Category Archives: Main Course

Creamy Coconut & Roasted Beet Soup

March 2015

Being that anything dog related attracts me like shiny objects attract cats, I recently watched a special on dogs trained for advanced military assignments. These dogs were fearless, fiercely concentrated and lovingly loyal. The premier trainer expounded the power of a dog’s sense of smell. I shall paraphrase:

We laymen understand a canine nose to be a powerful sniffer, but what we don’t understand is how precise their noses are. It’s not just (and yes, this is a dog talking), “I smell stew cooking from across the house.” It’s “I smell stew cooking from across the house, and that stew contains celery, ribeye, herbs de provence, garlic, broth, dried mustard, etc.” This insight really propelled my imagination.

Beet Soup by With The Grains

If dogs could speak, imagine the pretentious foodie shaming that would ensue. Assuming talking dogs would be welcomed in fine restaurants, a dog could sit next to a known, pretentious foodie. Both would order a beautifully colored, beet soup. Blended, this beautiful beet soup’s ingredients would largely be a mystery. The foodie and the dog would both begin to eat, one with the appropriate, golden soup spoon, the other with an entire muzzle in the porcelain bowl. The foodie would rattle on and on, just loving the sound of his own voice and astute ingredient observations.

Beet Soup by With The Grains

The friendly dog, with the beet stains forming on his fur, would say, “yes, I particularly like the blending of coconut oil, caramelized onion, garlic, sweet potatoes and parsnips.”

“Oh yes, me too,” the deflated foodie would scramble to reply.

“What’s really tasty is the chicken flavor from the stock, as well as the stock’s celery accent.”

“Yes, I was going to say the same,” the foodie would boast transparently.

The dog would continue to parse each blended and masked ingredient, while the foodie would name drop other restaurants to change the subject. The dog would proceed to put his muzzle in the glass of sparkling water to drink, bite off the fine linen from his neck, then make his way to the dog park. At the park, this esteemed palate would sniff other dogs’ butts, and if feeling peckish after such a light lunch, possibly graze on some dog shit. Oh what a giant touché this would be to our food snobbery.

Beet Soup by With The Grains 01

For the time being, we food snobs are safe. Our canine companions cannot yet shame us with their superior sense of smell. The only shaming are those big puppy eyes that stare at everyone around the dining room table, waiting for a bit of beet soup to hit the floor. Now that I have lured you with thoughts of dog butts and dog shit, let’s make some soup!

Single-Grain

Happy Imagining!
-Quelcy

Creamy Coconut & Roasted Beet Soup with Pistachios & Greek Yogurt

About This Recipe: Warm yet bright and colorful, this is the perfect soup transition from winter to spring. Thick and creamy, I even recommend spreading some on a thick, rusty bread for a unique sandwich. To make this soup, you’ll need either an immersion blender, food processor or regular blender. The texture of the soup is up to you. I’m a big fan of ginger, so this recipe calls for a sizable chunk. Adjust according to your fancy. Substitute a vegetable stock in the base and coconut cream for the garnish to make this vegan.

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A Plentiful Pot of Roasted Tomato & Root Vegetable Soup

March 2015

A plentiful pot of soup is like a return to your childhood home after many months or years away. Every ingredient, like every quilt, stuffed animal or lingering teen heart-throb poster, tells a story and stirs nostalgia. This soup stirred a few tales.

Red Pepper Soup by With The Grains

First, there were friends gathered around our dining room table. The Urban Farmer and I shared our roasted chicken, vegetables, and hearty bread. They shared their heartwarming tales of transforming travels in Peru. That chicken became stock, and that stock became a base for this soup.

There was a long photoshoot. It began with meticulously styled, petite portions of chopped vegetables. It ended with a back seat and a trunk FULL of produce. Those excesses became a warm oven of slow roasting tomatoes, a house that smelled of Italy, and finally, a robust red sauce. That red sauce stirred the cravings for comforting tomato soup.

There was a Valentine’s Day break from reclusive hibernation and a bundled excursion to the butcher shop. The return adventure was a blinding blanket of white, a determined dog with a backpack full of bacon, and a very chilling walk on quiet, empty streets. Two honey-cardamom lattes and a chess game later, we were warm enough to think clearly. That bacon belonged in our soup!

Those tales simmered, bubbled and blended into something new.

