I don’t know whether to blame it on the ingredients, or on planetary alignments, or on our our own Paper Chef Gourmet Academy Chairman, Owen of Tomatilla! but we have a record twenty three entries for our Brand Spankin’ New Paper Chef #14.
(We hereby announce our retirement from food blogging and subsequent publication of Quinoa! It’s Not Just For Hippies Anymore!)
Needless to say, the judging (which isn’t done yet) is going to be a four-beer-at-the-pub challenge. Yes, we’re taking a page from last month’s Down Under crew and hitting our favorite ale house to sort out the winners. Look for our results sometime… um… soon.
Meantime, a couple quick notes before I launch into our round-up. With 23 entries to cover, I’m going to attempt to not make this The Post That Wouldn’t Die and be somewhat brief. (Cough — Oops, she says about six hours later) I encourage everyone to follow the links and check all our participants’ tasty dishes.
When I tossed in that photo of baby food into our ingredients post I had no idea those little jars of flavored mush would be so useful! Several participants were — most wonderfully — weirder than we expected, and found nifty ways to Gerber up their entries. Other ingenious “baby” choices included sprouts, seeds, biscuits, and yes… an actual baby. (Read on. You’ll see.)
Another highlight of this month’s adventure: the number of entrants cooking with quinoa for the first time. Not everyone had complete success with it, but check out the comments on some entries and you’ll already see cooks sharing their tips and tricks and, in at least a few cases, planning to add quinoa to their regular repertoire. It’s a great grain (at least we think so!) and it’s always exciting to read about culinary discoveries.
The yog(H)urt (okay, okay already, I’ll ditch the H!) and cashews sent many entrants in the direction of Indian cuisine. Cumin, coriander, and curry powder abounded (yum!), but we found some complete surprises in the mix as well, and for all of those (and for the baby)… well, read on!
Paper Chef #14: The Big Honkin’ Brand Spankin’ New Round Up
First up is California blogger Cyndi from Cookin’ with Cyndi and her Sweet Potato Quinoa Corn Bread. Cyndi’s entry came to us first and, yes, she uses baby food. (Right from the beginning, I knew we were in for surprises in the “baby” department.) Cyndi grinds her quinoa in a coffee grinder to make meal, and, to give the corn bread an extra healthy touch, she uses Splenda Brown Sugar Blend instead of sugar. The results? Husband asks for seconds and the bread is declared a success!
Another bread baker this month was Magictofu from Ottowa’s Slurp and Burp, who provides us with a full day’s menu, including a most adorable baby multigrain loaf in swaddling clothes (nope, that’s not the real baby). Ever cheeky with his entries, Magictofu declares the need to avoid prions by not baking actual baby, and instead launches into an impressive menu that includes French Canadian Quinoa Crepe with Cashew Butter and Maple Syrup for breakfast, Quinoa Stuffed Crepes with Sprout Salad for lunch, and Lamb Extravaganza for dinner. Magictofu also takes an alternate route to boiling the quinoa: dumping it raw in hot oil till it puffs. The result: a tasty boost to quinoa’s nutty flavor.
Also from Canada: Lyn from Lex Culinaria and her elegant Roasted Baby Beet, Labanya and Quinoa Salad. Lyn tells us she stepped out of her “comfort zone” for this one, tackling quinoa for the first time and combining it in layers with baby beets and a luscious favorite of hers: Labanya. Labanya is a Middle Eastern soft cheese that’s made from suspending yogurt in cheesecloth so all the excess liquid drains away. It’s a fascinating process, and Lyn’s skillful use of yogurt for this Paper Chef produces beautiful results.
A salad of a different style comes from Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Regular readers of Kalyn’s blog know she’s a master of low carb recipes, but for this one, she cheats just a teensy bit, producing a Curried Cashew Chicken Salad with Quinoa and Baby Peas, that (in Kalyn’s words) is “something slightly resembling a low carb dish” owing to the dominance of tasty low carb ingredients like chicken, celery, cashews, and green onions. Mmmm, protein!
Another chicken dish comes from Lady Amalthea of Noshes, Thoughts & Reves! in New York City. Her Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Stir-Fry with Cashews, over Quinoa is an impressive bit of fusion, combining techniques and ingredients from China, India, and Mexico –and possibly Italy too, if you count the extra-dry Vermouth! She uses one of our personal favorite babies — baby Bok Choy — and the quinoa makes for a nice stir-fry bed, replacing the usual rice.
Jumping across the U.S. from New York to L.A., we’ve got Sylvie from Soul Fusion Kitchen, who not only resists the taunts of our ingredients to go vegetarian, she embraces her inner-carnivore with a nice heaping plate of Baby Back Ribs with Quinoa and Cashews with Two Yogurt Sauces. It sounds almost All-American, save for that tasty Curry, Cilantro and Garlic flavored yogurt sauce. Sylvie is also one of several entrants to toast her quinoa as well as cook it, bringing out the grain’s flavor. Combine that, the yogurt, and those ribs, and Chopper’s still drooling.
