I have been enjoying quinoa in various preparations for some time. Wait, saying enjoying is a bit much, as I have been buying it in salad form from various health-food stores here and there, and though healthy and fresh, most of these places are rather clueless about flavor. Somehow they think that healthy and vegetarian has to mean blah, or, even worse, “let’s shortcut the flavor thing and add some cumin to everything”.
I came to the conclusion that if I wanted to eat something truly enjoyable, it was time to make my own. Like rice, barley, farro and other related grains, quinoa is a basic ingredient to which you can add almost anything. Unlike them, quinoa has the advantage of being a good source of protein, making it a heaven for vegetarians.
I have not made a dessert with it yet, but I am sure it will work well. I even like it plain, simply cooked and fluffed without anything added.
QUINOA WITH SAUTÉED MUSHROOMS & KABOCHA PUMPKIN
yields 6-7 portions as appetizer, or 4-5 portions as main course
– 170 gr. (1 cup) uncooked quinoa
– 500 gr. (1 lb and a couple of oz.) peeled and seeded kabocha pumpkin cut into smallish cubes
– 500 gr. (1 lb and a couple of oz.) mushrooms, sliced if big ones
– 6 cloves of garlic, peeled, core removed and cut into pieces
– freshly chopped parsley, or fresh thyme leaves
– extra-virgin olive oil
– sea salt
– freshly cracked black pepper
To cook quinoa you need, in American measurements, twice the amount of water for the amount of quinoa. So if you are cooking 1 cup of quinoa, you will need to cook it in 2 cups of water.
Translating that to grams and milliliters is a little less straightforward because, instead of volume, we are talking weight. In this case, you will need ca. 470ml. water for every 170gr. of quinoa.
1. COOK THE QUINOA.
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. For this I used the kettle I use to boil water for tea. In a medium sized soup pot, heat 2 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, add the quinoa, season with a little salt and stir. Add the hot water and stir, reduce the heat to medium and cover with a lid, leaving a little opening. Let it cook on medium-low for about 20 minutes, until all the water has absorbed. Remove from heat, and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
2. COOK THE MUSHROOMS.
Heat 3 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil with 3 garlic cloves (in pieces) in a large sauté pan that has a lid. I like to use calphalon non-stick pans. Add the sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and flip or stir with a wooden spoon. I recommend flipping. Bring the heat to medium, cover with the lid and let cook for about 2-3 minutes, so the mushrooms sweat out the water. Remove the lid, stir a couple more times, and let the mushrooms cook uncovered until translucent and golden, and the juices have all evaporated. Adjust the salt as needed. Sprinkle with freshly chopped parsley, or with fresh thyme leaves. Transfer the mushrooms to a dish or bowl and set aside.
3. COOK THE PUMPKIN.
Heat 3 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil with the other 3 garlic cloves (in pieces) in a large sauté pan. Add the cubed kabocha, season with salt and pepper and give it a flip or a stir with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, flipping occasionally, until the pumpkin is tender but still holds firm, and has taken on a nice lightly browned color. Sprinkle it with freshly chopped parsley, or fresh thyme leaves.
4. COMBINE. Add the quinoa to the pan with the pumpkin, season with a little salt and extra-virgin olive oil and stir. Bring up the heat a little to keep warm, then add the mushrooms and stir. Adjust the seasonings as needed, and allow it to heat through. Sprinkle with more freshly chopped parsley or thyme and serve.
Was that easy or what? This dish is also excellent served at room temperature, and it is really good as leftovers the next day as well, and I like to reheat mine with a quick stir in a sauté pan.
Now that is a gorgeous dish! Vegetarian food can be really delicious but sometimes people just don’t make the most of it!
Very true. Which is strange if you consider how much of Italian cuisine – the best in the world – is, in fact, vegetarian.:-)