Red Pepper Soup by With The Grains

With one hand on the old, familiar doorknob and the other hovering near the light switch, you hesitate. You breathe in the familiar smell. You hear the distant laughter, complaints and squabbles. You see the homework struggles, the sleepovers, the trophies and toys. Once back in the present moment, your hovering hand flips the light switch, pulls the door knob and closes the door on that childhood chapter. Similarly, each ingredient’s tale hovered, but new moments emerged as well, ready to be recalled with the next bowl of piping hot soup. This is why I slow cook.

Single-Grain

Go Stir Some Stories!
-Quelcy

Roasted Tomato & Vegetable Soup

About This Recipe: From the homemade stock to the slow roasted tomato sauce, this soup is a journey and a labor for the love of cooking. The result is a hearty vegetable soup that takes advantage of winter’s lingering root vegetables and warms the last chill in the air. Use whatever lingering root vegetables you have. Use a vegetable stock and skip the bacon if you want to avoid meat. Substitute a favorite pasta sauce instead of making your own. Be creative, experiment, and enjoy!

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Fried Chicken & Butternut Squash Spelt Waffles for Brunch

February 2015

I had a lot on my proverbial plate, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach. The heaps grew, but the flavor diminished. Beautiful foods were pushed aside to cram more and more varieties. Strong flavors weakened as the dishes mixed. My favorites were buried under others’ preferences, and my craved flavors were nearly lost completely. Tried and true dishes were just off– rushed, undercooked, and full of excuses. I didn’t need anything else added to this metaphoric plate.

What I needed was a cold hard assessment.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-01

January, full of New Year’s resolutions and birthday reflections brought just that- a very snowy and cold reassessment. I realized there comes a point when too much is just too much. When I snap at my dog who just wants to play, too much is too much. When my posture sinks with sadness, too much is too much. When I barely see friends, too much is too much. When my dining room table sees more laptops and paper piles than brunches and guests, too much is too much, so I made some changes, big changes (more on those to come).

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-04

I cleared that proverbial plate. I looked at the menu with new eyes. What’s important to me? What invigorates me? What makes me feel passionate and yields my best work? This space, my own little corner of the blogosphere (thanks for joining me here!), the Urban Farmer, my not-so-little little one, sharing meals, feeding people…all these priorities emerged through the old, mucky heaps, with all the intentional, beautiful drizzles and garnishes of a styled plate at a fancy restaurant.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-02

The natural thing to do after a cold, hard reassessment is a warm, celebratory brunch with good friends, so as my proverbial plate cleared, my very real plate FILLED in the best possible way- with Spelt Waffles, Quinoa Crusted Fried Chicken, Local Grits with Maple Roasted Root Veggies & Sage, drizzles of pure maple syrup, and a few mugs of a hot coffee.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-03

Fried Chicken & Waffles is a mouth-watering combination, but it’s a combination I often pass because of chicken sourcing, frying oils, and a general lack of ingredient care. This brunch, however, celebrated this classic combination with love, care and collaboration.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-09

I wish I could share the recipe for the fried chicken with you, but it was my friend Chris’s doing, and like many a talented cook, his kitchen process is fluid and off-the-cuff. I can give you a few hints. He started with organic, pasture-raised chicken. One of our friends is gluten free, which makes traditional breading problematic. We couldn’t flaunt fried chicken in front of her. That would just be cruel, so Chris used a Quinoa chip as a crust. Additionally, I lent Chris my bottle of organic, non-GMO Safflower oil for a guiltless fry, and the chicken had a stint in the oven for real juiciness. It was a gluten-free gamble, since he puts a lot of pride and practice in his cooking, but it was a crispy win- a win I wish I were still eating!

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-08

The grits were another ad-libbed process. I boiled the local grits from the Urban Farmer’s CSA, and as they thickened, I added bright, golden Irish butter, pure maple syrup and maple roasted sweet potatoes and crispy sage. It was a hit- a hit without measurements or recorded times, so I recommend some grit experimenting of your own.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-05

I also recommend sharing your brunch with pups for extra enjoyment. Meet Runo. No, I have not added another little companion to our family though he did trigger the part of the brain that results in hours on petfinder.com. I’m exercising [some] discipline and resistance and trying simply to relish four-legged brunch guests whenever possible.

