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Quinoa Stuffed Zucchini

7 Oct

One thing I don’t really understand about restaurant patrons is this: why do you always try to order from someone who is not your waiter? Maybe you don’t pay much attention so you can’t remember which one of us is your server? But…I’m a girl. The busboy is a boy. So you could at least differentiate between us. I know you’re probably super psyched about that tiramisu. But I just brought you the dessert menu, and I promise I will be back within a couple minutes to see what you want. In fact, right now I’m standing right behind him, about to ask you what you want. So maybe you could wait 2 seconds for him to clear your plate and I’ll get that order from you?

Pro-tip: At least at my restaurant, only your server can access your order in the system. Another server can’t enter whatever you ordered for me. So when you tell someone else you want a refill of wine, they have to first find me, tell me, remember what you asked for and what table you’re at. By the time they do, I probably would have already come over and gotten the order from you personally.

But I do love waitressing. Especially when you’re just at that right amount of busy that you never really stop moving but you are still able to get to every table as often as you need too.  And since I love food, I especially enjoy when people ask for recommendations. I have some strong feelings about some of those dishes.  People veer away from things named Hunkar Begendi, and they just need someone to assure them that it will be the best decision they’ve made all week, even if they can’t pronounce it.

Also the nachos are great when you’re drinking margaritas. No really, we’re a Turkish restaurant, I swear.

I’d also like to admit right now that I am REALLY bad at carrying martini glasses. I didn’t know it was possible to so consistently spill things on myself. Why did we design a glass that is shaped with what seems like the sole purpose of spilling alcohol?

So yes. In case you were wondering, I did just spill some of your Cosmo down my arm. My bad.

One side effect of waitressing, though, is that I’m really not cooking as much as I was before. Two nights a week I eat at the restaurant after my shift, and a lot of week nights I’m throwing together something easy. So, I’ll try to post something up here whenever I make something worthwhile, but it’s likely going to be less frequent than I would like. My mom has been hassling me to post this recipe, since she saw a photo of the finished product but I didn’t get this post together until WEEKS later. Sorry, mom! (Also you might be saying “your recipe calls for shallots, but I see onions in that picture.” True. I used onions, but after eating it, I think shallots would have tasted much better, so I highly suggest going that route.)

Stuffed Zucchini
Serves 3
3 medium zucchinis
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 cup water
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbs olive oil
2 ears sweet corn, cut off the cob
1 large tomato, diced
2 shallots, diced
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Slice zucchinis in half longways. Use a spoon to scrape the seeds out, creating a small hollow area in each zucchini, like little zucchini canoes. But don’t take out too much, you still want to taste the zucchini. Set aside on a baking sheet lined with foil.
Add quinoa, water and salt in a small pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy and semi-transparent. While quinoa cooks, heat olive oil in a medium pan over medium-high heat. Add shallots and sweet corn and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside.
When quinoa is finished cooking, taste and add additional salt if needed. Add shallot and corn mixture to quinoa. Add tomatoes and mozzarella and stir to thoroughly combine.
Divide quinoa mixture among hollowed out zucchinis. Top with a little extra shredded mozzarella.
Cook stuffed zucchinis for 15 minutes or until cheese on top is bubbly.

Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Reduction

8 Sep

Things that have happened since my last post:

1. Earthquakepocalyspe. I knew it was an earthquake, but refused to believe it was actually happening in DC. But after the first few seconds, I got up from my desk and braced myself in the doorway of my colleague’s office. He ducked under a table. We looked pretty ridiculous.

2. Come on, Irene. I had a Living Social deal to go whitewater rafting the day Irene hit. They didn’t cancel the trip ahead of time, but I eventually decided that I didn’t want to risk being stuck on a bus in West Virginia should the hurricane prevent us from getting back to DC. My best friend was visiting me from CA, so we ventured out before it got too bad and stocked up on quesadilla-making supplies. All-in-all, it was a good excuse to sit around inside watching TV and playing Scrabble all day.

3. “We’ve got two specials tonight…” I am now officially a waitress instead of a hostess. I’m pretty thrilled about the change. It’s so much more fun, since hostessing gets pretty boring. On slow nights I make about what I made as a hostess, but I make way more on busier nights. (Except when that French table stiffs me $20 on the check. Jerks.) I’m still learning…I tend to forget to bring people bread, and I’m still memorizing which beers we carry. But I think for the most part I’m pretty good. And to make my mother proud, I constantly make an effort to talk slower.

