After a two week absence, quinoa has returned to our dinner table in fine style. The Quinoa with Green Beans, Kale, and Peas mentioned in last week’s Menu Plan Monday post turned out beautifully. This is my second time to prepare the dish, and I’ve decided that I like it even better than the Lemon Asparagus Quinoa recipe posted elsewhere on this blog. You might also be interested to know that it received great reviews from our dinner pals last night, none of whom had ever heard of quinoa. In other words, you don’t have to be a health nut to enjoy this dish.
You can serve the quinoa pilaf either as a main course (quinoa is a complete protein) or as a side. Last night, slightly warm, it nicely complemented our friend’s pork tenderloin. Today, I munched on it cold as an afternoon snack. I loved it both ways. In addition, it makes an exceptional pot luck dish because it tastes great at room temperature and won’t spoil.
To buy quinoa, try HEB, Whole Foods, or your local health food store. You can also order it online or, if you’re lucky enough to live on the west coast, through the discounted bulk buying club, Azure Standard. (Woe is me, who cannot order from Azure Standard without paying exhorbitant shipping fees! The representative I spoke to on the phone said that the company plans to expand into Texas in a couple of years. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open for that blessed event!)
This meal comes together even faster if you cook a large batch of quinoa one day, then freeze it in 2-cup batches. Then all you need to do is toss a portion into the fridge the night before you want to make this pilaf. I like doing this, though I must confess I’m usually not quite organized enough. Maybe that will change as I become more proficient at menu planning every week.
Quinoa Pilaf with Green Beans, Kale, and Peas
(inspired by a recipe from Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbooks)
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well*
2 cups water
4 cups fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into segments
2 cups fresh or frozen green peas
2 cups chopped fresh kale
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
juice of 1 1/2 lemons
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large bunch of chives, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped walnuts, either soaked then dehydrated or simply toasted in the oven (I like them chopped kinda chunky–not too fine)
Put a large pot of water on high heat and bring to a boil. You will use this water for blanching the veggies.
Also bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot. After it reaches the boiling point, add your quinoa. Reduce the heat and cover, cooking until all the water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, fluff, and cover again until the rest of the meal is ready.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by combining the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and chives in a small bowl. Season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Also prep all your veggies and put them in a large bowl.
When the large pot of water reaches a boil, plunge your veggies in it for about 40 seconds, or just until the kale wilts and the green beans turn bright green. Quickly drain the vegetables into a colander and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.
Now combine your cooked quinoa, the blanched vegetables, the dressing, and the walnuts and mix well. Enjoy warm, room temperature, or even cold. You might also try garnishing your portion with chopped boiled eggs.
*NOTE: The very best way to prepare quinoa is by soaking it overnight. Soaking grains improves your digestion and mineral absorption. This helpful step is a breeze as long as you know what you’ll be preparing for dinner 12 to 24 hours in advance (hence the beauty of menu planning). Just quickly rinse your quinoa, place it in a bowl, add water to cover it by an inch or so, and add a splash of kefir, yogurt, or raw apple cider vinegar. (These additions will provide probiotics to start “pre-digesting” your food, as well as an acid environment to break down the phytates, a substance in all grains that inhibits mineral absorption.) Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside to soak for 12 to 24 hours. I just pop it onto the top of my fridge right before going to bed. When you’re ready to cook your quinoa, drain and rinse it. Then follow the cooking instructions above, reducing the water to 1 to 1 1/2 cups, since the grain absorbs so much moisture while soaking. Warning: soaking your quinoa overnight results in a slightly creamier final product, so if you’re looking for a tabbouleh-like texture, skip this step.