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-07

Chicken and Waffle Brunch by With The Grains-06

The one element of this brunch I can share accurately? The waffles! Mixed by yours truly, and flipped by my handsome fella, I recommend you add this recipe to a warm, celebratory brunch of your own! I you happen to have a gluten-free guest in your midst, I recommend this mix from Bob’s Redmill because as much as I love my grains, I’d hate to watch a friend skip waffles.

Single-Grain

Happy Brunching!
-Quelcy

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Heirloom Whole Wheat Pumpkin Gnocchi with Browned Sage Butter, Cranberries, Pecans & Goat Cheese

October 2014

I had a roommate who lived off gnocchi alone, well almost anyways. She was the first person to introduce this foreign pasta pillow to me. Based on her description, I held these doughy nubbins on a pedestal of complication, thinking they contained a filling much like ravioli. How could one roll such a small encasement? It seemed impossible! When I finally ate one, I learned she was far better at architecture than she was at food descriptions. However, in some part of my brain, I maintained the idea gnocchi making would be laborious.

Pumpkin Gnocchi

Then I went to a farm dinner, and I watched several chefs roll out dough at their makeshift prep table. Granted, that prep table surely cost more than most of my kitchen accoutrements combined, but still. There they were, far from their commercial kitchen comforts, pumping out dough pillows, and making it look approachable.

Pumpkin Gnocchi and wine

At long last, I made the gnocchi leap for myself, and much like making mayo for the first time, I now question why I waited so long. These little pillows are so, so, so easy, and the ROI, if you will business jargon friends, is high!

Gnocchi Bowl

This bowl of pumpkin gnocchi exudes fall’s traditional flavors. I used a real pumpkin à la the Urban Farmer’s harvest and a special grainy gift from a friend- Heirloom Sonora Variety Whole Wheat Flour grown in Pescadero, California. However, if you don’t have farmers and wandering, wheat-gathering friends, feel free to use an organic canned pumpkin and an organic whole-wheat pastry flour. Be creative with your toppings too. This is not a recipe of the precise persuasion.

Let your autumn cravings be your guide!

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The Makings of a Banh Mi

September 2014

Let’s talk Wikipedia food history for a moment:

Bánh Mì, a combination of the Vietnamese words for bread/cake and wheat respectively, is a term used to describe bread. Most commonly the phrase refers to the baguette style bread introduced by the Frenchies during their “vacances” there, ie: colonialism. The term, my fellow word nerds, is often metonymically used to describe the sandwiches commonly found in Vietnamese bakeries (or if you live in Pittsburgh, commonly found outside one of the finer drinking establishments).

The Makings of a Banh Mi

Typical Bánh MÌ fillings include steamed, pan-roasted or oven-roasted seasoned pork belly, Vietnamese sausage, spreadable pork liver pâté, chicken, head cheese, fried eggs, and tofu. In short, good things! Given my new obsession with the many Carrot Daikon Slaw possibilities and my indifference for historical accuracy, I took the liberty of combining some key Bánh MÌ elements with some new twists to make one very memorable sandwich.

The Makings of a Bánh MÌ à la With The Grains

Soy & Gyoza Roasted Salmon
Baguette
Homemade Mayo
Havarti Dill Cheese
All Natural Hot Sauce
Jalapeño Peppers
Cucumber Slices
Avocado
Carrot & Daikon Slaw
Fresh Cilantro

Stack ’em up every which way and however you please, but if I may, a few recommendations:

Mix the hot sauce and the mayo into one zinger of a creamy sauce (then commence using it on everything from oven baked fries to burgers). Then slather the combo on the baguette, followed by mashed avocado. The mashed avocado will be easier to bite, since this sandwich will not lack for height or messy bites.

Be careful with those jalapeño seeds! They’ll knock the wind out of you, make your heart jump a bit and fill your eyes with tears- like all the stages of a tumultuous love affair in one bite!

Now that you’re full on sandwich, imagine all the other Bánh MÌ inspired wonders you can make, like this hot dog par example.

Single-Grain

Go Forth & Bánh MÌ!
-Quelcy

Simple Soy & Gyoza Roasted Salmon

September 2014

You can relate to this scenario:

You unwrap a rectangular present, and “SURPRISE,” it’s a book! It’s not a book you’ve been dying to have, nor is the cover particularly compelling, but it’s a book that vaguely pertains to your interests and will add enough value to your life should you one day skim it. In short, it’s worth having in your repertoire. You toss aside the lingering wrapping paper and flip through the pages to feign how grateful and interested you are, and then…actual surprise…a gift card slips from chapter 12! It’s a gift card to the new restaurant you’ve been dying to try, and now that rather formulaic book makes waaaay more sense.

