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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Cheesy Bulgur Risotto with Broccoli and Tomatoes

CheesyBrocBulgurRisotto-3Home is colors and clutter, memories and fantasies. A place to be proud of, to share, to embrace.

Well-read books and paged-through magazines and background music and postcards and leftovers and clean laundry and dirty laundry and scarves and beer and nail polish and lost pennies.

This is home. Not a specific bed, or room, or apartment, or neighborhood.

A feeling, a net, a hug, a soup, a warm shower.

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Changing all that isn’t easy. You can’t just plop a whole van’s worth of boxes and drawers into a different set of walls and expect it to transform.

This time I felt like the luckiest person in the world–moving into a place I already felt quite homey in, with a loving and fantastic person who had already prepared for this transition by buying extra storage boxes, reorganizing furniture, and, thankfully, not even asking me if I wanted to drive the van.

And here we are, a few days later, boxes still scattered and corners still cluttered but I look around while drinking a glass of wine from my vantage point on the couch and see the flowery potholders my mom bought me years ago hanging above the stove, and the elephant hooks I acquired in Nepal already overflowing with scarves, and our reordered dressers so they both fit snugly against the same wall, and I know I’m home.

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And seriously what better way to celebrate that than a reimagining of a homey meal I had growing up: broccoli and cheesy rice casserole. I’m not the biggest fan of broccoli, but cheddar always makes it shine, and the fractal (romanesco) version at least provides visual excitement. I’m having a bulgur wheat moment, as it has recently appeared as a nutty-and-crunchy sub for rice in this risotto, and as a hearty wholesome addition to a salad with apple, radish, quick pickled red onions, cilantro, and poppy seeds. I wonder if in 20 years “risotto” will sound to my children like “casserole” sounds to my generation, but for now it’s a pretty good excuse to combine grains, cheese, and veggies into a quick and delicious one-pot dinner.

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Guys I know these pictures are a bit subpar but a) make this because it’s seriously delicious and b) it’s the last time you’ll see this bowl in a post since it lived at the old apartment

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apple, radish, pickled red onion, bulgur salad. recipe from plenty more!

 

 

Cheesy Bulgur Risotto with Broccoli and Tomatoes

created by me!

1 T olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
1 large (or 2 small) garlic cloves, minced
1-2 scallions, minced (white and light green parts only)
1 spicy green chile pepper, some seeds removed, chopped small (I used 1/2 a long hot but 1 jalapeno would work too)
1 cup coarse bulgur
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups water, divided
1 large broccoli, cut into florets (I used some romanesco) (and took a lot of pictures of it)
1 tomato, roughly chopped
½ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
small handful coarsely chopped parsley
s&p to taste

In a medium-to-large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onion, scallion, garlic, and spicy pepper. Heat until soft, translucent, and smelling good, about 8 minutes.

Lower heat to medium and add bulgur. Toast, stirring constantly, about 1 minute. Then, add broth, 1 cup water, and big pinch of salt. Turn heat to high until it boils, then cover and turn heat to low.

Simmer for 10 min. At this point, most of the liquid should be absorbed. Add 1 more cup water (or broth) and broccoli florets. Cover again. 5 minutes later, broccoli should have started turning bright green. Add your chopped tomato and all its juices. If necessary, add more water at this point too. Cover, but leave lid open a crack.

Risotto should be done about 5 minutes later–the tomatoes will be disintegrated, the bulgur chewy, the brocolli cooked through but still crunchy. Add cheddar, parsley, and s&p and serve immediately.

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boxes boxes boxes