One of the goals of my kitchen experimentation is to learn how to cook healthier foods. I'm not a huge fan of canned, prepackaged or frozen foods. For some ungodly reason manufacturers love to lace the stuff with bell peppers. Gross. And the sodium content is enough to push me away. My main problem is that I don't get enough protein, whole grains and fiber. Pasta nuked in the microwave (which, by the way, ours is broken right now and GE is slow, which is really annoying) was a staple during my college and law school years. So were peanut butter sandwiches, yogurt, cheese & crackers, Kraft mac n' cheese, cereal, and ethnic foods out on the town. I ate a lot of veggies in undergrad due to the wonder that is Berkeley Bowl, but the produce in the Midwest was half-spoiled when picked up at the store. Now that I am back in California, vegetables (and fruit!) have made it back into my diet.
So in my quest for healthy recipes, I stumbled across Quinoa. The seed is high in protein, has the full set of essential amino acids, is a good source of fiber, and boasts various other necessary minerals. When cooked, it absorbs the liquid, and puffs up to resemble couscous. It has a nutty flavor, but requires some seasoning. The best thing about quinoa is that you can serve it hot or cold and anything you want to it. This means it is great for all seasons and temperatures. It's been quite warm this week, so I decided to use my quinoa in a luke-warm salad to accompany the tri-tip my dad was making. This recipe is sort of a mix of different things I came across, and has a bit of a Mediterranean edge. I have a feeling that the leftovers will be great right out of the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.
Serves 4 as a side dish
1 cup quinoa (I use Bob's Red Mill)
2 cups of water
1 zuchinni of decent size, cubed
A few handfuls of spinach leaves
5 campari tomatoes, cut into wedges (you can use any tomato you want, these just have tons of flavor and are my favorite food in the entire world)
1 tbsp of freshly chopped cilantro
1 1/2 tsp of nutmeg
1 lemon, juiced
Salt & pepper
1. If your quinoa packaging tells you to rinse the seeds prior to cooking, do so. Otherwise, place the cup of quinoa and the 2 cups of water in your rice cooker and turn on. You can also cook this on the stove, keeping at a simmer and stirring occasionally until the quinoa absorbs all of the water. Different altitudes and brands may require slightly more water, so taste it before you turn off the stove. It should be soft.
2. If you're going to make a colder salad, complete this step right after you start cooking the quinoa so the vegetables have a chance to cool down. Otherwise, do this at the end. In a skillet, cooking your zuchinni with a bit of olive oil until it is soft with some brown marks. Place it on a plate to cool. In the same skillet, throw in your spinach on low heat. Just when the spinach is starting to wilt, pull it off the heat, placing it on the plate with the zucchini to cool. Not allowing the spinach to cook completely gives the salad a crunchy texture.
3. When the quinoa is done, place it in a large serving bowl. Let it sit for 15 minutes, stirring it now and then so it cools quicker. If you are going to make this a warm dish, skip this step.
4. Mix in the cilantro and nutmeg. Salt & pepper to taste. Then add in your spinach, zucchini and tomatoes, mixing it together so the veggies are spread throughout.
5. Add the juice of 1 lemon, and a little bit of olive oil, to taste. If you think it's too sour, add a little bit more olive oil to cut the lemon.
6. Serve as a side dish or eat as your main dish. You could also add in some chicken or other meat.