We’re still in California, and we’ve got Rachael from Fresh Approach Cooking who provides us with our solo seafood entry for this month (outside of our N.E.E. non-entry entry salmon): Broiled Perch with Quinoa-Cashew Crust and Pinapple-Kumquat Salsa. Rachael contemplates pandering to us (with penguins and spraypaint??), but no need, her plating is exquisite, and the fish, with yogurt under the crust to keep it tender, sounds melt-in-your-mouth divine. Rachael bends the rules just a wee bit with her “wee” instead of “baby” kumquats, but we’ll forgive her!
Another member of this month’s California contingent is Brendon from Something in Season. When I saw “Sushi” in his entry title, I expected a second serving of fish, but Brendon surprises us with a unique, minamalist approach, setting a goal for himself to use as few ingredients outside the chosen four as possible. His Spinach Sushi with Quinoa and Cashews uses exactly eight ingredients, and that’s including salt and water! Another bit of ingenuity — ground cashews in the quinoa to turn “fluffy” into “sticky.” A perfect substitute for sticky rice.
Still in California (and still resisting hippie food!) is Erin from Erin’s Kitchen with her offering: Red Quinoa with Curried Yogurt, Cashews, and Baby Apples. (Still no actual babies yet — hang on…) Erin uses Inca Red quinoa in her dish — a heirloom variety known as Pasankalla. (A quick google search tells me there are five basic categories of quinoa but thousands of varietes.) With baby apples, red bell pepper, green onions and a healthy dash of lime to prevent the apples from browning, the end result is a pleasingly colorful dish that would be perfect for a picnic.
Now we head down to Wellington, New Zealand for minimalism of another sort. Emma of the The Laughing Gastronome gives herself a ten dollar challenge for this event and comes up with a tasty Indian dish: Baby Biryani. Emma is another quinoa first-timer, and gets great results with her yogurt-marinated chicken dish. And the babies? Black cumin seeds, because if microgreens and sprouts are babies, then seeds, being “A ripened plant ovule containing an embryo” are most definitely babies!
A second seed-baby (pomegranate this time) makes an appearance in Kimberly’s Quinoa in Blueberry-Yog(h)urt Vinaigrette with Cashews and Three “Babies” at her Seattle, Washington blog, Music and Cats. Kimberly’s an architect by day and her attention to design shows in this elegant dish. She’s not cooked quinoa before, and so embarks first on a simple rinse, boil, and steam to experience the grain on its own before playing with flavors. For her other two babies, Kimberly chooses baby citrus (satsumas or clementines), and baby spinach. The result: a light dish with an emphasis on the flavor and texture of the quinoa.
Jumping east of the Cascade range, but sticking to our home state of Washington, we’ve got Jennifer of Taste Everything Once and her Quinoa-Cashew Crusted Lamb over Baby Greens with Yogurt Dressing. This meal looks refreshing and meaty all at once and is a breeze to put together: quinoa and cashew crust for the lamb in the food processor and a complementary yogurt dressing with shredded cucumber and garlic powder. Add tasty greens and salad veggies and it’s dinner time. So simple and super healthy!
Now we’re off to the other Washington — DC this time — and more lamb! Katherine of ToastPoint, in a witty, baby-laden entry, brings us Baby Curry and Quinoa Fritters with Cashew Cream. The babies? Baby sheep, baby spinach, butternut squash baby food, baby bananas, baby chickens (okay, eggs) and (“double word score!”) Yobaby Yogurt. And though her cashew cream doesn’t contain any babies, it sounds extremely good. Now, where’s my blender?
More multiple babies (but no actual babies just yet) abound at Kitchen Crazy Daffy’s Chopsticks blog, where Daffy whips up two treats: Mustard ‘Quinoa’ Salad and Cinnamon ‘Quinoa’ Pudding with Cashew Cookies and Roasted Grapes. Why the quinoa quotes? Turns out Daffy, away from her usual UK haunt, has a beast of a time trying to track down the grain at the local Tesco, and ends up with bulgur wheat and pearl barley as most excellent substitutes. Her babies? Spinach, plum tomatoes, and — what fun — baby biscuits!
In India, apparently quinoa is also quite hard (if not impossible) to find, so Deccanheffalump from The Cook’s Cottage lucks out when her good friend Uma provides some for her Feisty Quinoa Salad. Deccanheffalump, finding this event a great excuse to expand her salad repertoire, creates a lovely, healthy dish with baby corn, spring onions, dates, apples, and beautiful golden raisins sprinkled on top. For her dressing, she employs the same hanging trick as Lex Culinaria, and blends her thickened yogurt with salt, pepper, and freshly chopped garlic.
