Thursday, January 21, 2010

Quinoa with Spiced Zucchini

From the most recent posts on my blog you might think that I am trying out being vegetarian.  I guess after a few very heavy, meaty meals (like my cheeseburger the other night, which while delicious was a whopping 870 plus calories according to the nutritional facts chain restaurants are required to post in NYC), I can't help but feel the need to throw a few more fruits and vegetables into my diet.  And I love fruits and vegetables, but who honestly gets the recommended number of servings a day?  I certainly don't, although not for lack of trying.  I ate an Asian pear and an orange today, in addition to a few servings of zucchini, and considered that quite the accomplishment

Today for lunch I was looking in the refrigerator and the only thing I found that truly looked appealing to me was zucchini.  Now during the summer I buy tons of squash of all varieties from the various farmer's markets around the city.  Pattypan squash, zucchini, summer squash, crookneck squash - you name it, I have purchased it.  And then I end up trying to devise ways to use all of the lovely squash sitting in my refrigerator.  One of my favorite ways to use squash is to make Barbara Kingsolver's Disappearing Zucchini Orzo from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.  Her recipe of grated zucchini mixed with onion, orzo, fresh herbs and Parmigiano-Reggiano is far more than the sum of its parts.  If I had children I would think that dish would be the ultimate way to sneak some zucchini into their diets without them either knowing, or caring.  Another favorite zucchini recipe is the Red Cat Zucchini I mentioned in my "Favorite Recipes of 2009" post.  I have also tried making various frittata, pasta and couscous recipes featuring squash.  April Bloomfield actually makes a delicious squash and squash blossom frittata at The Spotted Pig with mint and ricotta salata that I have tried to replicate several times.  One thing I always mean to do with squash, but never quite get around to, is baking.  I actually purchased the zucchini that I used for my lunch today because I wanted to make a chocolate zucchini cake, but somehow they were just languishing away in the fridge.  After my baking binge of the last few weeks I feel the need to take at least another week off before attempting another cake.

This recipe was a play on a couscous recipe from the September 2005 issue of Gourmet I made awhile ago.  Somehow I wasn't in the mood for couscous today and I wanted quinoa, so I adapted the recipe to use quinoa instead.  There is something about the texture of quinoa that I really like and it always makes me sad that I rarely think to make quinoa.  While couscous is rather bland on its own, quinoa has its own wonderful nuttiness that I was craving.  I had to play with the amount of spices, etc. because I find that couscous picks up flavors quicker and easier (due to that blandness) than quinoa does.  All things considered, I count this recipe to be a wonderful (mostly) vegetarian success since I did use chicken stock to cook my quinoa!

Recipe after the jump!

Quinoa with Spiced Zucchini

2 cup reduced-sodium chicken (or vegetable) broth
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain couscous
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 medium zucchini, cut in half length-wise and then cut in half length-wise again, then cut into 1/4-inch wedges (basically half moons, cut in half down the middle)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 2 cups chicken broth and 1 cup quinoa to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add 1 tsp salt.  Reduce heat to simmer, and simmer covered until all of the broth is absorbed, around 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes.  Add garlic and sauté, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.  Add zucchini and 1 tsp salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until just tender, about 5 minutes.  Reduce heat to moderately low, then stir in coriander, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.  Taste and season with s&p if necessary.  Gently stir zucchini mixture into quinoa and allow to cool for 5-10 minutes. Just before serving, stir in mint and lemon juice.

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