Here is a dish elegant enough for Thanksgiving or an autumn dinner party, and hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian (vegan) main dish. Favorite fall flavors of apple, squash, and nuts come together in this healthy, whole grain pilaf. Feel free to substitute your favorite grains. Try it with millet, farro, wheatberries or wild rice. Even lentils would be a lovely addition. Substitute fresh sage or thyme for the parsley, if you prefer. Substitute pear for the apple. Try it in a pumpkin. The possibilities are endless.
Roasted, Stuffed Acorn Squash: Barley-Bulgur Pilaf with Caramelized Apple and Almonds
Fall flavors come together in this hearty (vegan) side dish - elegant enough for a dinner party, yummy enough for any night.
Author: Amy Wilson
Recipe type: Hearty Vegetarian Main Dish or Side Dish
4 Medium Acorn Squash (I chose a variety that was a lovely orange color, with smooth skin but any variety will do)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup pearled barley
¼ cup brown rice
¼ cup bulgur
1 apple (on the sweeter side, like Honeycrisp or Braeburn), sliced thinly
2 Tbsp chopped almonds, toasted
¼ cup dried apricots, sliced thinly
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Cut each acorn squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and add water to the pan so that the squash skins don't get scorched. Add a little dab of butter to each acorn squash. Bake for about 45 minutes to an hour until the squash are cooked through, but not collapsing.
While the acorn squash are baking, prepare the pilaf. In a medium saucepan, heat the 2 Tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sautée until onions have softened and started to brown, about 8 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Add the pearl barley, reduce heat and cover. The pearl barley will simmer for a total of 45-55 minutes. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the brown rice. Continue to simmer, covered on low. When 15 minutes remain, add the bulgur.
In a separate frying pan, over medium heat, heat a bit of olive oil. Then add the apple slices, chopped almonds, and apricots. Toss to coat and sautée for a 3 minutes or until apples start to soften and brown. Remove from heat. Preheat oven to 375˚F.
Once the grains are cooked through, drain any remaining liquid and toss in the apple mixture. Toss in the chopped parsley, reserving some for garnishing later. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide the mixture evenly between the acorn squashes. Place the stuffed squashes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove and garnish with the remaining fresh parsley and serve immediately.
I equate summertime picnics with these kinds of salads: lentil salad, orzo salad, corn and bean salad and so on. They travel well, hold up during a picnic and are nutritious. They also take advantage of what’s in season. Here are just a few from the archives:
With Cinqo de Mayo around the corner, what better way to celebrate the flavors of Mexico than to try out new recipes featuring the avocado, now back in season, here in California.
This year, Americans will consume 81 million pounds of avocados on Cinco de Mayo alone! That’s more than 160 million avocados in one day. Get in on the fun by trying this recipe, created for the California Avocado Commission by celebrity chefs, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger, known as the “Too Hot Tamales,” and co-chef/owners of the popular Border Grill restaurants in Santa Monica, Calif., Downtown Los Angeles and Las Vegas. This dynamic duo were Food Network pioneers when their show “Too Hot Tamales” premiered in 1995. They’ve gone on to compete on Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” and have now partnered with the California Avocado Commission to create innovative, fresh recipes featuring California avocados.
I love how this recipe is new and different and yet reminiscent of food I love. It reminds me of falafel of course, but there is also something very sushi maki about it too – like, if you were to take a california roll and fry it. Hey wait a minute. I think I’m onto something.
The recipe uses quinoa (pronounced “KEEN wah”), the high-protein, ancient Andean grain everyone is eating these days. It also calls for Cotija (pronounced “ko-TEE-hah”) cheese, a Mexican cheese with a grainy texture used as an accent by adding a tangy saltiness to dishes when grated on top. If your local grocer doesn’t sell Cotija cheese, order it on Amazon or substitute grated Parmesan.
Author: Recipe created by chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger for the California Avocado Commission
Recipe type: Appetizer
⅔ cup white or black quinoa, rinsed and well drained
1⅓ cups water
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ cup grated cotija cheese
¾ tsp salt
4 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
½ bunch Italian parsley
1 egg yolk
¾ cup canola or grape seed oil for frying
1 ripe, fresh California avocado, seeded, peeled and cut in ½-3/4 inch dice
Salt to taste
Ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup Aji Amarillo Aioli (see make-ahead recipe below)
Place a small, dry saucepan over high heat. Add quinoa and toast for about 5 minutes, shaking and stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Transfer to a large saucepan and add water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, flour, cheese and salt. Add onions, parsley, egg and yolk. Stir thoroughly with a spoon until the mixture has the consistency of soft dough. Chill for 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
In a small mixing bowl, season avocado with salt and pepper to taste and toss gently to coat.