Now we travel south east across the Indian Ocean to Australia, where Paul from No Sauce Thanks! shows off his Quinoa, Baby Chantenay Carrot, Cashew Pilaf with Pan fried Turkey chops and Cranberry Apple Relish in the very first post for his brand new blog. He doesn’t even have an intro post up yet! (And we thought we were jumping into it!) Maybe it’s the turkey and cranberries, but this takes us right back into winter comfort food after our previous entrant’s spring salad. Only twist is — it’s the southern hemisphere and the carrots are fresh from the garden!
Still in Australia but definitely switching seasonal influences, we’ve got Noodle Cook from An Electronic Restaurant who defies computer problems and comes up with the niftiest plate of heart-shaped ice-creams we’ve ever seen. There’s Cranberry Cashew Yoghurt Ice-Cream, Wattleseed Cashew Yoghurt Ice-Cream, Banana Macadamia Yoghurt Ice-Cream, Caramel Cashew Ice-Cream with White Truffle Oil, and Salted Macadamia Ice-Cream. Again — Ice creams? With these ingredients? Using baby food? Just go take a look, and take notes for Valentine’s Day!
Another frozen entry (would you believe we’ve got two?), is from Lady X’s Experiment in Writing. Her entry? A Cashew Praline Frozen Yogurt Pie. The quinoa flour lends some unexpected protein to the dessert world — and it makes for a surprisingly nutty, tasty crust. Now, Lady X tells us she didn’t include a “baby” in this recipe and so — in a last-minute save — she provides us with an adorable photo of her younger self dining on baby food (no, that’s not the real baby yet!). But, remember, with our stretchy rules, eggs are baby chickens, so her frozen pie passes the test. (Though we still love the photo.)
Another last-minute save comes from Jonski Blogski in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where husband spies the serving bowl, suggests the addition of yogurt (completely unaware this is a Paper Chef dish!), and Tricia snags the appropriate container out of the fridge. Tricia’s Three Babies Quinoa with Cashews and Yog(h)urt uses baby spinach, baby corn, and (raiding her pantry) a mysterious leftover jar of sweet potato baby food. She serves her dish with chicken, sautÃ©ed and seasoned heartily with green chile salt and (yum!) orange Muscat champagne vinegar.
Yet another jar of baby food makes an appearance in Cookiecrumb’s fun duo of entries from her Northern California blog, I’m Mad and I Eat. First up, complete with shredded coconut, allspice, stuffed animals, and the theme from Backdraft; Creamy Quinoa Pudding with Tropical Flavors. How to get tropical flavors? With a jar of tropical flavored baby food, of course. Next, not content to let her bulked up boatloads of cooked quinoa go to waste, Cookiecrumb engages in a bit of improvisational kitchen alchemy and produces Quinoa Tabbouleh D’Brickashaw. (You’ll have to follow the link to see what that’s all about!) Despite this being January, and Marin County being in the Northern Hemisphere, Cookiecrumb raids her patio garden and supplies her dish with home-grown baby mint, parsley, tomatoes and arugula.
Cookiecrumb isn’t the only one to toss allspice into the mix, Kevin, from Seriously Good, based in Knoxville, Tennessee, uses allspice in his Quinoa Pilaf, and though he isn’t thrilled with the quinoa’s performance, he does, as you can see from the festive photo, try to put a happy face on his result. Kevin uses baby zucchini for his infant addition, and adds dried apricots as well, which — happy face or no — sounds pretty tasty to me!
Next up, another pilaf, and another blog from the southern U.S. Also, another adorable baby picture! (But we’re not quite to the real baby just yet!) Alanna, from A Veggie Venture brings us a “definite keeper” with her Quinoa Pilaf with Raita. For the pilaf, she toasts the quinoa before boiling it, and includes fennel, carrot, and baby Portobello mushrooms. Raita is an Indian yogurt sauce, similar to tzatziki, and Alanna’s version is an easy blend of cashew butter, ginger, spices and lime juice. It sounds like the perfect complement to the nutty-buttery pilaf.
Our culinary traditions, such as they are in the Pacific Northwest, are nothing compared to those in the south, and we are delighted to discover a new one in the form of the Culinary Bookworm’s Quinoa King Cake with Orange-Yogurt Cashew Filling from her Baton Rouge blog, Weekly Dish. Turns out, Paper Chef Announcement Day coincided with the first day of Mardi Gras season, and what better way to embrace the theme of renewal than to bake a New Orleans King Cake. Traditionally, King Cake is a brioche with cream cheese or almond paste filling, but since this is Paper Chef, out goes the usual, and in comes quinoa flour, yogurt, and cashews. And the baby? Well, you’ll just have to check out the Culinary Bookworm’s post because we never would have dreamed it, but she really did bake a baby into her cake!
So, there it is! The Paper Chef #14 Round-up Extravaganza. Phew! I feel like I just spent the last week in a maternity ward.
I hope you all enjoyed the entries and our (oops, we weren’t very brief) recap, and for the final results — all I can say is check back soon! Meantime, we’re off to the ale house for our four-beer-at-the-pub judging challenge. Wish us luck!