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I always buy the giant tub of baby spinach, and always end up throwing away 1/3 of it, but the smaller tub is just not enough! Bittersweet irony! Finally, one day I noticed that my spinach was looking a bit peaked, and decided to cook something with it, so I wouldn’t end up tossing it. That was the first time I make creamed spinach, and it changed my life–sounds dramatic, totally true.
Once I untapped my love of quinoa, I decided to marry the two into a beautiful, tastey dinner treat.
The original recipe was Emeril’s, and it took a while to find one online that used fresh spinach instead of frozen. His also called for nutmeg, shallots, and heavy cream. I subbed in half and half, and skipped the shallots and nutmeg.
- 2 pounds spinach (not really measured precisely, I used what I had left) washed.
- generous splash of extra virgin olive oil–Emeril called for 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp minced garlic (the kind in the jar)
- 1/2 cup half & half
Bring pot of salted water to a boil, add spinach and cook until bright green (about two minutes). Dump into fine mesh strainer and press to release as much water as possible. Chop finely and set aside.
–Note: I rinsed the spinach in cold water before dumping in the strainer so I could squeeze it out with my hands–hard to get all the water out.
Pour olive oil and garlic into sauce pan, and turn heat to medium. swish around until garlic is distributed, then add spinach. Stir to coat spinach in olive oil garlic mixture, then slowly pour in half & half. Keep stirring until all or most of the liquid is absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Then, dump the creamed spinach into another container–a “holding” container, if you will, and use the same pot to prepare the quinoa. Fewer large dishes! What’s better than that?
- 1/2 cup qunioa to 1 cup water (that’s what it says on my package, anyway)
- 1 cube vegetable bullion (adds salt and flavor to the quinoa, I’m a genius)
Rinse the quinoa thoroughly using french press or other fine sieve, add to saucepan, add water. Once it’s heated up a bit, add the vegetable bullion cube. Stir, stir, stir until it’s broken down, then cook until quinoa are uncrunchy.
–Note, I ended up having to add more water than the recipe called for. That might have something to do with the salt in the bullion (?), either way, be prepared to add more.
Serve delicious spinach on a bed of quinoa, open a beer, and watch LOST season 5.
I love squash–love, love, love it. When I was a kid, my mother tells me, I would eat squash every chance I got until my skin turned orangeish. I also ate pumpkin pie mix straight out of the can when I couldn’t get squash. Turns out that Gentleman Scholar doesn’t care for squash, but if he told me that before, I didn’t believe him.
“You should cook with different ingredients” he told me.
“I love squash.” I told him.
“You should get some hobbies.” he told me.
“Cooking with squash is my hobby.” I told him.
He was less enthusiastic about this recipe, but I loved it, and I’m excited I used quinoa successfully the first time. When I’ve had it in the past, I didn’t really care for it (I didn’t dislike it, but was ambivalent), but it came out really well in this case.
Quinoa Butternut Squash Gratin
1 ½ lb. butternut squash, seeded, peeled, and diced
1 cup organic quinoa
2 cups water
1 tsp. salt
3 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cup Gruyere cheese, shredded– I actually used Jarlsberg because it was on sale.
1 cup Italian Bread Crumbs– I bought a Rosemary and Olive oil loaf and tore it up into chunks rather than buy breadcrumbs.
salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 400. Spray a 2-quart baking or gratin dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Note: Who the hell has a gratin dish? I used my one casserole dish that I use for everything from baked mac and cheese to Gentleman Scholar’s Apple Crisp. I don’t know if I could even recognize a gratin dish if I saw one–silly.
- Peel and cube a whole squash, then put in a ziploc plastic bag and seal. Then pierce a few times with a fork and microwave on high for 3-5 minutes until squash is soft and tender.
Note: I just heaped the squash in a bowl and covered with a paper towel.
- Wash the quinoa in a fine sieve thoroughly (about 5 minutes) until water runs clear. This is very important, as quinoa has a bitter protective coating that can linger even after processing.
Note: I used my French Press to accomplish this, and it worked perfectly. I had been planning to MacGuyver something with paper towels and a colander, but that seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. French Press was exactly what I needed, I didn’t lose a single grain of quinoa (except the stuff that stuck under the filter, which really wasn’t much).
- Transfer squash and quinoa to a large (2 or 3-quart) pot. Add water and salt to pot and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed and the quinoa blooms into little spirals. Remove from heat and let rest.
- Mix quinoa and squash mixture, egg cheese, and salt and pepper to taste, then transfer into baking or gratin dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs over gratin. Drizzle 1 Tbsp. of olive oil on top and bake for 35-45 minutes or until top is golden brown.
This was seriously delicious, and hearty without being heavy. I might add a bit more cheese next time–cheese rules, but otherwise no complaints. The egg and quinoa made a dense but springy kind of texture, which was delightful. I did notice that about an hour after eating this, I started to feel really, really full. Perhaps quinoa continues to expand after eating(?) Either way, pretty happy with the results.