Using hands, create round fritters about the size of a walnut shell with a piece of avocado in the center of each fritter.
Working in batches, gently slide fritters into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, turning as necessary. Drain on paper towels and serve warm, topped with Aji Amarillo Aioli.
If cotija cheese is not available, parmesan cheese can be substituted
Yields about 24 fritters
My friend Raquel is the master of the wild rice salad. She tosses it up in huge quantities for party buffets at her house and there’s never any left over. I’ve been meaning to do a version of my own and today was the day. The only difference between my version and hers, is that I’ve added an orange juice-based vinaigrette – just a wee-tiny bit, because this salad can even stand on its own without any vinaigrette, but I love orange and cranberry flavors together, so I thought it would only make this great salad greater.
Hey, it’s vegan and gluten-free. Can’t beat that.
Wild Rice, Cranberry and Toasted Almond Salad with a hint of Orange Serves 4 as a side
2 cups cooked wild rice (still warm)
3/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup toasted almonds slivers
1. Cook rice according to package directions (it takes about 45 minutes). Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a frying pan with no oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes or until just starting to brown.
2. While the rice is still warm, toss it with the dried cranberries and the almonds. This will allow the cranberries to swell and their flavor to meld.
3. While the rice mixture is cooling, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette until an emulsion is formed. Once rice mixture has cooled to room temperature toss the vinaigrette with the rice and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
It’s day five of my blogging event: “How to host an elegant, flavorful, vegan, gluten-free dinner party” in which I feature recipes created by the wonderful Viviane Bauquet Farre of food and style. My husband and several of his friends have transitioned to a vegetarian diet and several of them are also avoiding dairy and gluten, so when I decided to celebrate G’s birthday with a dinner party, I knew I needed to turn to my friend Viviane who features such refined recipes which also happen to be meat free. Today’s installment is the fourth of that five-course meal – the main course, in fact. For dessert, you’ll just have to check back tomorrow.
For this course, I got to experiment with fresh vegetables from the farmer’s market I’ve been dying to use, like English peas and fava beans. If you’re going to choose between the two, English peas are way easier to prepare. You just have to pop the peas out of the pod and they’re ready to go. Fava beans, on the other hand, require several steps. The beans within the pods are coated with a little jacket that needs to be removed as well. For this recipe, I actually prepared both and it took all day. Luckily, I was able to stream three episodes of This American Life while I shucked, blanched and peeled.
I prepared the fava beans by following the first part of a recipe by LocalLemons. First I had to remove the beans from their pods. Rinse them. Blanch them for 30 seconds and then pull off the outer layer from each bean. The inner bean is bright green and more fragile. After 3 hours of work, I forgot to photograph the bright green inner beans, but you can see what they look like over at the LocalLemons post. Here’s what they look like during step one and two.
This dish is truly scrumptious. It is lighter than risotto because there is no butter and no Parmesan cheese, but the saffron, wine and garlic more than make up for flavor. I would make this dish again in a minute and look forward to varying the vegetables depending on what’s in season.
For the vegetables
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 large shallots – skinned, quartered and finely sliced
1 teaspoon saffron threads – gently pounded in a mortar to a coarse powder
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
2 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
2 medium, young carrots – peeled and cut in 1/8″ x 1″ sticks
4 oz shelled fresh English peas
8 oz asparagus – stalk ends snapped off and spears cut on the diagonal in 1″ pieces
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
A handful of fresh baby arugula
For the quinoa-millet pilaf
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1-2 shallots, diced finely
1 clove of garlic, peeled and bashed
½ cup millet
½ cup quinoa (rinsed well)
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
Sea salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
About a cup of shelled fava beans
1. To get the quinoa-millet pilaf started, put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and place a bowl underneath. Rinse with cold water while rubbing the quinoa between your fingers. The water will become cloudy. Drain, and repeat this process with fresh water two more times. Strain excess water and set aside. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until soft. Add the garlic and sautée for another minute. Now we are going to toast the grains so that they have a rich, nutty flavor. Add the millet, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the quinoa and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes more. Again, stirring frequently to coat the grains with the olive oil, shallots and garlic. Add the vegetable stock and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer, covered for about 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Fluff before serving
2. Now that the quinoa-millet is cooking, it’s time to do the vegetables. Heat the olive oil in a wide, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until they have softened. Add the wine, saffron, and garlic. Bring to a full boil and then reduce heat to between medium and medium-low. Cover the pan and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the carrots, toss well, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes. During my dinner party, I actually paused the dish here while we were eating and the carrots steeped in the saffron-wine-garlic sauce (with no heat) for about 20 minutes. This had the delightful effect of infusing them with intense saffron flavor. You could try it that way.
