Category Archives: Main Course

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

A Perfect Summer Burger

July 2014

If a foreigner were to lump me into the ultra white, New Balance sneaker class of tourist, I would be offended. If a foreigner were to fault me for putting Bush into office, again, I would take offense. If a foreigner were to assume I eat a lot of cheeseburgers, I might just have to shrug and embrace the truth in his or her assumption.

Julep and the Burger

Thus, when the 4th of July rolled around, and my dear friend with a hospitable deck suggested sushi, I humbly objected. Burgers; burgers are American. In the end, I do believe everyone thanked me for it (not to toot my own horn; just to encourage you should you be feeling bullied into sushi).

Mega Burger

What a perfect burger it was: grilled, grass-fed, organic, hand-formed patties, with cheddar, avocado, egg, greens and a toasted bun. Knowing this burger would be the star of the BBQ gathering, I prepared an equally impressive dessert. More on that to come!

Single-Grain

Patriotically yours,
Quelcy

A Pizza Pie for Pi(e) Day

March 14, 2014

Depending on your level of cynicism (here’s looking at yours, Will C.), today is either a day for nerds to enjoy being punny or a day for pun lovers to pretend to be math nerds. Why?

Salad and Pizza

March 14 = 3/14
Pi= 3.14
Pi sounds like Pie and voila! National Pi Day is born [an excuse to eat pie, make pi references and test your ability to recall the endless digits beyond the 4].

Fennel Craisin Salad

Since I like to eat a salad with my pizza, might I suggest:
Spinach, Fennel, Feta, Cranberry & Chia Seeds with Homemade Dijon Vinaigrette

I fall somewhere between nerd and pun lover, but I’m definitely a theme enthusiast, which might explain my exuberant devotion to Pi(e) Day.

Salmon Pesto Pizza

In honor of today, I bring you a super simple method for an individual pizza using one of my favorite flavor combinations. I love sharing a more official version of this pizza with friends and watching their faces savor what’s in their mouths. Then we all ask ourselves, “why isn’t this on pizza menus everywhere?!?”

One Slice

My Favorite Pizza

Whole-wheat pita or a pizza crust
Pesto
Goat Cheese
Smoked Salmon
Black Olives
Capers
Parmesan or Pecorino Cheese, grated
Fresh basil when it’s in season

Arrange the ingredients to your liking. If you’re making the quick pita style, heat it in the toaster oven for an easy, delicious lunch. If you’re making a pizza crust, prepare the crust according to instructions and then bake in the oven at 425 degrees until the goat cheese is melted and softened and crust is warm, about 10-15 minutes.

Single-Grain

Happy Pi(e) Day!
-Quelcy