At the first sign of spring, Chef and I stow away our woolly jumpers, and eagerly unpack our cool cotton wardrobes. The hearty winter stews go into hibernation just as the delicate spring produce begins to sprout.

One of our favourite grains to pair seasonal produce with is quinoa. If you are among the few who have not met this little gem of a grain, let me introduce you two.

Meet quinoa. She is a complete protein package. She has all eight amino acids, and the United Nations recognises her as a super crop for her health benefits: dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium, and iron. She is suitable for gluten-free eaters, and is easily digestible.

In short, if Quinoa was a high school senior, she would make straight A’s, be student body president– and homecoming queen.

I know. I totally envy her, too!

I cook quinoa in large quantities, not because it is time-consuming, but because it pairs well with so many things. Once cooked, quinoa may be refrigerated in an air-tight container for up to one week. Just like a good stew, the nutty flavours of the quinoa become richer each day.

What follows is one of my favourite quinoa recipes. Not only does it clear out the drabs of the produce drawer, it is packed with flavour and knockout nutrients. The dish is pretty much foolproof. What is even better, you have complete free will to vary the produce based on your personal taste.

On my recent batch, here is what I prepared.

Ingredients:

2 cups (370 g) Quinoa with Bulgur Wheat (or all Quinoa if you prefer)
3 peeled cloves of fresh Garlic
1 medium Shallot
½ Romano Pepper (or sweet red bell pepper)
½ Eggplant
1 Courgette (Zucchini)
3 large Chantenay Carrots
1 Lemon
Olive Oil
Splash of dry white wine
2 tsp Curry Powder
Sea Salt and coarse ground Black Pepper
1-2 Chilli Peppers (optional for added spice)
Dried Apricots (or Goji berries where available)
Fresh Coriander (Cilantro) or Fresh Mint

Method:

Prep for the Quinoa.

  1. Thoroughly rinse the quinoa and bulgur wheat in colander.
  2. Place the grains in a large pot and generously cover grains with water and 1 teaspoon of salt. *You cannot have too much water, but risk burning the grains with too little.
  3. Cook the grains uncovered on high heat.
  4. Once the grains begin to boil, reduce heat to maintain gentle boil for approximately 12-15 minutes. Taste grains regularly, and remove from heat once al dente.
  5. Strain the grains in colander then rinse thoroughly in cold water until cooled.

** If grains are not cooled immediately they will go to mush. If you wish to serve the grains warm, they will reheat when mixed with the vegetables. If preparing the quinoa in advance, it can easily be reheated without going mushy in a microwave or on the stove.

Prep for the vegetables:

There is a lot of chopping involved in the prep. A good quality Chef knife speeds up the process, but be mindful of those fingertips!

  1. Dice all the vegetables, garlic and shallots.
  2. Pre-heat large Teflon (nonstick) skillet on high heat.
  3. Pour a generous 1/3 cup (75 ml) of olive oil to the pan.
  4. Sauté garlic, shallots, carrots and, red pepper until just tender on high heat.
  5. Add in eggplant, courgettes, and (optional) fresh chilli. NOTE: Some vegetables, like eggplant and courgettes, absorb liquids. Others, like carrots, expunge water. If needed, add an additional 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil to prevent pan going dry and vegetables burning.
  6. Once vegetables are tender, reduce to medium heat.
  7. Stir in juice of lemon and a splash (or two) of dry white wine.
  8. Mix in chopped dried apricots (or Goji berries).
  9. Add in curry powder.
  10. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  11. Fold grains in to sautéed vegetables.
  12. Garnish with coarsely chopped coriander or fresh mint.

Quinoa salad may be served warm or cold. The sweet and spicy flavours compliment chicken, fish, lamb, and pork. For vegetarian, simply serve the salad with mixed green leaves. Lightly glisten salad leaves with olive oil, lemon juice, and pinch of sea salt.

Hail to the Queen of the Grains. Long live Quinoa!