4. I painted my nails with hot pink stripes. It just felt right. I blame Joy the Baker.

5. I had a love affair with heirloom tomatoes. It all started when I went to Graffiato and had the Burrata salad. Heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, and homemade burrata. Good golly, words cannot describe. So I started trying out different heirlooms at the farmers market. My favorite is that guy on the right in the above picture. It’s kind of got red and orange tiger stripes. So yummy.

I know I’m not very creative. Caprese salad? Been there. Done that. But you know, when I buy a gorgeous fresh tomato, this is the only way I want to eat it. I don’t want to cook it, I don’t want to mask it with too much other food. My dad has it right: he just eats plain slices of tomato with salt and pepper. Being a cheese fanatic, I need a little mozzarella thrown into the mix.

And my favorite part is sopping up the tomato juices at the end with a fresh loaf of bread. It’s a must.

Heirloom Caprese with Balsamic Reduction

Serves 1

Print this recipe!

1 small or medium sized heirloom tomato
4-5 slices fresh mozzarella
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
sea salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh basil
Balsamic Reduction:
Heat small sauce pan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup balsamic and allow to simmer until it begins to thicken. Whisk frequently to prevent burning. It’s done with the vinegar has reduced by about half.
Slice tomato. Lay alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella on a plate. Drizzle with balsamic reduction, and sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil. Serve with slices of fresh crusty french bread.

Spinach and Quinoa Salad

25 Feb

Guys. Why didn’t anyone tell me about quinoa? I know that I had heard vague things about it, seen it on menus here and there, but I was obviously not paying enough attention.

When I go to the grocery store, I have a bad habit of just strolling around the aisles, looking at all the stuff they have. This leads to impluse buying, but I just like to see all the different foods out there! This week, I strolled by the bulk bins and on a whim, decided to get a small bag of quinoa. I vaguely remembered hearing of people putting quinoa on salads, and I had some spinach leftover from my lasagna, so it seemed like a good idea.

I got home and had to google “how to prepare quinoa” because I had no idea. But my search led me to several articles about how great quinoa is for you. Now, I love a food that tastes like a carb but secretly is great for me. That just makes my day.

Did you know:

1. Quinoa is actually a seed. And it’s not part of the grass family, so it isn’t a grain, it’s a “pseudo-cereal.” I like pseudo-anything. Okay, so actually I just like using the prefix “pseudo.” So pseu me. (See what I did there?)

2. It’s one of the few plants that offers you a complete set of amino acids, so it is a great source of protein for non-meat eaters (or very occasional meat eaters, like me).

3. It’s high in fiber. I love fiber. It makes my world go round.

4. It’s gluten free, if that’s a problem for you. And easy to digest! Yay!

5. It’s a great souce of iron, magnesium, folate, and phosphorus. I’m sure those things are important, right?

You can expect to see quinoa popping up in recipes around these parts with more frequency now that my love affair with it has been allowed to blossom. I hear it makes a great breakfast (and the fiber will help you stay full throughout the morning!).

Spinach and Quinoa Salad

Serves 1

For salad:
¼ cup uncooked quinoa
½ cup water
1-2 cups baby spinach, washed and dried
2 tbsp dried cranberries
2-3 tbsp crumbled goat cheese

If not using pre-rinsed quinoa, place in a fine-mesh strainer and run under cold water for a minute or two to wash away the saponin (or else the quinoa will taste bitter). Add rinsed quinoa and ½ cup of water to a small sauce pan and simmer over medium heat until water is absorbed (10-15 minutes). You want it to still have a little “bite” to it, like al dente pasta.

While your quinoa is cooking, go ahead and throw the goat cheese and cranberries onto the spinach, and you can mix up a homemade vinaigrette (or use a dressing you have in your fridge). My standard balsamic vinaigrette recipe is below, and I think it works well with my standard carb/fruit/cheese combo in salads.
When quinoa is finished cooking, just spoon it on top of the spinach salad, dress with vinaigrette, and enjoy!

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing

2 tsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp honey
pinch salt
pinch fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients into a small bowl and whisk to combine. So easy. This is why I don’t ever buy salad dressing at the store.