28 February 2010

Superbreakfast of the Future

By now everyone knows what quinoa is, right? The supergrain of the future? If you're not yet familiar with this Saturny-grain, hop on over to Wikipedia for the rundown. Go on, I'll wait.

OK, so by now you know it's pronounced KEEN-wah and it comes mostly from Peru and it's very nutritious. But what you might not know is that it's really easy to cook AND it's delicious! Usually it's served in place of rice or other grains as a side dish. In Peru it's often found in granola bars, and in Bolivia, it's made into a warm breakfast drink.

The other day Meg at Not Martha posted a link to a quinoa thread on Ask MetaFilter, and casually mentioned that plain quinoa topped with an over easy or poached egg is her favourite breakfast. I did a bunch of googling for breakfast quinoa recipes but found mostly sweet options. Then I remembered Mark Bittman talking eating savoury oatmeal with soy sauce and scallions, and I got to thinking. I do love my oatmeal, but it would be nice to have more protein with breakfast, and the ability to poach an egg just happens to be one of my superpowers. And unlike flying or x-ray vision, all it took was a little practice.

Quinoa with Soy Sauce and a Poached Egg
makes 1 serving

1/4 c quinoa, rinsed
1 egg
white vinegar
sea salt
soy sauce
freshly ground pepper

Put the quinoa in a small saucepan and add 1/2 cup water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, still covered, for about 10 minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, heat a shallow pot (about 2 inches) of water to boiling, then reduce heat so it's just bubbling a little, but barely. Stir in a splash of vinegar (1-2 tsp) and about a tsp of salt.

Crack the egg into a ramekin or other small bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir the simmering water to make a vortex, and gently tip the egg into the centre of the vortex.

If you timed everything just so, your quinoa should be just about done. If you can see a tiny ring around each grain but there's still a lot of liquid in the pot, remove the lid to let the water evaporate, then spoon the quinoa into a bowl. Add a few drops of soy sauce, just, you know, however much you like. When your egg is poached to perfection, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon and place it on top of the quinoa. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Shortcuts: You can pre-cook the quinoa whenever you have time. Store it in a closed container in the fridge, and at breakfast time either warm it in the microwave or steam it on the stove. If you're really pressed for time you can also use soft-to-medium boiled eggs, but I urge you to practice poaching eggs - it's an impressive skill, and one that can bring you much deliciousness.

More on eggs: I learned how to poach an egg following the instructions on Epicurious. As for boiling eggs, I like to put a few eggs in a pot, add enough water to cover the eggs, then bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Your eggs will be soft-boiled in 4-5 minutes, and hard-boiled in about 8 minutes. Rinse the eggs immediately in cold water to make them easier to peel.

20 February 2010

Sofía's Birthday Cupcakes

If you've been following along on my personal blog, you already know things have been a slow in my life, as I have a knee to heal. I haven't been tasting new fruits or cooking much of anything, and while baking is my therapy, I'm trying to curb that too since even though I spend almost 2 hours at the gym every day, working out only one leg doesn't burn as many calories as I'd like.

This week our beloved Spanish teacher. Sofía, celebrated her birthday, and as I'm not one to show up to a birthday party empty-handed, I decided to bake cupcakes. Baking cupcakes is no easy feat in Buenos Aires. Muffin tins are hard to come by, to say the least, and paper liners are scarce. But Ken went to the party store (yes, there are party stores! In abundance!) and came home with flan moulds in which to bake the cupcakes. Genius!

And so I spent Friday afternoon, in almost-unbearable heat and humidity, baking vanilla cupcakes for Sofía, because I love her. And I baked them seven at a time, because that's how many flan moulds were available at the party store.
Around 8 p.m. I texted Sofía to get the party details, and found out that I'd misread her email: The party is next Friday. Oops. What's a girl to do with 16 delicious vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting?

Luckily I had plans this afternoon to attend an English-language book exchange, so I brought them along. (It was either that or eat them all, 2 at a time.) And hopefully when I bake them again this Friday, it won't be quite so hot.

Amy Sedaris' Vanilla Cupcakes (recipe from Epicurious.com)

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 cups milk

Amy's Instructions:

Turn oven on to 375 degrees F.

Put butter in mixer and beat at medium speed until somewhat smooth. Pour in sugar and beat well. Add 2 eggs. I like to crack the eggs on the side of the bowl while it is moving, which can be really stupid. I like to take chances. Yes, I have had to throw away my batter because I lost eggshells in the mix. Yes, it was a waste of food and yes, I know how expensive butter is, but what can I say? I'm a daredevil. Mix well. Add: vanilla, baking powder, salt, flour, and milk. Beat until it looks like it is supposed to and pour into individual baking cups, until they are about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Should produce 24 cupcakes; I get 18 because I'm doing something wrong, although my cupcakes were voted second best in the city by New York Magazine.

Ed. note: I got 16 1/2 because I'm doing something really wrong, which is called baking cupcakes in flan moulds. And also because I really like cupcake batter.

Magnolia-ish Chocolate Frosting

150 g bittersweet chocolate (minimum 60%)
75 g butter, room temperature
250 g confectioners sugar (a.k.a. powdered sugar, icing sugar (Canada), or azucar palpalble (Argentina))
1 t vanilla extract
2-3 T milk

Melt the chocolate using your preferred method of melting (double-boiler, microwave, direct sunlight). Beat in the butter (a mixer works best, but elbow grease works too, and think of how great your arms will look!). Beat in the vanilla, then add the confectioners sugar slowly (or else you'll be covered in it). Keep mixing until it's all mixed together, and then a little longer for good measure. Add milk a little at a time to get the right consistency. I like to taste it along the way - you know, just to make sure it's delicious enough.

I say this is Magnoia-ish because it's not officially their recipe, but it tastes a lot like it. This recipe made just enough frosting for my aforementioned 16 cupcakes, so if your cupcake recipe yielded more, or you just like piles of (very sweet) frosting, adjust away!

05 February 2010


Snack, originally uploaded by Kitty LaRoux.

Reblogging in honour of World Nutella Day, because it makes me infinitely happy that such a thing exists. Sadly, Nutella is prohibitively expensive here in Argentina, but it's hard to complain when the dulce de leche flows so freely. Still, if someone handed me a slice of homemade bread slathered in Nutella right now, I wouldn't complain.

The fine print: WND is co-hosted by Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso.