Apple Cheddar Quinoa Cakes

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Turns out starting a new job isn’t easy. I mean first of all, you have to figure out how to do that thing you’ve been hired to do. In this case for me that includes getting to know 20 different artists on our Outreach play and workshop roster, our 4 main booking contacts throughout the various NYC library systems, and learn everyone’s unique way of working. It also means visiting as many of New York City’s libraries as I can, as how are you supposed to figure out what programs you want to book if you haven’t met who’s in your audience? (Also in this case it includes learning how to run a summer camp, but that’s June-Ilanna’s problem. And if you happen to be any of my camper’s parents… just kidding… your children are in adept and capable hands and I’ll stop writing now.)

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And there’s all that other stuff too, like interpersonal stuff (Is Coworker X laughing at me or with me? How much should I acknowledge Colleague Y’s rambly, rhetorical-but-not-really questions?), or who do you ask about business cards (Turns out no one — I have to design, order them, and get reimbursed (not normal, right?)), or what to do when the person before you made a mistake that it’s up to you to fix (Don’t worry, if you need any magicians in NYC I have compiled a whole list of them after a stressful and last-minute booking mix-up last week). Every day poses its own series of challenges.

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Today I went to go see my recently obtained magician do his show at a small library branch in Staten Island. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go — it’s far, you have to take the ferry, it was a beautiful Saturday, I had to take three modes of transportation, etc, etc. I could’ve come up with any number of excuses but I just did it and ya know? It wasn’t actually that far, the ferry was delightful on this sunny day, and the library was easy to find. The branch was welcoming, colorful, and packed with kids. The magician was wonderfully entertaining, bringing a huge smile to my face as I watched both him and his eager fans. The shock and awe on their faces as he made a quarter fly or made a bottle of ketchup disappear was the highlight of my week. I think this job is going to be okay.

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Oh god, and here I am again with no transition to be found. This snack or brunch has nothing to do with magicians, or a new job, or being happily surprised by a ferry ride. It’s just good.  Apple and cheddar are a favorite combination around here, if by “around here” we mean with me, because everyone else I surround myself with seems turned off by this underappreciated pairing. Don’t be like them. Fry yourself up some of these simple sweet&savory bites, eat them on the plate you brought back from Japan which makes you happy, and don’t listen to the naysayers. (At work OR at home. Boom. A tidy, relevant wrap-up.)

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one year ago(ish): Kung Pao Brussel sprouts and tofu 
two years ago: roasted pepper and eggplant soup with orzo

Apple Cheddar Quinoa Cakes

a Swanky original
(makes 9ish small cakes, good for two for brunch with salad)

It’s best to use the mixture the day you make it. I put some in the fridge and fried the cakes a day or two later — still tasted delicious but they didn’t hold together as well. Also a note on sauce — I tried them with a quick chipotle mayo but it was too overpowering, and I wouldn’t recommend the hot sauce route. A drizzle of honey was nice, as was a dollop of honey mustard. Maybe Greek yogurt would be a nice touch? Let me know if you try it.

½ a red apple (I use Fuji)
1 cup cooked quinoa
⅓ cup cheddar, shredded
⅓ cup panko
1 egg
1 scallion, minced
s&p to taste
Olive oil
Honey to serve (or see note, above)

First, grate your apple. Skin-on is fine. Use the biggest holes on your box grater. Lots of liquid will be pressed out — get rid of this excess liquid but no need to squeeze apple strands; some liquid is okay. Combine apples and all other ingredients except olive oil in a big bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon to combine.

Heat a large saute pan over medium heat. Add a healthy drizzle of olive oil — enough to coat the bottom of the pan but no extra (we’re not making latkes here). Spread oil around with a flexible spatula to ensure it covers the whole surface.

Using your hands, scoop up quinoa-apple mixture. I like a big cookie-sized amount — about 1/4 cup. Press quinoa mixture into a fat disk, and carefully put into the pan. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until browned, on each side. Quinoa will become crunchy, cheese pockets will ooze, and apple will intermingle.

Serve with a side salad and a drizzle of honey for a peeerfect brunch.

