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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Add some grains to your main course

Tags: Food
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[Photo courtesy of Saffron Shores by Joyce Goldstein]

Grains, grains and more grains. We keep hearing about the health benefits of grains – whole, ancient and otherwise – in our diets and how we should be eating more of them.

It’s easy to incorporate more grains into your meal planning, especially when you make them an integral part of your main course. It rounds out whatever protein you opt to cook and it all comes to the plate in one fell swoop. The dishes created to highlight the simplicity of this approach are as perfect for weeknight meals as they are for entertaining.

That’s the wonderful thing about grains. They’ve grown up, and are perfect for gussying up too. It’s important to keep a few guidelines in mind, however. If you stock up on bulgur or quinoa, store whatever excess you may have in the freezer. They’ll keep longer and fresher that way and can be measured and used without thawing. Toasting most grains before you cook them coaxes out more of their flavour and adds a pleasant nuttiness.

 

STEAMED FISH OVER QUINOA WITH CHARMOULA SAUCE

 

Charmoula, a spicy, piquant sauce from Morocco, is usually made with preserved lemons. If you happen to have some preserved lemons on hand, reduce the lemon juice in the following recipe to 2 tbsp. and replace the rind with 1 tbsp. of chopped preserved lemon.

 

2  tbsp. olive oil

1 leek cut in half lengthwise, rinsed and thinly sliced

1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots

1 cup finely diced sweet red pepper

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

pinch cayenne

1 cup red or regular quinoa

2 cups water

4 filets firm fleshed white fish, i.e. snapper, tilapia (each about 6 oz.)

2 tbsp. lemon juice

Charmoula Sauce:

3 cloves garlic

1 tbsp. drained capers

1/2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sweet paprika

1/2 tsp. each ground cumin and ground black pepper

pinch cayenne

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup each chopped fresh coriander and fresh parsley

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. granulated sugar              

 

To make the charmoula sauce: Place garlic, capers and salt in mortar and pestle or bowl of small food processor; mash or pulse until paste is formed. Add paprika, cumin, pepper, cayenne and lemon juice and mash or pulse until well combined.  Add coriander and parsley; mash or pulse until herbs are finely chopped and mixture is well combined. Stir in olive oil and sugar. (Charmoula sauce can be stored in an airtight container and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Stir to recombine).

Heat oil in large non-stick skillet set over medium-heat. Add leeks, mushrooms, shallots and red pepper; cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper and cayenne. Stir in quinoa. Pour in water. Lower heat and cook for 20 minutes or until almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Place fish on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle lemon juice over. Cover and steam for 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

Serve fish atop mound of quinoa. Dollop each serving with some charmoula sauce. Makes 4 servings.

 

SPICY LEMON AND GINGER CORNISH HENS WITH CORIANDER COUSCOUS

 

Couscous:

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. finely minced fresh ginger

6 green onions, chopped

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

2 cups couscous

1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper

2-1/4 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Cornish Hens:

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. finely minced fresh ginger

1/4 tsp. hot pepper flakes

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tbsp. finely grated lemon rind

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup dry sherry

2 tbsp. soy sauce

2 tbsp. honey

1 tsp. cornstarch

 

Couscous: Heat oil in saucepan set over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and green onions; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Stir in couscous, salt and pepper. Pour in stock and bring to boil. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Uncover pan and fluff couscous with fork. Stir in coriander and lemon juice. Set aside.

Cornish hens: Heat oil in clean saucepan set over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger and hot pepper flakes. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add chicken stock, lemon rind and juice, sherry, soy sauce and honey. Bring to boil. Dissolve cornstarch in 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk into lemon mixture. Boil, whisking constantly, until mixture is lightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375F. Cut wing tips from hens. Cut through both sides of backbone and remove. Cut through breastbone to divide hens in half.

Divide couscous into 8 equal mounds on large aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Cover each mound with hen half, cut side down. Brush with cooled lemon glaze.

Bake hens in centre of preheated oven, for 45 to 50 minutes, brushing twice more with glaze, until juices run clear when thigh is pierced and meat thermometer registers 185F. Broil for 2 minutes to crisp skin. Using spatula, transfer hen and couscous to plate. Makes 8 servings.

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