Roasted Salmon

Let’s just say this roasted fish is the book, and the gift card will follow in a subsequent post, so stay tuned! I won’t keep you waiting too long. I promise.

Soy & Gyoza Roasted Salmon

Ingredients

2 (~5-oz) pieces of salmon fillet with skin
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil plus additional for drizzling
Soy Sauce
Gyoza Dipping Sauce (or a similar ginger sauce)

Directions

Place the salmon in a bowl or pan. Rub salmon all over with 1 teaspoon oil and season with salt and pepper. Cover in soy sauce and Gyoza sauce. Set aside for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, preheat oven to 425°F.

Line a cast-iron skillet with parchment paper that is double the diameter of the skillet, letting the excess hang over one side only. Transfer the salmon to a parchment-lined skillet, skin side down.

Pour the remaining marinade over the salmon, and fold the excess parchment over the salmon and twist it with the other edge, so the parchment forms a tent around the salmon.

Roast until fish is just cooked through, about 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate to serve. Discard skin when eating.

Single-Grain

Bon Appétit!
-Quelcy

A Garden Hot Dog & Dessert Party

September 2014

Often mocked for its mysterious components, the hot dog is an institution even I can’t deny. Mind you, the idea of leathery dogs rolling repeatedly on a lamp-heated conveyor makes me sincrely nauseous (ie: on the verge of dry-heaving while typing), but the idea of a quality link, grilled to perfection, is garden party worthy! Thus, some good friends and I gathered in the Floral King’s garden on a summer night to celebrate the good ol’ hot dog in new ways.

Hot Dog Party Table

Watermelon Salad

Friends arrived with plenty of wine, and we put them to work adding the finishing touches to the apps and sides! Bess added mint from Thommy’s garden to this watermelon, black olive and feta salad. Don’t skimp on olive quality here- good olives make all the difference! Meanwhile, other willing workers prepared the prosciutto-wrapped, melon skewers destined for the grill.

Prosciutto and melon

Thommy (ie: The Floral King) picked fresh herbs and hibiscus from his garden, which we mixed with various wines, vinegars, peaches and strawberries. We left the fruit to marinade while we ate, and after the hotdog feast, we grilled the fruit in the garden-inspired marinades.

Hibiscus

Bess

Hotdogs

The key to a good hotdog party? In our book, the crucial elements are quality meats (sans weird, unpronounceable preservatives and the like) and corn-syrup-free buns. Yours truly might have forced a grainier bun, but I was willing to respect certain traditions. Being the controlling curators we are though, we divided the table into three hot dog flavor profiles. Being the drama queens/kweens we are, we theatrically demonstrated the assembly of each style:

The Picnic

The Picnic Dog
A Thommy Conroy creation

Potato Salad
Salt

(I like to make my potato salad with Greek Yogurt, but the Floral King insists the classic store-bought potato salad is the key to this combo)

Banh Mi Fixins

Bánh mì (3)

The Bánh Mì Dog

Sriracha + Mayo (organic versions of both preferably)
Cucumber Slices
Daikon Carrot Slaw (Recipe coming soon)
Jalapeño Pepper Slices
Cilantro
Ginger Sauce or the Asian Condiment of your choice (ex: Hoisin)

Assembly and Decor

The Garden

The Garden Dog

Blue Cheese
Garden Fresh Tomato
Garden Fresh Arugula
(hot dog link not shown but definitely included)

Dessert

Hot dogs and a fancy, excessive dessert spread go hand-in-hand in this garden world. Layers of almond, vanilla cake paired deliciously with the varieties of stewed fruits, homemade whipped cream and a special frozen coffee dessert (recipe coming soon).

Flower Reflection

Another round of Romanian wine finished the night (check out those floral reflections! That bottle looks like a magical place for bees!)!

Though fall and pumpkin flavors will quickly be upon us, I hope you have the chance to sneak in a hot dog party of your own, maybe even over a campfire!

Single-Grain

Happy Hot Dogging!
-Quelcy