 

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Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce

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Life is a like a bowl of expensive, organic potato chips at a rooftop party in Williamsburg. You never know if you’ll end up with sriracha, honey mustard, or plain (ew). Or like a cooler of beer in the dark–will it be Narraganset (cheapasses), Tecate (sufficiently low brow), or Weihenstephaner (overachievers)? In either case, you don’t have much say in the matter so just eat or drink it you asshole and take in that insane city view.

BUT you do have a say in brunch.

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It’s so tempting to wake up late, put on my baggy (trendy?) jeans, and sample one of the plethora of (definitely trendy) brunch places around. I live a 15 minute walk from probably forty brunch options, offering anything from traditional Brazilian to high-brow Balinese to funky Colombian to outdoor, farm-to-table Brooklyn meets Australia. With new places popping up every weekend, it’s easy to feel like you’re “falling behind” on brunch. Which is dumb. Sampling more restaurants does not give you status.

But today it was BEET DAY. And so we set the beets a roasting and strolled to the farmers’ market for dill and eggs and the local Polish deli for rye toast and yogurt.

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This was a very very good decision.

Our humble salad is unexpectedly tastier and more filling than the sum of its parts: sweet roasted beets, a tangy onion vinaigrette tangled into quick-boiled beet greens, and a spiced minty yogurt sauce. The onions mellow in the vinegar til they’re drunk and swooning. The yogurt tries to overwhelm our earthy beets with its tang, but, “Hell no,” the beets say, as they retain their characteristic sweetness and decide to co-exist platonically and peacefully. The beet greens seem massive and overwhelming and then a quick dunk in boiling water reduces their volume by approximately a zillion percent and they say “oh fine, we’ll share the spotlight. And then all this dill gets dropped on top and says I GO WITH EVERYTHING and all the veggies concede.

So for a perfect weekend: honey mustard chips, Tecate cans, and beets. Followed by watching El Mundial at a language meet-up group gathering, fixing up my bike, and discussing plans for a juggling workshop (truth).

Roasted Beets and their Greens with Mint Yogurt Sauce
Adapted from the New York Times

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Ingredients:
3 beets and their greens, chiffonaded (see below for how-to!)
3 T fresh dill, snipped

Vinaigrette:
3 T red wine vinegar
1/3 cup red onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely diced
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
4 T olive oil

Yogurt:
1 small container full-fat Greek yogurt (about 1/2 cup)
1 small garlic clove, finely diced
2 T mint, chopped
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 t ground coriander
dash cayenne
salt and pepper
1/2 T olive oil

Cook the beets:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wash beets well. Trim off beet leaves and stringy pointy bit at other end. If beets are different sizes, cut some in half so they’re roughly the same size. Place in a single layer in a baking dish and fill with 1-2 inches of water, enough to mostly submerge. Cover with foil and cook for an hour to an hour and a half, or until fork tender. Once done, carefully drain the water and let cool. When cool, peel beets and watch fingers turn bright pink. Cut into small wedges.wpid46-BeetSalad-4.jpg

Chiffonade, Clean, and Cook the greens:
Separate leaves from the pink stems, which you can discard, and cut leaves into thin ribbons. (I like the “roll and slice” method: pile about 5 leaves, roll them into a cigarette shape, and then slice rounds.) Dunk all these leaves into a big bowl of cold water, smoosh around for a minute, scoop out greens, and pour out water. Repeat until water in bowl is clean (2-4 times). Boil cleaned greens in a big pot of salted water for about 2 minutes, or until just wilted. Drain, rinse with cool water, and then squeeze to get rid of extra water.
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Make the vinaigrette:
Combine red wine vinegar, onion, and garlic in small bowl and let stand about 5 minutes. Add rest of ingredients and mix with a fork.wpid66-BeetSalad-14.jpg

Make the yogurt:
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl.wpid68-BeetSalad-15.jpg

To finish, dress the beet greens with 1/3 of the vinaigrette. Put another 1/3 of the vinaigrette on the beets. Plate those two, spoon yogurt mixture on top, and sprinkle dill over everything.

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Leftover vinaigrette is great with scrambled eggs or for spinach salad!

DISCLAIMER: All photos but the last one taken by Daniel and his fancy camera. My apologies to anyone who can’t bare to see posts go back and forth between lovely, edited photography and the iPhone version.