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Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

29 Apr


These lightened-up chile rellenos were so darned tasty I had to come out of hibernation to post them.  Although I love classic chile rellenos, dripping with cheese and stuffed with meat, I decided to lighten them up a bit and make a version both Zak and I could enjoy.  So I dialed down the cheese, adding just enough for that creamy, cheesy element that is distinctive of a chille relleno, but not so much it overwhelmed the dish.  I substituted quinoa for a meat product, adding some texture, nutty flavor, and healthy protein.  Instead of deep-frying the chiles, I pan fried them in relatively heart-healthy canola oil.  Served with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream and a bright, fresh, and flavorful chilantro chimichurri, these were absolutely excellent.  The crunchy exterior gives way to the slightly spicy pepper and cheesy, nutty interior that is bursting with spices.

Rather than traditional poblanos, I used a mixture of cubanelles, which are relatively sweet and not very spicy, and Hungarian hots, which vary in spiciness depending on the pepper and range from relatively mild to pretty hot.  You can, of course, use poblanos – they did not have them at the store we went to, and I decided to throw caution to the wind and make some substitutions.  I was very pleased with the results, and liked having one sweeter and one spicier chile per plate.

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos with Cilantro Chimichurri

Quinoa and Cheddar Chile Rellenos:

3 large cubanelle peppers

3 medium Hungarian hot peppers

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

4 oz. cream cheese

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

2 tsp. ground cumin

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. New Mexico chile powder

3 eggs, separated

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Non-stick cooking spray

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, for serving

Spray a cast iron skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium-high heat for about two minutes.  Using a pair of tongs, add the peppers, working in batches if necessary.  Cook the peppers about 3 minutes per side until skins are blistered and blackening.  Transfer to a ziplock bag, and immediately shut the bag to allow the pepper to steam.  Let sit for 15-20 minutes, or until peppers are softened.  Carefully peel the skins from the peppers.  Set aside the peppers, discarding the skins.

While peppers are steaming, add quinoa and water to a medium-sized sauce pan.  Bring water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy.

Transfer quinoa to a large mixing bowl.  Add cream cheese, cheddar cheese, cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and chile powder.  Using your hands or a wooden spoon, combine well.

Place egg whites either in the bowl of a stand mixer or in a glass mixing bowl.  Using either the mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.  (You can do this by hand, I suppose, but it took me a good 10 minutes using my electric hand mixer, so I do not recommend it unless you are a glutton for punishment as well as chile rellenos.)

Gently fold the egg yolks into the egg whites.

Place flour and egg whites in two separate shallow pans.  Add canola oil to a cast iron frying pan and heat over medium high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Cut slit lengthwise down each of the peppers, removing seeds and stems if desired.  Do so carefully, so as not to tear the peppers.  Stuff the peppers with the quinoa and cheese mixture so that you can close the peppers by folding edges of the slit over one another by about 1/8-1/4″.

Take a pepper and dredge lightly in the flour, then in the egg mixture.  Transfer directly to the oil.  Fry the peppers about 3 minutes per side or until golden brown and crispy, working in batches if necessary.

Serve with cilantro chimichurri and sour cream or plain Greek yogurt.

Cilantro Chimichurri:

2 cups fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

5 cloves garlic

1 tsp. dried ancho chile powder

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/3 cup olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Add garlic to the bowl of a food processor.  Pulse until roughly chopped.  Add cilantro and pulse until also roughly chopped.  Add chile powder and red wine vinegar and pulse a few times to combine.  With machine running, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  Taste for seasonings, and add salt and pepper as necessary.

Roasted Cauliflower and Feta Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

17 Mar

Roasted Cauliflower and Feta Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

Though relatively easy and quick, this dish is packed with unique and bright flavors.  The acidity and slight bitterness of the roasted lemon works wonderfully with the nuttiness of the quinoa.  Cauliflower really takes on a new dimension of tastiness when it’s roasted, giving it a nice hint of sweetness from the slight caramelization.  The feta adds a perfect saltiness without overwhelming the rest of the flavors.  Finally, the herbaceous flavor of the thyme really ties the whole dish together.

I particularly loved how healthy this was.  Quinoa is high in protein and low in fat, olive oil is chock full of good fats, and the lemon juice has loads of vitamin C.  Though cheese is never the healthiest thing on a dish, there is a relatively small amount of feta.

Roasted Cauliflower and Feta Lemon-Thyme Quinoa

Adapted from Bueno Vida

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets

1/8 cup plus 1 tbs. olive oil, divided

1 lemon, thinly sliced

5 sprigs fresh thyme

1 cup quinoa

2 cups water

1 lemon, juiced

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 cup feta, crumbled or roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º.

On a tinfoil-lined baking sheet, toss together 1 tbs. olive oil, cauliflower, thyme, and lemon slices.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place in oven and roast for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally.  When done cooking, remove lemon slices and thyme.  Pluck 2-3 of the thyme sprigs of their leaves and set aside.

Meanwhile, rinse quinoa with cold water.  Bring 2 cups of water to boil.  Add quinoa.  Turn down to medium low, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes until water is absorbed.

While quinoa is cooking, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, thyme leaves, and pepper flakes.

In a large bowl, toss together cauliflower, quinoa, feta, and dressing.  Serve at any temperature.

