Fall Quinoa with Sweet Potato, Walnuts, and Raisins

This is a straightforward quinoa recipe that’s great for fall.  Everything about this dish exudes warmth and earthiness: rich walnuts and sweet potato are complemented by deep spices like cumin and cinnamon.  I originally wrote this recipe for The Daily Meal so the serving size is for 2.  However, you can easily reduce the portion to make it for one, or just make extra and save it for several days in the fridge.

I think this would go very well with a crisp, dry riesling from such as Dashe’s 2007 McFadden Farms Dry Riesling  from California ($20) or Hazlitt Vineyard’s 2006 Riesling from New York ($18).

Bon appétit!

Fall Quinoa with Sweet Potato, Walnuts, and Raisins – Makes 2 Servings
1 large sweet potato
1/2-teaspon ground cumin
1/4-teaspoon cayenne
1/2-teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2-cup quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1/4-cup roughly chopped walnuts (about 1 large handful)
1/4-cup raisins that have been soaked in boiling water for 10 minutes1.  Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
2. Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes. Place on a lined baking tray and toss with cumin, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, olive oil, and a pinch of salt.
3.  Roast sweet potatoes until cubes are softened, about 12-14 minutes, tossing once halfway through cooking time.
4. Place quinoa and broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and cook until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.  Fluffen with a fork.
5.  Meanwhile heat a small skillet over medium heat.  Add walnuts and toast, tossing occasionally, until golden, about 2-3 minutes.
6.  In a bowl combine quinoa, sweet potatoes, walnuts, and raisins.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts

I don’t know exactly how or when it started, but I believe any of the food lovers in Paris can attest to the fact that there is an onslaught of Mexican restaurant openings currently taking place in France’s capital, from the Mexican diner/trendy cocktail bar combo to the upcoming opening of Chipotle in the 9th arrondissement.  Please don’t interpret this statement as a complaint:  spicy food and pulled pork are two things I miss the most in Paris and which I am more than happy to reintroduce to my diet on a regular basis.  I have to admit that I get a guilty pleasure every time I step into one of these establishments (the majority of which are run or co-run by Americans) only to find fellow expats reveling in the glory of freshly made soft-shell tacos, endless guacamole and the ultimate food accompaniments utterly lacking in French food: hot sauce, spicy sauce, and hot peppers.  One look at each other and no words need to be spoken to establish what we’re thinking - living this far away from good Mexican food has been hard on us all, and we’re only too happy to find it again.

Maybe this recent craze over Mexican food is why I was keen on making this salsa-cum-salad, which I was introduced to thanks to a Mexican -themed dinner at my friend Erin’s apartment last month.  After one bite I was shocked by how much flavor such a simple dish could have, considering its short list of ingredients (she made it as a salsa, without the walnuts and feta, using only 5 ingredients). The secret definitely seems to be the importance of letting the flavors marinate for as long as possible, preferably for 24 hours, in order to give the dish more depth and to let the flavors marry. The touch of sugar helps to add a slight hint of sweetness without overpowering the freshness of the vegetables.  Since I loved this salsa so much I decided i wanted to transform it into a salad by adding a little fat and protein.  It is still extremely healthy, as there is no oil used and the only fat comes from the feta cheese and walnuts.  As usual, please feel free to play around with the nuts, maybe substituting chopped peanuts or toasted pine nuts.  In fact, now that I’m writing this, I believe peanuts would be a wonderful contrast to the acidity of cucumbers and bell peppers. Feel free as well to add other fresh herbs such as parsley, basil, or mint.

I also want to mention that I just added a rating system, made possible in just 3 mouse clicks thanks to the highly customized and user-friendly WordPress blog system, so now you can rate any of the recipes you have tried on this website. Rating systems are great and they are the reason why Epicurious.com remains my favorite cooking website - I can categorize recipes by their ratings and easily check which ones are most popular.  To rate a recipe, simply click on the recipe title, and click on the number of stars you would like to assign to it. I won’t be offended if you give something few or no stars, the whole point of this blog is to help you make food that you think tastes good and that is easy to make!

So please feel free to rate this or any other recipe – happy cooking!

Cuke Salad with Feta and Walnuts – serves 1
1 medium cucumber, peeled and diced
1 yellow or red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons sugar
3-4 tablespoons rice wine, cider, or red wine vinegar
4 ounces crumbled feta
1/4-cup chopped, toasted walnuts
optional: a pinch of cayenne pepper
1.  Combine the cucumber, bell pepper, and cilantro in a medium bowl; toss to combine.  Add the sugar and vinegar and toss again to combine all ingredients.  Let sit in the fridge for at least one hour, preferably for 1 day.
2.  When ready to eat, combine with crumbled feta, toasted walnuts, and a the cayenne pepper if using.

>Chopped Endive Salad w/ Toasted Walnuts

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This is a revised version of the last endive salad, and now that I’ve made it this way, I’m never going back. It tastes so good! The rich and nutty flavor of walnuts becomes much stronger when they are toasted, and they go so well with the tartness of the dressing.

Endive Salad - serves 1-2
for the dressing:
1 chopped garlic clove
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

for the salad:
1 endive
1 handful walnuts

1.  To make the dressing, combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and stir together until combined.
2.  Slice the endive in half lengthwise, then cut it cross-wise in 1/2-inch thick pieces
3.  To make the walnuts, toast your oven to 375 degrees and place the walnuts on a baking sheet.
4.  Toast the walnuts until slightly browned, about 8-10 minutes. 
5.  When they have cooled a bit, chop them up and toss them over the endives.  Pour on the dressing, et voila!

Now that I’m writing this, I realize that it might be a good idea, if you like this dressing, to triple or quadruple the quantity and store it in the fridge so that you don’t have to make it over every time you want to use it.

>Roasted Beets with Prunes, Mint, and Walnuts

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Another reason why France is amazing: their farmer’s markets. They are like nothing I’ve seen in the states – pig’s feet, veal tongue, blood sausage, fresh fish, every fresh fruit and vegetable you could deign to find in this season, and of course, lots and lots of cheese and bread.

So, while wandering the market this morning in a state of bliss, I saw some beets that looked really good, and I decided to buy some and test them out. They’re so delicious, I feel like I could sing about them!
Only recently have I discovered how amazing beets are. Their sweet and silky character makes them so unique – plus their purple color is so fun! In my opinion they’re also one of the easiest vegetables to prepare, because the less you do to them, the better they taste.

To make the beets how I made them here, you’ll need 1 large beet (or 2 small-medium beets), 3 prunes, a handful of walnuts, a lemon, and a sprig of mint leaves. Of course, if you want to make this for more people than yourself, you can easily increase the proportions.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, and wrap the beet in aluminum foil. Roast the beet until tender, between 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours. Take it out and let it cool off a bit. In the meantime, chop up your prunes and walnuts and put them in a small bowl. Once the beet has cooled down, chop it up and add it to the bowl. Slice open the lemon, and squeeze one half of the lemon over the bowl. This might be enough lemon juice for you – if not, add more from the other half. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, garnish with a mint leaf or two, and eat whenever you feel like it!

It’s such a light dish that you can probably eat it as snack if you’re hungry, as a side dish, or a light dinner with some bread or crackers.

Merci, et bon week-end!