Saturday, 21 January 2012

Weekend Cooking: When a dish just doesn't quite work....

Every now and then, I try a recipe and it just doesn't quite work for me.  It might turn out perfectly as described in the recipe, it browns nicely and is all bubbly.  I sink my teeth into it, and swallow that first forkful and realize that something is missing.  It might be everything that the recipe stated, but somehow it fails to tantalize my taste buds. I tried a new quinoa recipe this week, and that is exactly what happened.

I bought this cook book: new vegetarian cuisine for my son two or three years ago when he was going through his vegetarian phase. This is probably the second or third recipe from it that I have tried.  In my opinion, it is bland recipes like this that makes people turn their noses up at vegetarian cuisine.  If you happen to like non-spicy recipes, this one might work for you.  The author has the following to say about this dish:
This is a real favorite of mine... The flavor of the cheese in this dish and the crumbs that top it remind me of the macaroni and cheese I enjoyed as a kid.
I didn't detect any of the cheese flavour unless I was eating the little bit sprinkled directly on the top of the dish.  Since this makes a large dish, I wasn't about to toss it in the composter, I needed to find a way to make it more tasty for me.  I'll give you the recipe as written and then I'll tell you how I dressed it up.  I didn't take a picture of the dish as it is so 'one colour' I didn't think it would look good in a photo.

Cheesy Chick-Pea and Quinoa Bake

1 tbsp margarine
1 cup coarsely chopped zucchini
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped scallions
4 cups water
2 cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup canned chick-pears, rinsed and drained
1 cup shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese, divided
1/2 cup shredded low fat Swiss cheese, divided
1/4 cup seasoned dry bread crumbs

  • Preheat the oven to 350F. Coat a 2 quart casserole with non-stick spray.
  • In a large non-stick frying pan over medium heat, melt the margarine.  Add the zucchini, celery and scallions; cook, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes, or until tender.
  • Stir in the water, quinoa, chick-peas, 3/4 cup of the Cheddar and 1/4 cup of the Swiss.  Spoon into the prepared casserole.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes, or until the liquid has almost been absorbed.
  • Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and the remaining 1/4 cup Cheddar and 1/4 cup Swiss.  Bake, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed and the cheese has melted.
Very easy to make, nice texture, just missing 'bite.  What to do.

First I added a bit of fresh ground black pepper.  Helped, but not enough.  Then I turned to my standby: Sweet Chili Sauce for Chicken from Cock Brand.  This sauce it sweet and spicy with bits of red chili floating freely.  This stepped up the flavour of the dish and I emptied my bowl and went back for a bit more.

Still lots left.  Dinner with daughter.  Heated a carton of no-salt added Chicken broth from Campbells.  Spooned some quinoa into a bowl, ladled in some broth and finished warming in the microwave.  Great soup.

Still lots left in the casserole.  Lunch the next day.  Again, what to do.  I spooned a cup or so into a bowl, cracked an egg and mixed it through.  Into the microwave to warm and cook the egg.  After cooking I added a dollop of Sweet Chili and sauce and ate.  It was ok.

Still lots left. Lunch on day three.
I'm getting a bit more adventurous.  A pat of butter in the small frying pan, let it melt.  Spoon in about 3/4 to 1 cup of quinoa casserole.  Let it fry for a few minutes on medium.  I wanted a bit of a crust to form.  Using the back of a spoon I made a hollow.  Spooned in a layer of Roasted Tomato Chipotle Salsa and cracked an egg.  Put on a lid and let the egg cook.   Turned off the heat, added a slice of Havarti cheese, put the lid on so the heat would melt the cheese.  Sort of slid this onto my dish and it made a wonderful lunch.

There is still a bit left in the fridge, don't know if it will get eaten in any of the above fashions, but my imagination is up to the challenge.

Do you have any favourite 'saves' for when a recipe just doesn't work with your taste buds?
For more foodie fun, be sure to visit Beth Fish Reads for her Weekend Cooking Post.  You are invited to join in the culinary fun by adding a link to your recent food related post.


(Diane) bookchickdi said...

What a great post, I admire your persistence! We used to have 'New Recipe Week' where I would make five new recipes in a week. Invariably, at least two of them would be either tasteless or downright inedible, but I never had your ingenuity to create lemonade out of lemons.

Heather @ said...

You didn't give up, LOL! I have had that happen before and I can't stand throwing away food, but I don't know that I would have stuck with it for as long as you did.

TheBookGirl said...

I applaud your imagination for ways to extend this less than successful dish.
You are so right about bland food like this giving vegetarianism a bad name...I've had to convince more than one person that as a veggie I don't subsist on tasteless "health" food.

Beth F said...

Yeah, the original didn't have salt or pepper or any spices or herbs what so ever. Ugh. Good job on doctoring it up. The base ingredients look good, but there isn't any real flavor there.

Peggy@Peggy Ann's Post said...

Very Creative. Don't know if I would have thought of all those different ways to use it up.

Uniflame said...

I think one of my saves are sauces, like a dash of soy, ketjap or BBQ depending on the dish.

Rikki said...

Very good, Heather. I would never try to make it work like you did. I am glad it was not a total failure, but already from the recipe it sounds dead boring. No spices whatsoever!
I think a lot of people think vegetarian cuisine is bland, but there are tons of tasty, spicy or hot dishes out there.

Heidenkind said...

I agree with Diane, this is a great post! Most people have no idea how to convert leftovers into other meals; they either just reheat them or toss them. I love seeing the creativity here.

Usually I either turn leftovers into a sandwich or a salad, fry them, or fold them into a fritata. It sounds like you've already done all that, though.

Elly D said...

Your style of cooking sounds pretty much like mine. I tend to cook by the seat of my pants too. LOL...
This looks as though is should be a delicious recipe, however, as you've written it's bland... Like you I'd have reached for the chili sauce, LOL. I notice the recipe doesn't have any seasoning through it apart from the breadcrumbs. Also I would use butter and/or olive oil in place of the margarine, and a strong mature cheddar but less in amount.
This story reminds me of the time when I was about 8 and my mum went to visit my abuela in Spain. My dad had to take care of us kids so he started a large pan of stew and kept it on the stove and added different ingredients to it each day, LOL.. we lived.