By Dennis Linden
This month’s featured recipe was named for [and by!] its creator, Louie Barragon, the company’s in-house Nutritionist. This is Louie’s favorite go-to recipe when entertaining because of the many ingredient combinations that can be flexed around the core formula depending on the event or sometimes the dietary disciplines of those he is serving.
“This dish is versatile for anyone of any cooking skill level, diet, and budget because it is difficult to mess-up,” Louie explained. “It can easily be vegan-friendly or include canned veggies when fresh is not in season and, of course, can incorporate a wide range of fresh seasonal ingredients when available. It is also great for those who are health conscious, like me, to easily keep track of calories and macro-nutrients if they wish. Those close to me know of my “Rata-Louie” dish and look forward to the always changing combination of ingredients.”
Besides the obvious tasty flavors of this dish, the one-pot preparation that Louie lays out also makes this quick and easy meal even easier to clean up after! And, while the ingredient list could be tweaked in a thousand culinary directions, I kind of liked the simplicity of Louie’s original version. Nothing fancy here, just the fresh flavors of sweet pepper, sweet onion and sweet heirloom tomatoes delivered in a light mix of ground turkey and quinoa. With quinoa providing for most of the textural context with its fluffy, creamy, crunchy and somewhat nutty characteristics all rolled into one. Could one add a sauce or other veggies or even scramble in an egg or two (?) – of course! On the other hand, the dish is well balanced “as is”. Actually, Louie’s measures made for many single servings, so over a week’s time I could not resist tweaking the recipe in several delicious ways that provided a breakfast, a lunch and a few dinners – all with slightly different flavor accents. This dish will never get boring!
And this dish really can be done in one pot, if using Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa as Louie’s submission calls for. Since this popular item was out of stock at the time of this writing, I had to cook up a batch of the company’s dry version. This required using a second pot, but the process was a good reminder of the secret to fluffy quinoa, which is to ignore the quantity of liquid called for on the package. Instead, cook the grain just like pasta by throwing the quinoa into a large pot of boiling water or broth [not a few cups] until it has soaked in as much liquid as possible and is almost done. Then, holding the lid on the pot, pour off the excess liquid to the count of ten, there will be a little liquid remaining / leave pot covered for 10 minutes while this is completely absorbed. Fluffy quinoa! [Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa is easier!]
While Louie Barragon has been a member of the Melissa’s staff for 11 years, his role in the company took a new professional direction about a year ago when he finally earned his Bachelors of Science Degree in Nutritional Science.
“The first 10 years I was on the Sales Team and helped manage numerous customer accounts,” Louie recalled. “Today, my role is also my passion, which consists of anything and everything related to Nutrition. For instance, creating nutrition facts panels for our products; this is something I used to practice for projects at the campus computer lab and now I am doing this in my career which is very exciting! Since Melissa’s carries so much branded items, we are required to follow all the new group of laws relating to food labeling and claims. My top challenge is keeping up with the studies and deciphering what to study or disregard, since Nutrition is a fairly new science. I enjoy doing research, so sometimes I am dissecting peer-reviewed journals in order to teach and coach our sales staff on a specific topic or product. Others may think this stuff is boring, but for me every day brings interesting new challenges to solve!”
Asked for his nutritional advice to good health, Louie keeps it simple: “We should all watch what we eat, read the ingredients and practice moderation in our eating habits along with adding a cardiovascular and weight bearing exercise regimen several times a week.”
After so many years of having little time for anything except his work and studies, now that Louis is working in his dream field he admits to having to rediscover and evaluate what the word “fun” means for him. Travel seemed to be the best way to make up for “lost time”, so he has now visited Cuba, France and Peru [see backdrop in Louie’s mugshot] with plans to keep traveling internationally. More locally, he takes weekend trips to places he has always wanted to visit, but never had the time -- be it the desserts and national parks of California, the beaches of San Diego or the neon of Las Vegas. His new favorite saying: The more I travel, the less I know.
After his work day is done Louie enjoys trying new foods at restaurants or cooking new dishes at home. And he practices the same approach to beer – that is, sometimes tasting the suds crafted at local micro-breweries as well as brewing his own! Proving that a degree in the Sciences can turn a workaholic staff salesman into a traveling nutritionist Renaissance man who now appreciates the views with good brews! Ratalouie is a real keeper – try it!
3 TBS olive oil, divided
1 lb. Lean ground Turkey (or meat substitute of choice)
1 Melissa’s Enjoya Pepper
1 Melissa’s Perfect Sweet Onion
1 Zucchini, large, chopped
1 pkg Melissa’s Baby Heirloom Tomatoes
1 pkg Melissa’s Cooked Quinoa (or 2 cups cooked quinoa from dry)
Salt & pepper to taste
First prepare all the veggies before starting this recipe.
Brown the ground turkey in a large pot using 1 TBS of the olive oil. Then remove the turkey, straining any juices back into the pot. Add the remaining olive oil into this same pot, then each veggie one at a time in order of time needed to cook i.e. pepper, onion, zucchini, and tomatoes. Sauté until almost tender.
Add in the quinoa over the veggies and then the ground turkey over the quinoa. Stir all together thoroughly on low heat to allow for quinoa and turkey to heat back up and for veggies to finish cooking.
Plating:Serve individually in a bowl, garnished with shredded cheese and some Sriracha on the side.