Summer Squash and Lentil Stew

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Fall is my favorite season! The change of hue in leaves and the blue of the sky, the nip in the air, warm ciders, the festive feel around. With the chill also comes cravings for fresh warm food. My menu is usually dominated by parathas, stews and soups. Farmers market at this time of the year is all about squashes, pears, apples and cauliflower, so is most of the food I cook.

Fall is also the busiest time of the year for my artist career, prepping for the holiday season and my goal with cooking is to make wholesome quick meals. This is just that.

I used summer squash, you can get creative and use other vegetables too. This recipe calls for shallots, simply because I like how they punch in a lot of flavor and integrate easily and cherry tomatoes for the sweetness. You can use 1 regular onion and 1 regular sized tomato instead. The wine and vinegar is optional. The wine add a sweet fruity flavor and the vinegar a sourness that I like, but if you don’t have it handy don’t let that stop you from trying this, a pinch of sugar and some lemon juice will also work great!

I cooked the Lentil and Squash separately because the cooking time of the two is different. If you cook them together, all the squash will become mushy and pasty.

This goes great with Baguettes, rice, pulao or Quinoa Cakes.

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Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 35 mins     Yield: 4-6 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or any cooking oil you prefer)
  • 3-4 shallots, finely diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup sherry (optional)
  • 2 cups french green lentils, rinsed and soaked for 30 mins
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (optional)
  • 2 cups summer squash, chopped
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 6-7 basil leaves, rolled into a bundle and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Process:

  1. Cooking the Lentil:
    1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, 1 tsp cayenne and salt.
    2. Sauté until softened, about 3-4 mins. Add the wine and sauté till the onions begin to caramelize, around 4-5 mins more.
    3. Add the lentils, green peas and chopped carrots, stir them in and sauté for 2-3 mins.
    4. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender. Around 20 mins.
  2. Cooking the squash:
    1. While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, summer squash, 1 tsp cayenne and salt. Cook till tender.
  3. Once the lentils are cooked add the sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  4. Putting it together:
    1. Add the cooked summer squash to the lentil and start it in (Or)
    2. In a bowl fist ladle in the lentil, then top it with the squash.
  5. Garnish with basil leaves.
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Quinoa Cakes

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Quinoa has been a staple grain in south america for centuries. But in recent times it has become increasingly popular around the world with its nutty flavor and high nutritional value. This is one of my favorite ways to cook quinoa and perfect for fall evenings when there is a little bit of chill in the air and all you want to eat is something warm and something snacky or as husband likes to say ‘Chakna’.

I have served this at brunches, as appetizers and as part of the main course. And its been a hit all around. In this instance I used a boiled potato to bind the quinoa dough but you can also use eggs (2 eggs lightly beaten), see notes for instructions.

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 30 mins     Yield: ~8 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tsp cumin, roasted and ground
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3-4 fresh green chili, finely chopped
  • 1 medium sized potato, boiled and mashed.
  • Oil

Process:

  1. Cooking the Quinoa:
    1. Rinse the quinoa first always, this helps wash away the bitter coating. Make sure to use a fine mesh strainer.
    2. Heat a sauce pan, melt 1/2 tbsp of butter, add the quinoa and sauté for a couple mins. This really brings out a slight nutty flavor.
    3. Add salt and 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper, 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10- 15 mins in low heat or till all of the water is absorbed by the quinoa.
    4. Turn of the heat and let it sit for 5-10 mins to let it cool down.
  2. Making the Cake Dough:
    1. Heat a griddle, dry roast 2 tsp of cumin, until you smell the aroma. Transfer to a work surface and using a rolling pin roll over and roughly crush the roasted cumin.
    2. Combine the cooled quinoa, salt, cayenne, roasted  and ground cumin, cilantro, fresh green chili and the mashed potato.
    3. You should have a slightly moist dough.
  3. Cooking the Quinoa Cake:
    1. Heat a skillet or griddle pan, lightly oil it. Take around 1/4 cup of the quinoa mixture and form into a ball.
    2. Flatten it into a pancake around 1/4 inch thick.
    3. Place on hot griddle and cook, flip and cook until golden brown on both sides . Takes around 5 mins.
    4. Remove from pan and serve warm.

Notes:

  • I used potatoes here as a binding agent for the quinoa and that made it easy to shape the cakes with hand.
  • You can also use eggs (2 eggs lightly beaten) instead of the potato. In that case you will have a slightly wet mixture. So take around 1/4 cup and make it into a ball. Place it on the greased hot skillet and using a spatula flatten it into a pancake about 1/4 inch thick.
  • This is a vegetarian version, but I have made this by adding chopped cooked shrimp to the quinoa mixture to indulge by seafood cravings.
  • You can also add chopped carrots, grated beet roots etc..,. to the mixture. Have fun experimenting!

Fried Quinoa

Nasi Goreng, Chaufa, Khao Pad, Sinangag, Buteko bhaath, Htamin Gyaw, Arroz Fritto… all different names and variations of the most cooked dish in the world, Fried Rice. While the dish originates from China, it has become popular across the world for its versatility and ease of cooking. A classic way of whipping something delicious from left over rice and in my case all those half used vegetables sitting in the fridge.

Like every household in the world, fried rice is a favorite in our household too and is a regular on our dinner table. But every now and then I feel it’s time for some clean eating, so I make a simple swap – high protein quinoa instead of the carb heavy rice.

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I love fried rice and fried quinoa with loads and loads of vegetables cooked just enough so that it doesn’t feel raw but still remain crunchy. This does a few things – (a) adds a whole lot of color to the dish making it look so pretty when served, (b) the flavor they add to the dish, (c) the texture of crunchy vegetables with soft quinoa (or rice) and (d) then there is also the thing called nutrition.

I get my vegetables from the local farmers market and mostly cook with fresh produce but on occasions after long (12-16 hour) workdays I have reached inside my freezer and cooked this with frozen vegetables as well. It tastes just as good, just lacks crunchiness.

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Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 15 mins     Yield: 4-5 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups quinoa, uncooked.
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup orange bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 onion, thick slices
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/4 cup cauliflower, chopped
  • 1/2 cup scallions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp black pepper, ground
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped

Process: 

  1. Cooking the Quinoa:
    1. Rinse the quinoa first always, this helps wash away the bitter coating. Make sure to use a fine mesh strainer.
    2. Heat a sauce pan, melt 1/2 tbsp of butter, add the quinoa and sauté for a couple mins. This really brings out a slight nutty flavor.
    3. Add salt and 1/2 tbsp ground black pepper, 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 10- 15 mins in low heat or till all of the water is absorbed by the quinoa.
    4. Turn of the heat and let it sit for 5-10 mins before fluffing it with a fork.
  2. Cooking the Vegetables:
    1. Heat oil in a wok, add the vegetables (except scallions), ginger and sauté in high heat for 4-5 mins, just so that the rawness goes but they still retain the crunchiness.
  3. Add the cooked quinoa, chopped scallions and the remaining butter, stir it in and cook for another minute or so.
  4. Pour the soy sauce, around the edges of the wok and gently fold it in.
  5. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro and serve.

Notes:

  • Cook the Quinoa like how you would cook Risotto. Add some chopped garlic and onions to some butter along with (rinsed and drained) quinoa. Mix and coat with oil and dry roast for a few mins before adding the liquid little at a time, stirring every batch of liquid, until its cooked through.
  • You can also use Broth to cook quinoa for extra flavor.
  • Spread cooked quinoa in a baking sheet and chill it in the refrigerator for 15-20 mins. This takes care of any residual moisture and gives the dish a more fried texture. The same holds true if you are using rice as well.