3. Add the peas and asparagus, toss well, cover the pan and continue to simmer for 5 minutes until the asparagus are tender but still a bit crunchy. Uncover the pan. Raise heat to high, add the salt, black pepper to taste and the arugula. Toss until the arugula has wilted, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Immediately remove from heat.
4. To serve, spoon the pilaf into shallow bowls. Top with the braised vegetables. Drizzle with the pan juices. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately.
Optional fava bean addition:
Sautée the fava beans over medium high heat in a separate sautée pan, with some olive oil and pepper for about 3 minutes. Serve as a garnish on top.
Recently, I was at Mollie Stone’s market in Greenbrae, CA where there is a sizable bulk foods aisle and I was gazing at all of the varieties of gluten-free grains available there. In my kitchen, I have a shelf with glass canisters filled with staples and I just love the beauty of all the different-colored grains, beans, and pastas lined up next to each other. So when I saw these beautiful grains at Mollie Stones that I hadn’t tried in years, I just had to have them. Pearl millet and quinoa were the two I chose that day and I thought, ‘Why not make a pilaf?’
Once I returned home, I consulted the one book in my collection that was guaranteed to include a quinoa and millet pilaf: Annemarie Colbin’s 1989 book, The Natural Gourmet: Delicious recipes for balanced, healthy eating. If you’ve been following this blog at all lately, you will know that our family (specifically my husband) has renewed its efforts to engage in balanced, healthy eating. The last time I tried to do such a thing was 1990, and I have moved this book with me from place to place ever since.
Rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, both of these grains are gluten-free and deserve a place at everyone’s table.
For tips on how to make sure that your quinoa doesn’t taste bitter, see this post, How to Cook Quinoa over at my good friend Viviane Bauquet Farre’s blog, food and style.
Quinoa and Millet Pilaf adapted from the recipe by Annemarie Colbin in her bookThe Natural Gourmet
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ tsp ground cumin
1 clove of garlic, peeled and bashed
½ cup millet
½ cup quinoa (rinsed well)
2 ½ cups vegetable stock
Sea salt to taste (about 1/2 tsp)
Fresh curly parsley to garnish
1. Rinse the quinoa well. To do this, put the quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer and place a bowl underneath. Rinse with cold water while rubbing the quinoa between your fingers. The water will become cloudy. Drain, and repeat this process with fresh water two more times. Strain excess water and set aside.
2. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 4 minutes, or until soft. . Add the carrot sauté for another 4-5 minutes. If you need another touch of olive, don’t hesitate to add just a teeny bit more. Add the cumin and garlic and sautée for another minute. Now we are going to toast the grains so that they have a rich, nutty flavor. Add the millet, and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Now add the quinoa and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes more. Again, stirring frequently to coat the grains with the olive oil, aromatic vegetables and spices, and to prevent burning.
3. Add the vegetable stock and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer and, covered for about 30 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Fluff before serving and garnish with fresh parsley (or fresh cilantro sprigs would do well here too).
Day 9 of 31 days of pumpkin and I am psyched. I chowed down on this dish after photographing it and it was delicious. It’s been a long time since I’ve made risotto. It’s a labor of love kind of recipe that demands one’s full attention, so I made this while the kids were at school today. And then, in a quiet house with the hazy, long shadows of an early afternoon in fall, I savored every last bite. Then a pair of Blue Angels screamed overhead breaking one reverie and ushering in a new one.
For this recipe, I use the smaller Bay Scallops, rather than the larger Sea Scallops. Either could be appropriate here, but the Bay Scallops were $9.99/lb as opposed to the $19.99/lb Sea Scallops, so I decided to go for the lower stakes. I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday, I read a blog post by Debi Shawcross on How to Perfectly Pan Sear Scallops and I took her advice to heart. Definitely check out her post. The key takeaway for me was to try to get as much of the water out of the scallops as possible because water is the enemy of browning.