If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary for a holiday meal this year, I think I may have it covered. This warm salad is not only a delicious side dish, but if you are feeding people with dietary restrictions or preferences, it will go a long way toward satisfying those folks. Vegetarians? Vegans? Gluten Free? Low Glycemic? Yes, yes, yes and yes – we have it all covered. This is hearty enough to be a satisfying main dish actually and pretty much has that whole balanced diet thing covered. But, none of that matters at all if it is not completely delicious. Fortunately, we have that covered too – this stuff is amazingly yummy!
I am a little late to the quinoa party. All the cool kids have been cooking with it for a long time, and I have been meaning to grab some, if only I could remember to look. But I never seemed to think of it when I was at a store that had a hope of having any – I have to go to one of the larger towns around us to find ingredients that are out of the mainstream, and on my visits there, it slipped my mind. When I did track some down, the first thing I did was to look online for cooking directions, and I immediately made a small batch so I could get an idea of how it tastes. I enjoyed it even more that I could have hoped. At the risk of abusing a much-overused word, it’s…earthy. It’s…vegetable-ley. Rich, with a very pleasant little bitty crunch in the middle of each tiny grain.But, would Larry like it? He is a pretty adventurous eater, all things considered, but he does look a bit askance at really unfamiliar things. I gave him some of the plain stuff first and he found it interesting, which means – “what can you do with it?” It was his garden that gave me the inspiration for the rest though. As I mentioned in the last post, we have a lot of winter squash still, but a few other things are running low – this is the end of both the Brussels Sprouts and the red onions. We have been gardening for a long time, but there is quite a thrill involved in looking at a lovely collection like this and reminding ourselves that we grew it all. Well – not the lemon of course. We are still in Upstate New York after all.This is not a difficult dish to pull off – you cook the quinoa, you roast the veggies in a hot oven, you make a zingy lemon vinaigrette, and then you combine them all – easy! Lets go!
To cook the quinoa, first you need to soak and rinse it. Put one cup of quinoa in a medium sauce pan and cover with water. Let it soak for 15 minutes or so, swishing it around at the end. Empty the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer and rinse under running water for about 30 seconds. Return it to the pan, and add 1 and 1/4 cups of water, and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Bring to a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes or so. Most of the water should be absorbed at this point – if it is not, then you can cook it a little longer. If most of the water is absorbed, cover the pan again, turn off the heat and let it sit for a while, until all of the liquid is absorbed. It should be fluffy when it is done, not mushy or waterlogged.
Roasting the vegetables is a snap. Start the oven heating to 400º, and prep the veggies. I used butternut squash, Brussels sprouts and red onions. Cube the peeled and seeded squash and peeled onions and cut the Brussels sprouts in half, after removing the tough, outer leaves. Distribute the vegetables on a parchment lined heavy baking sheet, combining them evenly. I used about a pound of squash, 14 ounces of Brussels sprouts and 3 smallish red onions, but you can use a little more or less with no problem. You can also easily change up the veggies you use to suit your preferences or what you have on hand. Broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, turnips or rutabaga would all work nicely. I threw 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh thyme, but you could use dried herbs if that is what you have. Drizzle the veg with some olive oil, and sprinkle generously with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and pop into the preheated oven. Roast until the vegetables are nicely done, with some good browned and caramelized color on them. How long this will take depends on the freshness of the vegetables, how big you cut them, and just what you use, but a nice full sheet pan is going to take around 20 to 30 minutes. Stir them around every 10 minutes or so, and add a bit more oil if they get very dry looking or start to stick a lot.When the veggies are tender and cooked through, take a nice serving bowl and layer the cooked quinoa in the bottom. Put about half of the veggies on top, making sure to remove the stems from the thyme, and gently combine the veg and and quinoa. Kind of mound it in the center a bit, and then scatter the remaining vegetables over the top. Drizzle with a couple tablespoons of the vinaigrette.
Juice of 1 lemon
1 minced clove of garlic
1teaspoon Dijon mustard
pinch of sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
7-8 grinds black pepper
Then whisk constantly to blend in 1/3 cup of good quality olive oil
I put the additional vinaigrette on the table to be adding to taste. This would also be good with a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette I think – you can experiment to see what you like the best. I am also thinking that some crumbles of feta cheese would not go amiss in there either – I’ll be trying that next time. For now though, I think we can get by on this version.