Monday, 28 November 2011

Meatless Monday:Quinoa

The final Meatless Monday edition for this year's November blog extravaganza. I hope that you have tried a few of the recipes and given some extra thought as to the amount of meat that you are consuming on a weekly basis. My hope has not been to convert you to my dark vegetarian lifestyle, but rather to offer a bit of education and some delicious alternatives to the diet that do not require animal protein to be filling and nutritious. In today's Meatless Monday spotlight we see quinoa. Quinoa is a grain-like (note that it is grain-like) crop found mostly in South America and grown primarily for its seeds. It is closely related to crops like beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds, although I haven't seen anybody eat a tumbleweed since watching old John Wayne westerns. After it is harvested, the seeds are processed and the bitter outer coating is removed. Quinoa can be prepared much like rice, but it offers a complete protein in that all nine amino acids are present. It is also very rich in magnesium and iron, is a good source of dietary fibre, and is gluten free if that is an issue for you. Because it is relatively new on the North American scene, some Orthodox rabbis and most progressive Jewish organizations have classified it as Kosher for Passover rather than banish it to the kitniyot  pile. (Note: My family does eat kitniyot at Pesach and we do so proudly, but that is the subject for another post.) A few wonderful recipes using quinoa are offered below. Enjoy all.

Quinoa Salad


1 cup quinoa, uncooked
8 asparagus
2 oz feta cheese, crumbled
¼ cup green olives, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp. sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
½ tbsp. olive oil+drizzle for asparagus
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar (I use a wonderful fig balsamic)
salt and pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Boil the quinoa in large saucepan and cook until tender, as per directions of package. While the quinoa cooks, prep the asparagus. Remove the woody ends by gently bending each spear until it breaks-it will naturally snap off at the right place. Lay the spears on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt. Place in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
2. Chop the asparagus into bite-sized pieces and add to the cooked quinoa, along with the cheese, olives, sun-dried tomatoes oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until serving.

Quinoa Pilaf


1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 carrots, diced
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup hot vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste


Pour oil into a medium saucepan, and place over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and carrots; cook and stir for 10 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
Using a strainer, rinse quinoa under cold water. Drain well. Stir into the vegetables; cook and stir for 1 minute. Add stock, bay leaf and lemon rind and juice; bring to boil. Cover, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until liquid is absorbed and quinoa is tender.
Discard bay leaf. Stir in peas, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers


1 medium onion, finely chopped (1 cup)
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 ribs celery, finely chopped (1/2 cup)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
1 10-oz. pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 15-oz. cans diced tomatoes, drained, liquid reserved
1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
3/4 cup quinoa
3 large carrots, grated (1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups grated reduced-fat pepper Jack cheese, divided
4 large red bell peppers, halved lengthwise, ribs removed


1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach and drained tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.
2. Stir in black beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup cheese. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.
4. Fill each bell pepper half with heaping 3/4-cup quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, and sprinkle each pepper with 1 Tbs. remaining cheese. Bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and drizzle each with pan juices before serving.

Happy Meatless Monday to all!

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