Want some adventure? Try Red Quinoa instead of rice!

Last night I made a delicious stew. Since Im latino, I LOVE rice. I will serve almost anything over a bed of hot fluffy white rice. It has been a staple in my diet (like pasta) all my life.But it’s not the healthiest grain to eat, and it doesnt digest all that easily. So  every now and then I like to mix it up with other, more healthy  grain varieties. Last night I prepared Red Quinoa. It is harvested in the Andes and is a pearly, seed like grain which is extremely high in protein, fiber and iron. It is just as simple as rice to prepare, and the reward is in its texture. I purchased the quinoa at Whole Foods, Im sure you can find it at your local Green Market. Make extra if you like, it makes great room temperature leftovers. (toss it into salad or add nuts and oranges to it the next day…wow!) And if you care, quinoa is a very eco friendly food.


Red Quinoa (serves 4 )


1 1/2 cups Red Quinoa (rinsed and drained)

3 cups hot water

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large shallot or small onion,  sliced or diced (optional)

1/4 cup precooked red or white beans (optional)

salt and pepper to taste


Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium heat. If you  are using  shallots or onions, give them a quick sautee. Add quinoa and stir constantly about 3 mins. Add water and beans if you are using them.Bring to boil and simmer, covered, approx 15 mins. Quinoa is ready to serve when little white sprouts appear from the red seeds and the water has been absorbed. Salt and Pepper to taste.


Red Quinoa before cooking.
So simple. Treat quinoa like rice.I added shallots and red beans…you dont have to.
So delicious, crunchy, and healthy. You can serve this with anything you would serve rice with. Quinoa makes great leftovers, unlike rice,as it will stay firm for a day or two in fridge


More more info on varieties,  history, nutrional value, eco friendliness of quinoa, read



Healthy Ideas for a Delicious Meal on the Grill

I cook and eat a variety of delicious fresh foods as often as possible. I  have always believed that ,with some imagination, we can prepare a fantastic, well rounded meal free of fats and breads.And that means healthy to me. I don’t usually cook with a lot of butter, salts  or sugars anyway,as I rely on  the taste of spices,citrus,and other  fresh ingredients instead .

Last night I put together a Springtime feast of boneless  grilled chicken thighs which I marinated in fresh ginger, a lovely ginger-maple syrup,  orange zest,  a dash of soy and ground black pepper. I threw them in the fridge to sit while I prepared some colorful side dishes. I had seen Mark Bittman’s idea for a Sweet Potato Salad which was basically grilled yams tossed with a red bell pepper pesto. I added walnuts, nutmeg, and lemon zest to his idea. Also, I had some over- ripe pears lying around so I  incorporated them into a spicy habanero pepper  mango-avocado chutney. Finally, the  red cabbage slaw,  which I tossed in sesame oil , lemon juice, chili flakes, and topped with grilled string beans.Maybe I went overboard with the colors, but the result was a refreshing, delicious, economical and healthy night by the grill.


Grilled Asian Chicken, Spicy Mango-Pear-Avocado Chutney, Sweet Potato Salad with Red Pepper-Walnut-Mint Pesto, Citrus Cabbage Slaw with Grilled Green Beans
The presentation.
Grilled Sweet Potato Salad with Walnuts and Raisins..the hot spiciness of the red bell pepper pesto mixed so well with the sweetness of the potato and mint.
Such a simple dish. I tossed red cabbage together with sesame oil, toasted sesame seeds, lemon juice (any citrus will do)..let it sit for a while, then serve with greens. I used string beans, but only because I didnt have brussel sprouts at hand.
Sometimes I prefer grilling boneless chicken thighs.Yes breasts are healthier,but thighs cook in no time and absorb any kind of marinade you like. I used ginger, soy, black pepper, a dash of olive oil, and a bit of a ginger-maple syrup.
Yum! The chutney was a spicy medley of pears, avocado, mango which I tossed together with sherry vinegar,cayenne,cumin, red pepper flakes, and mustard seeds.



Pasta al Sarde (Pasta with Sardines and Fennel)

Its fennel season!! As a child my Father used to make me  a wonderful Sicilian pasta dish with fennel, sardines, onions, , pinoli nuts, herbs,tomatoes and toasted bread crumbs..After searching all of NYC for fresh sardines, I finally found some lovely fresh beauties at the Essex St Market yesterday. I asked the monger to debone the little guys but to keep the heads and tails on a couple of them for show on the pasta .The dish is simple and unique and as long as you keep the ingredients fresh, there are a million varieties of preparation. Some Italians  like to caramelize onions and the fennel, add a little wine and sardine,and toast some breadcrumbs and add parsley. Others will add capers or raisins or currants and tomato sauce to the mix. I decided to fry up the sardines in lemon zested panko breadcrumbs and I opted for smashed cherry tomatoes instead of a heavy sauce. Regardless,its a scrumptious dish, cheap, and healthy too. (fennel provides an excellent source for potassium, vitamin c, fiber and folic acid…sardines are loaded with vitamin B-12, calcium, and Vitamin D) I used fresh fettuccine.. you can use your favorite type of course, or even serve this over rice if you like. As a side note, you may replace fennel with celery stalks if you like, but its the lovely subtle anise flavor of the fennel combined with the sardines that works so well here. Also, a tip. I used the boiled water three ways here. First, I threw in the fennel to soften it up before sauteing, then used that same flavored water for cooking the pasta, then used that same water again for moisturizing the sauce.


