so, you’ll need 30 minutes to heat it up, however, if you are cooking it while the ingredients are still warm, you’ll probably only need to bake for 20 minutes.

A nice finishing touch would be to sprinkle the top with Parmesan cheese (for non-vegans), and whole wheat bread crumbs for vegans. If you decide to go for topping, remove the foil for the last 10 minutes of baking.

 

 

 

 

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE WITH WINTER SQUASH

This is hand’s down the best Mac & Cheese I’ve ever made – it’s rich, comfort food at its absolute best. I wanted to use up some beautiful little squashes that I got in my farm box last week, and also a packet of Serrano Ham that my mom smuggled in from England.

I made huge batch so I could freeze half of it ¬†- it’s the perfect cozy dish to offer guests who have just flown in for the holidays. At this time of year I start stockpiling one-pot dinners that I can pull out when we get back from all events that are scattered over the Holiday season.

I will warn you that I didn’t skimp on the fat in this dish, but honestly, if you want to knock the socks off your family and friends, you really need to include all the rich ingredients – not a vegan-friendly dish! If you are vegetarian, just skip the ham and it’ll still be outstanding.

GOURMET MAC & CHEESE

Serves 8 or split into 2 serving dishes for 4 people

1 small butternut squash or 3 small squashes (you want to end up with about 2 cups of peeled, cubed and de-seeded squash). If you’re using Butternut you’ll have to peel, but I didn’t bother with my little yellow squashes. If you have the choice – go with Butternut, as it’s creamier.

Grated zest of 1 lemon and juice of 1/2 the lemon

2oz butter

2oz all-purpose flour

1tbsp dijon mustard

1tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

4 cups whole milk

8oz Mascarpone

Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

1 16oz package whole wheat macaroni

6oz gruyere cheese, grated (save some for topping)

10 slices Serrano or Prosciutto ham (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F

Spread the squash on a baking sheet and drizzle with the oil. Massage the oil well into each cube. Season, sprinkle with the lemon zest,

and place on the top rack for 25 minutes or until tender when a knife is inserted. Remove from oven and set aside.

Turn down your oven to 350 degrees F

Heat the butter in a large, heavy saucepan and add the flour. Mix and allow the mixture to bubble. Add the mustard, milk, mascarpone and simmer for 8 minutes, stirring all the time. Add the mustard, lemon juice and most of the cheese (keep a couple of handfuls back for topping.)

Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to the boil. Cook the macaroni according to package directions until al dente, drain and place in a large mixing bow.

Add the white sauce, the roasted squash and finally tear the ham into little pieces and fold in.

Spoon into a large (or two) baking dish, and place in the over for 25 minutes or until bubbling and crispy on top.

 

 

2 tbsp olive oil

Salt & Pepper