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5 Dec 2011

Roasted Onions stuffed with masala quinoa, amaranth and caramelized Brussel sprouts

Healthy Roasted Stuffed Onions
I am going through a period when I just do not feel the sparks sparkle. New dishes may come out and find their way to paper but they stop there, there is no drive into cooking them or is it perhaps the photo shoot that somehow scares me?
To create compelling pictures you need a driving idea, a theme that is going to diffuse into your pictures. Most of my works so far have been concentrated in shooting the bare food, isolating it rather than making it part of an organic context.
Treating the plated food as a sculpture, an object of beauty with its own right to shine has always attracted me but now it doesn't seem to be enough.

Lately I have posted a couple of articles where the photos somehow had more mood into them, they had a story and a context. They had more pregnancy and they were also more fun to shoot and edit.
You know when you finally get to taste that special something and you realize that there isn't going to be a way back? Probably I am at that crossroad of stylistic indecision.

Is there something brewing inside me? Hopefully so and I do hope that it is some sort of inspirational catalog from which to draw living lymph.
Books, magazines, the web are all sources that are supposed to help you in you creativity struggle and they surely help.

Adding to this creative struggle is the fact that recently I have been (self)diagnosed with a Candida overgrowth.
No news under the sun, this has been going on for 4 years at least without being able to corner it; this made me super frustrated and depressed. Names do have power!
When you know how to call the little devils inside you, you can curse them at every step of the fight and this time the battle field is the kitchen.
Healthy Roasted Stuffed Onions
Defeating a yeast infection means in fact to absolutely avoid complex carbohydrates, hence no wheat products, potatoes and sugar of any kind. Fruits and certain root vegetables fall into the latter category since they contain sugars and so must be avoided. Another negative side is that almost all dairy and fermented products must be avoided (including vinegar, soy and fish sauce, tea, coffee etc).
Taking it from the positive side, I am exploring the world of vegetarian dishes and I am loving it (probably since I have been love-struck by rice noodles).
There is though, a real positive part of this anti-Candida diet: you HAVE TO eat lots and lots of garlic, onions and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale etc). I am a happy camper!!

Choosing a new recipe to try, just to break the routine, I had to take into account all these limitations and I knew that I could find something for me at Winnie's table.
Winnie, author of Healthy Green Kitchen, is a naturopathic doctor who soon turned into a food writer always with a keen eye to good living. It was only matter of time that her list of daily chores expanded even further to include photography.
I had a great time browsing through her blog; her recipes always seemed fresh and appealing as do her photos.
After skipping on many of her tempting desserts (peanut butter and jam scones?? oh yeah, hard to resist), I stumbled on a recipe for stuffed onions that featured quinoa as carb and so they were perfect for me.

In my interpretation of her recipe that I propose you, I have combined the quinoa with amaranth so to slightly improve in nutritional values of the dish and give a different popping texture to the stuffing.
Since I can't have peppers, I have substituted them with caramelized Brussels sprouts and fixed the spices to tie the whole together.

Roasted Onions stuffed with masala quinoa, amaranth and caramelized Brussels sprouts 
Healthy Roasted Stuffed Onions
Ingredients (Serve 4 as appetizer): 
  • 4 medium yellow onions 
  • 1/2tbsp coconut oil
  • 1cup shredded Brussels sprouts (roughly 6 of them)
  • 2 big garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2tsp red chili flakes, optional
  • 1/2tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 cup chopped onions (out of the inside of the 3 up)
  • 1/2tsp cumin seeds, grinded
  • 1tsp powdered sage
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • 1/4cup amaranth
  • 1/4cup quinoa
  • 1tbsp chopped cilantro stems & root; reserve the leaves to decorate the dish at the end
  • 1/3 cup chopped toasted walnuts and almonds
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil

Peel the onions and cut a little slice out of the root end so they stand up. Bring a pot of water to a boil and gently drop the onions in it. Cook them for 20 minutes until the outer layer will have softened.
After this time, drop the par-cooked onions in a bowl of cold water and let them cool down for 10 minutes or so. Do not throw away the cooking water, you will use it to cook the quinoa and amaranth.

In the meantime sauté the Brussels sprouts. While you are slicing the sprouts, heat up a medium skillet; add 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil to it followed by the Brussels sprouts. Cook them until nice and golden brown. Add the minced garlic and the chili flakes (if using) to the pan followed by a little water. Stir for a few seconds until you start smelling the garlic; season with salt and set aside in a bowl while you proceed with the rest of the stuffing.

The onions, by now, should have cooled down enough to be handled. Cut a slice out of their top so to expose the interior; with a sharp knife cut vertically through the first two-three layer on the side of each onion and carefully take out their core. Set the shells aside.

Chop the onion cores and sauté 1 cup worth of them in the same Brussels sprouts skillet using another 1/2 tablespoon of coconut oil. Cook the onions until they will start to brown and caramelize, add then the spices, the amaranth and 3/4 cup of the onions cooking water to the skillet. Stir well, bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes covered.
At this point add the quinoa followed by the chopped coriander stems and root. Pour a further 3/4 cup of the onion cooking water, bring to a boil once more and cook for further 15 minutes covered and on low heat.

At the end of these 15 minutes, check the seeds for doneness and season with salt. If the seeds should still be too hard, add a little more water and let them cook a little bit more. At this point you can heat up your oven to 200C/400F.

Once the seeds are ready, mix in the sautéed Brussels sprouts and the nuts tasting for seasoning. Stuff the onion shells with the mixture and place them upright in a shallow baking dish placing the leftover chopped onion cores and few bay leaves around them.

Sprinkle some salt on the chopped onions, drizzle some olive oil on top of the baking dish and roast for 30 minutes.
Let the roasted onions cool a little before sprinkling the reserved cilantro leaves and serving.


  1. Those roasted onions look amazing. You really did a great job making them.

  2. I love the recipe! It's all my favorite ingredients: brussels sprouts, quinoa, almonds, cumin.. sounds amazing to me.

  3. first of all, how much do i LOVE that you discussed your yeast infection on your blog??? Superb!

    second of all, i'm sorry you have to deal with that. i went through something similar (or was about to) when my appendix blew up and all the drugs they pumped into me for 2 weeks killed all the bad stuff. yay! sort of..

    third of all... i adore this recipe! fantastic!

    fourth: (man i have a lot of things to say right now)... don't force the sparks. they'll come. sometimes they take a detour and as stressful as that is, we need that break every now and then.

    again, love this recipe :) especially the quinoa and brussel sprouts! very original uses for pretty common food topics :)

  4. What a yummy preparation! Loved this recipe and the way you write. I am fond of food and I think there is a lot to learn from you! Your photography is praiseworthy too. Do you have a facebook page? Please feel free to follow my blog as well as my FB page (Cosmopolitan Currymania)and I'll follow your wonderful blog as well!!