Friday, July 25, 2014

Quinoa + Chickpea Fritters

Crapballs. I've been trying to keep up with this blog, really I have. If any of you follow me on IG, or came here from my last blog, or know me from here (is that a blast from the past, or what?!), you probably know that we've struggled with Cheech's bedtime since, I don't know, BIRTH. After almost two years of scratching our heads, trying to figure out why we had the only kid who could never manage to fall asleep before 8:30 pm, we gave up at succumbed to a 10-10:30 bedtime. This was challenging, but fine and it was manageable for us. In the past couple months, however, her bedtime has slowly been pushed back, and she wan't asleep until around midnight on most nights. This is all just to say that I've become incredibly unproductive as a result and, sadly, the first thing to suffer was this blog. Without getting too into it, we're trying to phase out naps now. She was sound asleep by 7:30 this evening, so if this can continue, I'll definitely be working on this space more often. Fingers crossed!

Anyhoo... Cheech is currently big on chickpeas, and whenever I see that my kid is obsessed with a healthy food, I try my best to add it to as many dishes as I possibly can. She's happy just eating them plain with maybe a little bit of salt sprinkled on, but that can get a little B-O-R-I-N-G for me. After using them in soups and pasta recipes, I wanted to try something new, and I remembered attempting to make gluten-free quinoa fritters for a gluten-free friend of ours a couple years back. The result was a complete failure. Without gluten to hold everything together, the fritters ended up totally falling apart as soon as they hit the hot oil in my pan. 

That experience was such a disaster, that I've spent the last two years steering clear of any type of gluten-free fritter. But then a lightbulb went off in my head. Perhaps the starchiness of a bean could do the trick! Maybe some mashed chickpeas could help bind my fritters. Well, I was wrong. Very, very wrong. I quickly realized that I was going to end up with the same fiasco on my hands, so I resorted to adding some panko to remedy the situation. It all ended up working out, but I need to give these another go because now I'm determined to make them gluten-free.

Don't get me wrong, these fritters were legit. I just wish this problem was a little easier to solve. I considered omitting the egg, but I fear they might end up too dry if I do that. I suppose I could simply consult the world wide web for the best solution, but I'm the kind of person who likes to assemble IKEA furniture without the handy directions included in the box, so I'll let you come to your own conclusions when it comes to my moronic tendencies. On that note, if any of you happen to know how to fix this dilemma, please feel free to share. 

Quinoa + Chickpea Fritters

olive oil
1/2 medium-large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 c. of chopped mushrooms (I used cremini/use whatever you happen to have)
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 large handfuls of baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 c. of cooked quinoa*
2 c. of cooked and drained chickpeas
1/2 c. of grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp. of chopped chives
1 tbsp. of chopped parsley
panko bread crumbs, roughly 1 c.**
salt + pepper
oil for medium-heat frying (I used walnut oil)

*I really like to toast my quinoa before cooking it. This is the absolute best quinoa-cooking tutorial, IMHO.

**Like I mentioned, I added the panko at the end to fix the recipe, so I didn't exactly measure. I'm assuming it was around 1 cup. It could have been a little more, or a little less. Once your mixture is a good consistency for forming patties that hold together, then you're good to go. 

Saute your chopped onion and mushrooms in some olive oil on medium-low heat until they start to caramelize. Add your spinach and garlic, and stir and cook until the spinach is wilted. Take your pan off of the heat, and let it cool. Using a food processor or potato masher (the latter will just take longer), grind your chickpeas into a thick and chunky paste. In a large mixing bowl, combine the quinoa, mashed chickpeas, parmesan, cooled mushroom and spinach mixture, chopped herbs, a generous amount of salt +pepper, and your egg. Bring it all together with your hands, and add the panko to help bind it. Form your mixture into little patties that are a touch smaller than your palm (I was able to get 17 total). Heat your frying oil in a shallow frying pan on medium heat. The oil is ready for frying once the fritters start to sizzle as soon as they hit the pan. Fry until golden, then flip to fry them on the other side. Make sure not to crowd your pan with fritters because it will make them harder to flip (these are delicate little guys). If you feel like they're browning too quickly, just lower your heat. Line them up on paper towels immediately after cooking to drain any excess oil. They're great served with a side salad, or just on their own with a dipping sauce of your choice. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Herbed Burrata with Maple Roasted Mushrooms + Eggplant

I am an impatient person; it is the bane of my existence. I've learned to control it a touch more since becoming a parent, but still, it is a problem that I've dealt with most of my life and will probably continue to deal with until forever. And so every June when it is almost summer but not actually summer, I convince myself that it is most definitely time to start loading our market hauls with summer produce. And every year, without fail, I kick myself for not waiting the few extra weeks it takes for the absolute best tomatoes, stone fruit, eggplant, etc. This year was, of course, no different.

I love eggplant. I mean, I LOOOVE it and I want to marry it. It is the only vegetable I long for year round, and I anxiously await its arrival in the same way a kid anxiously waits for that last bell to ring before the start of summer break. Once its peak comes, I want to put it in just about anything you can imagine. I want to grill it, roast it, toss it with pastas and grains, stack it on crostini, use it in soups, you name it. Although I cherish its versatility, I'm also always taken aback by how perfect it is on its own without any bells or whistles. I don't mean to get all existential on you, but if there is a God, the creation of eggplant, not beer, is proof that he loves us and wants us to be happy. 

Back to my lack of patience. I made this dish a good three weeks ago and although it was overall great, the eggplant was a little lackluster, so I figured I'd hold off a bit before posting it. We brought some Chinese eggplant home this past Monday and it was superb; summer produce has officially arrived. You could really sub any summer veggies in this recipe and end up with splendid results. Make sure to use top-notch burrata, though. I could wax poetic about how burrata should only be eaten in Italy just as lobster should only be eaten in New England, but at this rate I'm getting to New England about 10x more often than I'm getting to Italy, so something's got to give. If you can, try and pick some up from a local cheesemonger or gourmet shop.

Herbed Burrata with Maple Roasted Mushrooms + Eggplant

1 ball of burrata, drained of its storing liquid
1 medium eggplant, cubed
1/2 red or yellow onion, cubed
6-8 cremini mushrooms, quartered 
olive oil
1 tbsp. of maple syrup
1 tbsp. of balsamic vinegar 
1 tsp. each of chopped basil, mint, and parsley
salt + pepper

Preheat your oven to 400. Toss your vegetables with some olive oil, the maple syrup, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper. Line on a pan and roast until caramelized (mine took about 30 minutes). Once cooked, serve in a bowl alongside your burrata. Top the cheese with your chopped herbs, and finish the entire dish with a drizzle of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Serve with some crostini or on its own.