Pasta al Sarde

(Prep time: 30 mins . Total time 60 mins. Serves 4. Total cost $15-$20)


1 large fennel bulb, quartered. Fennel Hair reserved.

1 large white onion, diced

1/2 lb deboned fresh sardines (about 6 whole fish)

1 cup unflavored breadcrumbs or panko breadcrumbs

1 large lemon, juiced and zested

One pinch of saffron

1/2 cup parsley, coarsley chopped

1/4 cup pinoli nuts (optional)

1 lb small cherry tomatoes, hand crushed or 2 large tomatoes, diced.

3/4 cup olive oil or canola oil for frying, a few tablespoons reserved for drizzling

1 teaspoon anchovy paste

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 teaspoon salt (optional)

8 cups water for boiling fennel, then reserved for pasta.

3/4 to 1lb pasta.


In a large pasta pot, bring water to boil.

Quarter the fennel and toss in the boiling water. Add a pinch of salt and saffron to water. Let boil approx 15 mins.


Spread fish on a plate and add lemon juice and a pinch of black pepper and set aside


Meanwhile, in deep dish plate, zest lemon into breadcrumbs and 1/4 cup parsley.Coat the fish evenly with breadcrumb mixture.

In heavy skillet, bring oil to piping hot. Gently place sardines in oil . About 2 mins each side or until golden brown. Remove fish and place on plate with paper towel to drain excess oil. With slotted spoon, remove any excess browned breadcrumbs from oil and reserve them for garnish later.

Remove fennel from water with slotted spoon. Save the water but turn off heat til you are ready to prepare the pasta. Reserve about 2 cups of water for sauce.


Once cooled, slice the fennel in one inch strips.

In large pan, drizzle olive oil  over medium heat and add onions, pinoli nuts  and fennel til golden brown. Add crushed tomatoes, parsley,anchovy paste,red pepper stirring constantly. Add a bit of reserved water and bring down heat and cover. Let simmer for approx 10 mins.


When you are ready to cook the pasta, add 4 of the 6 sardines to the sauce and break up into the mixture, adding more water if needed. Add salt, or pepper to taste.

Cook pasta til al dente. Drain. Mix with half the sardine-fennel sauce,spread remaining sauce over platter, add two whole sardines to the top, sprinkle with fresh parsley and toasted reserved breadcrumbs and a drizzle of olive oil , garnish plate with fennel hair and lemon and serve immediately.

Pasta al Sarde ( pasta with Sardines and Fennel Sauce)
I love Fennel. So healthy for you and they are in season and delicious through May!
Fresh sardines!! Yum!
I added a bit of saffron and salt with the fennel and boiled it a bit. RESERVE the water, you can cook the pasta in it later and add the lovely aromatic water to your sauce too.
Heres the sardines , breaded in lemon zested panko in the frying pan.
The onions, fennel, tomatoes, parsley, nuts, and some reserved water cooking away.
Keep adding a little reserved flavored water to your sauce when you add the sardines. Looking good….
Here’s the pasta all tossed…
Black Shadow 2006 Syrah worked really well with spicy robust dishes like this.


Grilled Shrimp and Salmon on the BBQ

I’m really into outdoor grilling and I cant wait for the weather to co-operate … but last night, I fired up the grill anyway and threw some shrimp and salmon on.


Really, there was nothing to it. I splashed lemon juice on the shrimp, and sprinkled it with some Cajun Spices ( salt,pepper,cayenne,paprika)..then I skewered it (for easy handling and  serving) and grilled for 3 minutes per side.


All I added to the salmon was salt and pepper and dill. I grilled for about 10 minutes (skin side) , flipped it carefully and then grilled for another 6-7 minutes. I prefer salmon medium well, you may like it less cooked or more well done. I added a generous amount of lemon AFTER grilling. It really made the meat pop that way.


I served it with a huge salad. Delicious and  healthy. Come on Spring!!



Skewering the Shrimp made grilling it a breeze. It also presented so nicely. I plated it with some lemon slices,rosemary sprigs, and cocktail sauce.
The less you do to Salmon, the better. All you need is salt and pepper, but I also added fresh dill.
Once I plated the salmon, then I added tons of lemon!

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