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Secrets: Cooking with The Lepperts
by Michael Leppert and Mary Leppert
 
Quinoa – This issue we will prepare a little-known New World grain favored by the Inca Indians who called it “the Mother grain” – quinoa (pronounced “keen-wa”). Of all grains, quinoa contains the highest percentage of protein: Over 16 percent on average, with some varieties having more than 20 percent protein. The protein found in quinoa is a complete protein, too, including essential amino acids. Anyone interested in finding grain alternatives to wheat or protein alternatives to red meat and cow’s milk will find quinoa worth experimenting with. Below are two recipes that you may find useful in such an endeavor. The basic method is just like making basic rice or barley: It produces the regular side-dish version of quinoa. This may not prove to be popular with your family until they have developed a taste for this unique grain. Quinoa has a flavor that I would describe as very “green”, but it is pleasant, especially when prepared with oil and diced vegetables, as in the pilaf recipe, also found below.
 
Quinoa – basic method
2 cups water
1 cup EdenÒ organic quinoa
 
Method:

Rinse quinoa by placing it in a strainer and running cold water over it for a minute. (If possible, try placing the rinsed quinoa in a saucepan with the 2 cups of water, cover and soak overnight. Soaking for 10-12 hours works well for all grains, by the way.) Soaked or not, when you are ready to cook it, bring the quinoa and water to a boil. You can either boil the grain at a medium-high heat uncovered for 10-15 minutes (if you are going to be watching it) or lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until all of the water has been absorbed (approximately 15-20 minutes.) The quinoa is cooked when it has become “transparent”. Turn off heat, let quinoa stand for five minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve or keep it to make Quinoa pilaf. (Yield: 3 cups) (You can use a broth instead of water in this recipe for a great variation. If you are serving fish, you can use any fish broth or vegetable broth to match the flavor of the entree.)

Quinoa Pilaf
Ingredients:
 
One-half cup carrot, diced
One cup green onion, diced
One-fourth cup celery, diced
One-fourth cup green pepper, diced
3 teaspoons Italian seasonings
6 cups EdenÒ organic quinoa, cooked (basic recipe)
One-half cup sesame oil or olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed or 1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 cups pine nuts, whole
1-2 teaspoons EdenÒ sea salt (or to taste)
 
Method:

Sauté green onion, celery, green pepper, salt and garlic in oil, stirring often. When the white part of the onion becomes transparent, add Italian seasonings and cook at medium heat for approximately 5-10 minutes, then add pine nuts, lower heat, and stir mixture well to coat each piece with oil. Cook another 5-10 minutes, taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Add quinoa, stir in well and cook on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, covered. Remove from heat and let stand until ready to serve. Yield: Approximately eight servings.

Honey-less Baklava - For desert, we present a universal, favorite sweet from the sunny lands of the Eastern Mediterranean: Greece and Lebanon – baklava! However, we have a different spin on the classic recipe. Years ago, in an effort to improve our health without sacrificing great sweets, we began reading about and experimenting with alternatives to sugar and/or honey for use in dessert recipes. Rice syrup and barley malt are both excellent replacements for sugar and honey. When Michael eats traditional baklava, sweetened with honey, he experiences indigestion soon afterward. With the substitution of rice syrup, that problem is eliminated. Of course, you can always use honey instead of the rice syrup and feel free to adjust the sweetness to your taste. This recipe will make a batch to fit in a high-sided cookie sheet 17-1/2 x 12-1/2.

Ingredients:
 
  • Filo dough – 1 box (Many fine supermarkets and specialty food stores carry it.)
  • Corn oil – highest quality possible. Spectrum is a good brand, if available.
  • Orange juice – fresh, from two medium oranges
  • Crushed nuts - 1 lb. of each (preferably pistachios, but a combination of pistachios and walnuts is good, too).
  • Suit your own taste in this regard
  • Rice syrup – two regular-sized jars, medium sweetness. Lundberg Farms is a good brand.
  • Whole cloves - one jar or bottle
  • Pastry brush
  • Stainless steel, high-sided (at least one-half inch high) cookie sheet (Steel is healthier than aluminum.)
  • Clean, damp dishtowel

    Filo dough is one of the trickiest substances known to man. It dries out incredibly fast, so don’t begin to make the baklava until you have everything ready. We will list the order for doing everything and the making is simpler than this will look.

    Place the cookie sheet on a clean, flat surface. You will be placing the unfolded filo dough next to it, so you will need a fairly large work area.
    1. Crush the nuts in a food processor or blender. Place them in a large bowl near the filo dough.
    2. Juice the two oranges and place in small bowl for later use
    3. Fill a medium-sized bowl with corn oil & set next to cookie sheet, along with pastry brush
    4. Wet the dishtowel and wring it out, so it is damp, not dripping.
    Begin by brushing oil onto the bottom of the cookie sheet. Carefully but quickly, remove the filo dough from the box and unfold it. Lay it flat next to the cookie sheet and place the damp towel over it. Take a sheet of filo dough and place it on the cookie sheet. Gently smooth it out with your hands and quickly brush it with oil. Continue layering and oiling each sheet of dough until you have 12 sheets, with oil on each, on the cookie sheet. Now spread the crushed nuts evenly across the dough. Resume laying one sheet of filo dough at a time, brush with oil and then another sheet, until you have placed another 12 sheets over the nuts. Now, taking the sharpest knife you have, cut the layered creation into whatever shapes you find pleasing. You can use the traditional rhomboid cut, ending up with triangles at the ends or you can cut the pieces straight, like bars. Just make sure that the knife goes all the way to the bottom of the dough. Stick a whole clove in the middle of each piece. Set aside and preheat oven to 500 degrees. (You will turn it down later, but always preheat to 500.)

    Empty the rice syrup and orange juice into a medium saucepan over a low-medium heat, stirring occasionally, for approximately 10 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Slowly pour this liquid evenly over the entire pan of baklava, letting it ooze down through all of the layers of dough to the bottom of the pan. Lower the oven heat to 300 and bake the baklava for approximately 45 minutes. Ovens vary in temperature, so you have to judge the time exactly. Keep your eye on it, though, as filo dough can brown – and burn – very quickly! Remove the baklava from the oven, cool for an hour or two and remove from the pan onto a large plate. Yield: 20-24 pieces, depending upon how you cut it.