I have recently become interested in quinoa. It's a superfood loaded with complete protein, fiber, iron and all sorts of other nutrients. I found a 10 cup sack of it at Costco for a reasonable price and decided to give it a whirl. The first thing I did was to add a handful to a loaf of rustic bread. The kids were none the wiser that I snuck some extra nutrition in, and I found that the additions to the texture were good and not objectionable at all. Because it's a very well hydrated dough, the grains in the center of the loaf all but melted in. The ones on the outer crust were just a bit crunchy, adding a nice zing to an already hearty crust. I have become quite unafraid to mess with different mixtures of grains in my breads and find that I love the flavor boost of adding semolina, rye and whole wheat flour. Experiment #2 involved using my basic basmati rice pilaf and modifying it slightly. It was well received. I simmered chicken breasts with rosemary then deglazed with cherry preserves and apple cider vinegar to go with it and it turned out to be an excellent complement.
Quinoa Rice Pilaf
1 cup quinoa
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 cup pinenuts
2 T. butter
1 carrot, finely grated
1 orange, zested and juiced
1/2 t. cardamom
1 can reduced sodium chicken broth
Toast the dry quinoa in a dry skillet for 3-5 minutes, until the seeds just begin to turn golden and become aromatic. In a 2 quart saucepan with a lid, melt the butter and add the shallot and pinenuts. Saute for 3-5 minutes, until the shallot pieces are translucent. Add the quinoa, carrot, orange zest, juice and cardamom and stir until well combined. Add the chicken broth, close the lid and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes, pull off the heat and let stand for 5 more minutes, then fluff with a fork and serve. The grain will reveal it's little white curly tail once it's cooked. **It isn't required to toast the quinoa first, but I found that the flavor was very much improved by this. It went from bland to having a hint of nuttiness.
Cider Cherry Chicken
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
fresh rosemary sprigs
kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
2 T. butter
1/4 cup cherry preserves
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
In a large, nonstick, lidded skillet, place the chicken breasts so that they are not overlapping. It is ok to cook right from frozen. Pull the leaves off the rosemary by pinching the stem and sliding down against the leaf direction, then sprinkle them around evenly on the chicken. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper, then put the lid on and cook over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, or until the chicken has reduced in size by about 25% and all the moisture has dissipated. Add the butter and let it melt, lifting up the chicken breasts so it can run underneath. Turn the breasts to coat lightly. In a small bowl, mix the cherry preserves and cider vinegar, then pour over the breasts, again, turning to coat. Put the lid back on and cook for 5 minutes, then pull the lid off and cook for another 5 minutes, turning the breasts over a few more times so that they will coat and caramelize evenly. Remove to a cutting board and allow to rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing into strips, then drizzle the pan drippings over the top.
Quinoa Pork and Black Bean Tostadas
Small flour tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese
1 can green enchilada sauce (I prefer Hatch)
1 1/2-2 pounds boneless pork chops or pork stew meat
1 cup cooked black beans
1 cup quinoa
1 T. butter
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 t. salt
"Fixings": diced fresh tomato, avocado, shredded lettuce, additional shredded cheese, sour cream, salsa
Simmer the pork doused in the enchilada sauce in a medium saucepan over low heat for a couple of hours, until the meat is tender. Chop or shred into small pieces and return it to the sauce. Stir in the black beans. Meanwhile, prepare the quinoa by toasting it lightly in a dry skillet for 3-5 minutes, then add 2 cups of water, the butter and salt, and simmer for 15 minutes. Pull off the heat, stir in the lime juice and cilantro, and put the lid back on for another 5 minutes.
Prepare the tostada crisps by preheating the oven to 350. Lay the tortillas in a single layer on a large cookie sheet and sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crispy and golden. Serve by spreading a couple spoonfuls of the quinoa on top, followed by a layer of pork and black beans, and then the desired fixings.