Burns My Bacon: Quinoa, The Boss of Grains

Y’know what I’ve be eating a lot of lately? Quinoa. Y’know what tastes like mini packing pellets regardless of how it’s cooked or how much cheese you throw on top of it? QUINOA!

What the F? Why don’t I get it? Is it possible that over the last six weeks on the seven different occasions that I’ve eaten this crap that somehow I’ve been given bad examples of how it is supposed to be prepared? I’ve had it cold, hot and creamy, mixed in salads and served as side and main dishes, and each time I’m like, “Who really likes this shit?”

Why am I the only one who is out of the loop on this? This reminds me of when all my friends were way into Bruce Springsteen. I could never figure out what they were hearing that I couldn’t pick up in his music. I even recently went to a concert and I remember standing there looking around at everyone going apeshit over “Born in the USA”, and I kept thinking, “What is going on? There’s no chorus. It’s just the same flat tune repeated over and over with different words. Why don’t I get this?”

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Restaurants are Catching Up


Now that I’m sufficiently through with summer vegetables, I’ve been getting really excited for a new season of vegetables. But what really excites me is restaurants that are also embracing the idea. I went to bird watch at a neighborhood pizza place. What caught my attention was the blackboard sign: “$5 slice and draft beer.”

That shit just doesn’t exist in the District. Shit, sometimes you can buy a Miller Lite for as much as $4. Anyway, so a bunch of us went to Radius and all of a sudden my mouth hung open and I oggled the menu.  There was pumpkin ravioli and butternut squash soup and a pizza with kabocha pumpkin puree, ricotta, feta, caramelized mushrooms and red onions. Unfortunately I was too hungover to experiment and just grabbed a large slice of cheese. I just love that everyone from high-end restaurants to the local pizza place endorses the mantra of eating seasonally.

Back to my kitchen.

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Sausage Would be Really Good in This


For years I belonged to the paradigm of not mixing fruits and vegetables. And actually, for most of my life I didn’t know that intersection even existed. I despised green salads with dried cranberries, the first instance of tasting this dangerous mingling. But it was the tiny mandarin orange that changed my mind, documented here on ES:

With the force of BS (and his pro-fruit agenda) behind me, I chose the mandarin orange and cranberry salad over mixed greens rather than the tired Romain. And I can’t lie, it was fabulous. The little bits of mandarin became a pop of flavor, letting the light vinaigrette mingle in the background with the assortment of cucumber slices and carrot shreds. Now I can’t say I’m a total convert, but once in a while I will worship to the alter of fruity salads. (Maybe I Am a Little Fruity, Feb 2008)

But that didn’t mean I actually created this combination in my own kitchen. I won’t automatically dismiss it in public, but in private, that’s something else.

And then I saw this recipe. I have no idea why I liked it. I don’t like fruit in my dinner, especially with the inclusion of cinnamon and cloves, but I went for it. Barely following the original recipe, of course.

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Ginger Loving Care


I know the weekend is near when I get an email from the farmers market director on Friday afternoon. Rebbie Higgins writes about what she’s been eating:

You may feel like you’re up to your armpits in tomatoes (everyone’s a gardener this year!), but it won’t last forever, so enjoy them while you can. Tree and Leaf is already starting to bring their green tomatoes: I fry them in olive oil and serve them on brown rice with a fried egg and salt for comfort food.

Rebbie also highlights the market’s rare gem for that week:

Tree and Leaf grew ginger.  I can’t believe it.  They’re only selling it at the MtP market and it won’t last long.  Combine with butternut squash and the new Quaker Valley Orchard pears, and make a delicious Gingered Squash and Pear Soup.  Top with fried sage and fresh chives.  Sounds like Fall to me!

Ginger! Ginger! Holy crap. I never thought about the beginnings of ginger. How it grows, what it looks like, the climate and soil needed…But oh I’ll buy it (even at $15 per pound.) Young ginger hasn’t grown that pale golden skin yet. The ginger is bright and white, with flecks of hot pink. There were green stems popping out as well. While not edible, they can be added to soups for a ginger flavor. (The woman buying the ginger ahead of me talked about brewing a tea with the ginger stem and pineapple.)

I didn’t have such bold ambitions, but wanted to create something to highlight the fresh ginger.

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Feed Us Back: Comments of the Week


-Everybody has their own spend vs. skimp tips. Amy:

Zucchini – Grate in a food processor and freeze in recipe-sized increments. Great way to use up zucchini.

Guess what? You can save the cash on extra virgin olive oil. The brand Aldi’s carries is excellent: very green, fresh, and olivey. As good as super-expensive brands I’ve had. And it’s like $3.99 a bottle.

Nee Nee:

Bacon – splurge. My market carries some applewood smoked stuff that is fabulous. The strips remain substantial after frying to a crisp, unlike cheap bacon which has ’smoke flavoring’ and are only slightly thicker than paper.

Cous cous – always cheaper in the bulk aisle than the Near East box. As a matter of fact, most whole grains are cheaper in bulk.

Don’t forget to add your own tips!

– Speaking of suggestions, Summer offers a sweet brittle idea:

Ginger brittle?

and that got gansie’s gears going:

almond brittle might be fun broken up in a yogurt with peaches

cashew brittle?
potato chip brittle?
corn brittle?

The first reader who can cook us up a successful batch of potato chip brittle will be automatically inducted into the ES Hall of Fame.

– Finally, OMGYeahYouKnowMe brings state fair food back where it belongs — the political realm:

Whatever MPR’s Curtis Gilbert found out about his cholesterol level, this fair food reminds me of why a public health care option is an absolute necessity – the American cultural archetypes encourage such unhealthful food choices. That being said, I’d rather gnaw on any of this fair food to having some other guy’s finger tip to chew on

(Photo: Captain Cinema)

Spend vs. Skimp

frozen vegetables

As the noted economist and Nobel laureate Steely Dan once said, “Times are hard…you’re afraid to pay the fee.”  While Mr. Dan was not necessarily talking about our current economic downturn, the sentiment remains true.

When it comes to buying food, though, there are times when it makes sense to cut some corners and there are times when you just have to bite the bullet and shell out for quality.  The smart shopper, however, knows the difference. There are some no-brainers out there.  Never buy cheap gourmet ingredients like prosciutto.  These types of purchases don’t come often, and when they do you’re usually happy to lay out some cash.

But what about the staples that form the backbone of your kitchen? How can you get the best bang for your buck without overspending for something that won’t pay off?  Check out the list below for our top three best investments for your shopping dollars and the three items you can nab from the bargain bin.

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The Many Ways of Purslane


The enlarged clover-like leaves, the purple tinged stems, the blaring Omega 3 endorsement. Purslane, a green I’ve yet to hear of, grabbed the five dollars right out of my worn wallet.

When I mentioned to some foodie friends that I bought this mysterious-to-me green, they dismissed it. It was too stemy. It was nothing special. I’m here to promote purslane, and not just because its name reminds me of my favorite accessory.

eggs with purslane

Purslane #1
I quickly cooked the chopped up green in butter, added in halved sungold tomatoes (My very favorite variety this year; as my friend Jeb noted: they’re so sweet it reminds you why a tomato is actually a fruit), shoved them to the side of the pan—added more butter!—and scrambled two farm fresh eggs. When the eggs were almost cooked, I stirred everything together and hit it with salt and pepper.

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