Wednesday, November 20, 2013

For Rhiannon: Fall Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, and Chickpeas

Rhiannon! I've been thinking about you this week. I hope the transition back to work has been smooth and that the soup challenge is paying off. I also wanted to tell you that I am obsessed with my homemade moisturizers, so thank you for inspiring me.

The rest of you! This is the best thing I've eaten in a long time. It's not a one pot meal, or a quick weeknight meal, or anything decadent. But it's DELICIOUS. And flexible (I've embedded a few alternatives into the recipe, but you know your kitchen and palate better than I do). Also, please note that this is a clever combination of all whole foods. And with the exception of the roasted vegetables, everything is theoretically do-ahead. And this is the time of year when using your oven is totally a good idea - doesn't your furnace need a little rest now and then?


So here are the main parts:

A couple cups of cooked quinoa. Maybe the costly multicolored kind because it's pretty. (They cook the same. Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise.)


Spiced, roasted vegetables. I used broccoli and sweet potatoes. I think parsnips and cauliflower would be good too. You want about 2 pounds of whatever vegetables you like; use common sense or the google machine to sort out your cooking times. I inadvertently charred mine and everything still ended up crazy good.


Even my children enjoyed their deconstructed portions. (Except for the quinoa. They used to like it but I stopped making it for a while so now it is weird to them. Take note, parents! Sadie tried, literally, two grains of quinoa and declared it was too spicy for her. There was no spice in it whatsoever.)


Roasted chickpeas. These are super yummy. Their texture is best the day they're made (and better if you're using fresh cooked chickpeas instead of canned ones), but I wouldn't kick 'em out of bed on day 2. They're oddly reminiscent of corn nuts.


Quick cooking lesson: you want to use your two biggest roasting pans/baking dishes for the veggies and chickpeas, respectively, and you want to spread out your vegetables and chickpeas so that there is as much space as possible between pieces. Here's why: when vegetables and legumes (and anything you plan on eating) hit heat, the moisture that can be found in all (most?) organic matter is released. When food is crammed together on a pan, this moisture results in a steaming effect, rather than roasting. More space = less steaming = more dry, crunchy bits = good. 

Not pictured:

Dressing. You want something really bold and punchy that's going to tie everything together and brighten up the smoky spices (and, perhaps, "charred" flavor profile) you went for with your veggies. I used Smitten Kitchen's carrot-ginger-miso dressing, omitted onion and added 1 clove garlic and more water than she calls for in her recipe (at least 2 extra tablespoons, maybe up to 1/4 cup), subbed apple cider vinegar for rice vinegar (resourcefulness at its best). This dressing, even with necessary modifications, is fabulous - original source is Gwyneth Paltrow, so how could it not be? - and lasts a good week in the refrigerator (mine was at least 5 days old when I dressed my quinoa bowl with it). But you've got options if you don't have all those Asian pantry ingredients at hand. I've included three alternatives in the recipe below because I super love you.

Feta cheese.

Fresh mint.


You're welcome.

Fall Quinoa Bowl with Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli, and Chickpeas
Yield: 3-4 servings

2-3 cups cooked quinoa*
1 large sweet potato (~1/2 pound), scrubbed and chopped into 1/2" pieces
1 large head broccoli (or, in my case, 3 small ones), florets broken up, stems chopped into 1/2" pieces
2 cups cooked, drained, dried chickpeas**
2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt, pepper, other spices you like (I used Penzey's 4S seasoned salt on the sweet potatoes and broccoli, and then big pinches of ground coriander, smoked paprika, Golden Fig's Smoky Habanero Salt (available at a Local D'Lish near you! hey, while you're there take a class!), black pepper, and ground fenugreek seeds on the chickpeas; you could use a good curry powder that you like if you want less heat, or for more heat some cumin and a lot of cayenne, chipotle, aleppo, or freshly ground black pepper plus some fresh lemon or lime zest during the last 20 minutes of roasting)
Dressing options: Carrot-Ginger or Cranberry Miso or Garlicky Peanut Sauce or recipe at bottom of this post***
Feta cheese (optional)
Fresh mint or cilantro (optional)
(Oh wait, everything is optional, this is a grain-veggie bowl!)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. You'll need two large roasting pans for the vegetables and chickpeas. (See cooking lesson above.) Toss sweet potatoes with 1 tablespoon of oil and salt, pepper, and some spices you like. Spread them out on one of your roasting pans and place pan in oven. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until starting to soften but you don't want them to be browning yet, so check on them early and often. In a bowl, toss broccoli with 2 teaspoons olive oil and a pinch each of salt, pepper, and spices. In your other roasting pan, toss chickpeas with 1 tablespoon olive oil and about 2-3 teaspoons of combined spices of choice + 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add broccoli to the sweet potatoes on roasting pan and return to oven, on lower rack. Place pan of chickpeas in oven on the rack closer to the burner. Cook for 18-22 minutes more, tossing with a spatula every 5-8 minutes. Remove from oven when everything is just starting to brown nicely and chickpeas are crunchy.

Scoop 1/2 - 1 cup quinoa into each bowl. Top with a cup of vegetables, a good amount of dressing, some crumbled feta, chickpeas (or nuts or seeds - see note below), and some fresh herbs if you've got some. Happy healthy dinner! Happy fall!

* How do I cook quinoa? I'm so glad you asked. Like this: Toast 1 part quinoa in a dry saucepan for about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 1.5 parts water, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Allow to rest, covered for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

** Ultimately, the roasted chickpeas are just there for some crunch and protein (and, you know, they're a bit of a novelty item). You could easily omit them and substitute some toasted, spiced nuts or seeds (or, heck, corn nuts, I won't judge). Probably about a cup of them.

*** Another dressing idea is this zippy ginger-maple dressing that my friend Amber made for me and now I make it for my classes (with a little acid added (lemon/lime juice) because I like a lot of acidity in my food). Blend everything together: as much grated ginger as you can handle (1-2 tablespoons, by the way: no need to peel the ginger, especially if you use a microplane to grate it), 2+ large garlic cloves, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons maple syrup (or honey or agave nectar or apricot preserves), ¼ cup olive oil or melted coconut oil, juice of half a lemon or lime.

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