As much as I’ve talked about improvisation in the kitchen when you’re doing single-serving cooking, I do occasionally like to have a recipe, at least for starters. Trying to cut a recipe serving six or eight to one-person size is really frustrating. The major ingredients are not that hard to do–it’s the seasonings that are hardest. You’ve a much smaller quantity so you do need to cut them, but usually NOT by the same proportions as the main ingredients, so I was excited to see that the editors at America’s Test Kitchen had come out with Cooking for Two 2013, in addition to the Cooking for Two 2011.
In perusing these (Kindle editions), I though the recipes looked like a good starting place for single-serving cooking: many looked as if the second serving would freeze well, and that’s a bonus. (If you’ve read much at all here, you’ll know I don’t “do” leftovers, nor do I do the cook-one-thing-and-eat-it-all-week scene.) For me, having one serving to eat now, and one in the freezer is good. Other recipes looked as if I could prepare a single chop or chicken breast, with the full recipe, freeze that, and then just add the meat later after thawing the base.
One of the appealing things about the recipes in these books is that they are not terribly involved–like weeknight suppers, and not all-weekend cooking marathons–and shouldn’r leave you with a sink overflowing with dishes, pots and pans. Definitely worth a try since I’ve always had good results with recipes from Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country.
When making a recipe for the first time, I do follow it–otherwise how would I know how I need to change it? For my first exploration from the 2013 Cooking for Two I picked a dish that I though sounded tasty and fun, and that the second serving could be put in the freezer: “Moroccan-Style Quinoa with Chickpeas and Kale”. I like quinoa, I like chickpeas, and kale so this seemed a good one to try. I honestly did follow the recipe. Really I did, despite some temptations to tweak the seasonings…like put in extra garlic–that sort of thing.
I’m going (since I’ve given you the attribution above) to reproduce the recipe here with a little adaptation (because I don’t want to key in the entire thing). It was easy to follow, and –very little cleanup afterwards–all good points.
Moroccan-Style Quinoa with Chickpeas and Kale
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, chopped fine
- 1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed (if not prewashed)
- 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 3/4 can of chickpeas, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons golden raisins
- salt and pepper
- 6 ounces kale, stemmed and chopped into 1-inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest plus 1 teaspoon juice
- 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, carrot and cook until onion softens. Stir in garlic, coriander, pepper flakes and cook until fragrant. Add quinoa and cook stirring often until lightly toasted.
- Stir in broth, chickpeas, raisins, 1/8 teaspoon salt. Place kale (still wet from washing) on top and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer until quinoa to is transparent and tender (18 to 20) minutes.
- Off heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice. Sprinkle with feta, season as needed with salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
I’m likely to make this again, because it did go together easily, and cleaning up afterward was easy; but there will have to be some serious modification! The quinoa and chickpeas part of it is okay–except for being very bland–and I really, honestly did follow the quantities given in the recipe so I’d know. Well, now I do!
I’m not really familiar with Moroccan style seasonings, but I don’t think that this was it. Even with the added lemon zest and juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, raisins, and coriander, it’s definitely not even approaching complexity. It’s missing something.
Then there was the kale. The recipe didn’t say anything about what kind of kale. When I went to the market, I did look for Toscano (Lancinato, Nero) or Russian red kale, but I could find only the curly, redbor kale; I picked out the smallest, youngest looking leaves in the bin. But it still wasn’t what this dish needed–at least for me. The kale completely overwhelmed the flavor of the rest of the dish–I had kale flavored quinoa and chickpeas. For me it just did not fit with the quinoa and chickpeas.
I liked the idea of a one-dish meal (since it’s something I’ve posted about here a number of times), but I’ll not do it with that particular kale again. I think I’m more likely to do spinach, or maybe arugula, though I might try it with Toscano or Lancinato kale, hoping that would be a bit milder. (No pictures either–even with the smaller leaves, the kale was a rather icky green by the time it was tender.)
My other frustration with the recipe–supposedly for two–was that the servings were huge–I have at least two more servings sitting in the fridge now, even after having had a very reasonable portion for supper. Another piece of information for when I try another of the “for-two” recipes.
I know that when writing recipes public consumption, you do have to be moderate with seasonings, but this was downright bland, not something that I expect from recipes from this source–I’ll be looking out for that with other recipes. I guess I was expecting to taste and think that I’d need more garlic, or maybe more red pepper flakes next time, but I wasn’t expecting what I got from this.
You think I sound frustrated?
You’re right–because I have come to expect better from the recipes from American’s Test Kitchen–and now I have two more servings to try to make more palatable. I’ll try to add more seasoning when I reheat, but I don’t want the quinoa to be total mush.
I will do the quinoa and chickpeas combo again, but likely replacing the vegetable broth with at least part chicken broth, definitely increasing the coriander, red pepper, lemon juice and zest, and figuring out some other spices to add for more complexity–while trying to still keep it simple. (That’s my rationalization for going in search of a Moroccan cookbook now.)
Bottom line for me, it’s a starter–now to see where I can go with it. But, I’ll be trying another recipe from the book….but I’ll definitely feel free to make adjustments right from the start on a few things.