Roasted Broccoli and Turkey Stock Quinoa

4 Dec

This recipe is a really easy way to jazz up broccoli.  I love roasting broccoli because it brings out its natural sweetness, while allowing the broccoli to retain a bit of a bite.  The light coating of quinoa adds a really interesting contrast in texture as well as a huge punch of protein.  Broccoli is high in fiber, and both quinoa and broccoli have a ton of great vitamins and nutrients.  You won’t be thinking about the health factor, though – this delicious absolutely addictive, and I am bummed I didn’t double the recipe.  The heat from the crushed red pepper flakes works well with the creaminess of the cheese and nuttiness of the quinoa.  We ate this as a main course, but it would be a really healthy and delicious side dish.

Roasted Broccoli and Turkey Stock Quinoa

1 crown broccoli, cut into florets

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 cup quinoa

1 cup homemade turkey stock

Juice from 1/2 lemon

Parmesan cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 375º.

Meanwhile, toss broccoli florets with olive oil, crushed red pepper flakes, kosher salt, and freshly cracked black pepper.  Place on a baking sheet lined with tin-foil and roast 40 minutes until tips are charred and broccoli is tender.

Once in the oven, bring turkey stock to a boil.  Add quinoa and reduce heat to medium-low.  Stir to combine and cover.  Simmer 15 minutes until most of liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and let stand another 15 minutes.

Add broccoli to quinoa pan and toss to combine with lemon juice.  Top with shredded cheese.

Herb and Olive Quinoa Cakes with Olive and Walnut Roasted Brussels Sprouts

20 Oct

When bopping around on the great unknown of the internet, I came across a recipe for quinoa cakes.  How had I not thought of it before?  I love quinoa and its nutty, wholesome goodness.  Add some herbs and olives and crisp it up and I’m bound to be a happy camper.  I certainly was.  Though the original recipe called for a kalamata aioli, I chopped up some olives and threw them directly in the patties.  I was really happy with the decision, as it added a meaty, salty bite.  Just make sure you buy already pitted olives.  Pitting them was a pain in the butt.  It was worth it, though.  These quinoa cakes would make a really awesome patty on a veggie burger, though they were definitely a real home run served simply with a lemon wedge and some plain Greek yogurt.

These roasted Brussels sprouts are a great accompaniment.  I loved the saltiness of the olives with the caramelization from roasting the sprouts.  The crunchy walnuts added a perfect contrast in texture.  They would also make a really amazing holiday side.  The overlap in flavors with the quinoa due to the olives and similar nuttiness made this a cohesive, filling meal.

Herb and Olive Quinoa Cakes with Olive and Walnut Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Herb and Olive Quinoa Cakes:

Adapted from Taste With the Eyes

1 cup quinoa

2 cups homemade chicken stock

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1/3 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/3 cup fresh dill, finely chopped

2 tbs. fresh chives, finely chopped

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped

1 tbs. lemon juice

1 tbs. tahini paste

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 tbs. canola oil

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Bring chicken stock to a boil in a medium sauce pan.  Add quinoa and stir.  Cover and reduce heat to medium.  Cook 15-18 minutes until nearly all of the liquid is absorbed.  Turn off heat and let sit 15 minutes until all liquid is absorbed.  Let cool to room temperature.

Mix together with panko, herbs, olives, tahini, salt and pepper.

Add eggs and lemon and stir to combine.  Form into 6-8 patties about 3″ across.

Heat canola oil in a large pan over medium-high heat.  Add 2-3 patties at a time and cook five minutes per side until golden brown.  Let excess oil drain off on a paper towel lined plate.

Olive and Walnut Roasted Brussels Sprouts:

1/4 lb. Brussels sprouts

2 tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup pitted kalamata olives

1/4 cup shelled walnuts

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 350º.

Combine all ingredients in a shallow baking dish and toss to combine.  Roast about 30-40 minutes or until sprouts are caramelized and easily pierced with a fork, shaking often.

Tomato and Squash Baked Quinoa

13 Sep

This healthy and protein-packed dish is absolutely delicious.  I love the pillowy, cloud-like texture of baked quinoa.  It also helps to sop up all of the flavors in which it is baked, which here include fresh summer tomatoes, sweet patty-pan squash and rich of the homemade beef stock.

Another great thing about baked quinoa is that it’s a basically fool-proof way to introduce yourself to the ingredient.  If you don’t know what you’re doing with quinoa, this is a great way to figure out what it’s supposed to end up as.  Start yourself out with this simple, vegetable-packed quinoa and I guarantee you’ll be an addict in no time.

Tomato and Squash Baked Quinoa

2 tbs. olive oil

1/2 large patty pan squash, skin-on, diced to 1/2″ pieces (about 3 cups)

3 cloves garlic

1 large tomato, diced (about 1 cup)

1 ear sweet corn, boiled about 5-6 minutes until cooked through, kernels removed from cob (about 1 cup)

1 cup quinoa

3 cups homemade beef stock

1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350º.

Heat olive oil in a 10″ cast iron pan over medium heat.  Add squash and sauté, stirring frequently, until tender.  Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.  Add tomato and corn and stir to combine with squash and garlic.  Add quinoa and stir to combine evenly with the vegetables.  Add the beef stock.  Don’t worry if the mixture is quite soupy, that’s a good thing.

Cover tightly with tin foil, taking care not to burn yourself, and transfer to preheated over.  Bake, 30-40 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed into the quinoa.

Remove tinfoil and top with cheese.  Bake another 5-6 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.  [Note: I only topped about a quarter with cheese so I could get a super-cheesy portion, pictured above.]

Serve immediately.

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