Sometimes the best recipes are the ones you just make up as you go along… not from Googling “best *insert dish here* ever,” finding recipes with four- or five-star reviews, or browsing well-known cookbooks. I literally just made this dish and finished eating it. I have a bunch of things on my to-do list but I am so excited to share this to you all that I’ll put those on hold for now!

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Background/inspiration for this dish:

I am, unabashedly, a huge MasterChef fan. This was the first cooking show I actually watched. Not Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, or Top Chef. Watching Season 1 of Masterchef Canada two years ago really inspired me to learn more about cooking and baking.

One episode of Masterchef USA Season 6 (Derek for life still 😂) featured a broccolini side dish topped with Asiago cheese.

In
In “Family Reunion,” each team was tasked with creating a family style meal for mystery guests. The Red Team’s traditional choices of roast chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, broccolini, and strawberry short cake won!

Unfamiliar with broccolini but familiar with bone-building broccoli, I looked it up online to see whether broccolini would be good for bone-building too.

Although broccolini is sometimes called “baby broccoli”, it’s not an immature version of regular broccoli but rather a cross between broccoli and gai-lan, or Chinese broccoli. Broccolini and broccoli are comparable; both are  excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as good sources of folate, manganese, iron, calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 and fibre. Both broccoli and broccolini also contain magnesium, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, riboflavin, selenium, thiamin and vitamin E.

In fact, broccolini contains nearly 1.5 times as much calcium as the same amount of broccoli. 100 grams of broccolini contains 70.6 mg calcium, while the same amount of broccoli has only 47 mg. 1000 mg calcium is recommended daily for females my age (a cup of milk contains about 300 mg). I need all the calcium I can get from dietary sources for all those broken bones that have to heal!

So last week I looked up recipes that involved broccolini and Asiago cheese and resolved to make this. The broccolini on top was arranged quite oddly and sparingly in the picture but the recipe still seemed good.

Farro, cherry tomato, broccolini and Asiago cheese bake

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and used some random ingredients I had left in our fridge. I needed to clean my stuff out of my family’s fridge because I’m leaving for Québec City next week to be with my husband. I had been staying at my parents’ home near Toronto since coming home from California a month and a half ago, but MY NEUROSURGEON FINALLY CLEARED ME TO GO to Québec!!! I’m staying there until I meet with my neurosurgeon again in December to hopefully take my neck brace OFF!

Here is the result! This dish also has some cheese for extra calcium and shrimp for protein (not to mention the protein in the quinoa) = awesome for us with bone fractures.

 Shrimp and medley grain cheese bake with broccolini

Adapted from Tasty Kitchen

Serves 3 to 4

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small yellow carrot, diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, stem and seeds removed, diced
  • 1 1/2 cups water, minus 1/8 cup (just leave a bit of the 1/2 cup of water)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup medley grain mix (or quinoa or brown rice)
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes (around 10 individual tomatoes), cut in quarters
  • 10 oz small shrimp, deveined, peeled, and cooked
  • 1/2 cup Asiago cheese, grated
  • 1/4 cup Mozzarella cheese, grated
  • 3/4 to 1 bunch broccolini, ends trimmed

METHOD:

Prepare all your vegetables except for the broccolini. I know recipes usually don’t say this but I just want to brag about my amped up knife skills from some cooking classes I’ve been taking.

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My minced garlic – your garlic press ain’t got nothing on that
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My beautiful prepped vegetables. It probably took me 30 minutes LOL but I cut them properly! My red peppers were quite big though… they the first ones I cut.
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I got ugly, uneven diced onions when I reverted back to my old ways…

In a small pot, add canola oil. Heat pot and oil under medium to high heat. When hot enough, add onions and garlic and sauté for two minutes. Add red pepper and carrot. Sauté for one to two minutes then add water, medley grain mix, pepper, oregano, and thyme.

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I got this for $4 at the Toronto Vegetarian Food Festival two weeks ago! What a steal~
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So colourful!

Preheat oven to 425ºF. I did it at this point because I hate it when every recipe tells you to preheat the oven right at the start and it’s sitting there for at least 15 minutes while you’re still getting everything together!

Let the vegetable and grain mixture cook according to the medley grain (or quinoa or brown rice) package directions, until the grains have absorbed all the water. In this case, the water had to be brought to a boil then simmered uncovered for around 25 minutes.

Because I was so hungry already LOL, I snacked on some flatbread topped with cottage cheese and extra shrimp.

SNACK TIME
SNACK TIME

Once cooked, turn off heat. Add cherry tomatoes, shrimp, and most 1/4 cup Asiago cheese. Place grain mixture in a baking dish. I used something we had that was the size of a bread loaf pan.

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I could eat it like this.

Top with Mozzarella and rest of the Asiago cheese, leaving 1 tbsp Asiago. Trim ends of broccolini and arrange on top of the cheese. Sprinkle remaining Asiago cheese.

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Casserole topped with broccolini and cheese

Bake uncovered for 20 minutes, or until broccolini has browned and cheese has melted.

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Yummy layers!

IT’S SO TASTY AND COMFORTING. Though it would be so delightfully filling and hearty on its own, I put some on a bunch of mixed spring greens. My 13-year old sister even ate it!!! My brother said it was good too. 😃

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See that cheesiness?
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Your next MasterChef. LOLJK
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