With all the promise of a sunny spring morning, colorful and sunny quinoa with vegetables serves up helpings of tasty goodness. Let this easy-to-prepare recipe cast away the shadows as you heap spoonfuls onto your plate and into your mouth in record time.
Load quinoa with vegetables
I have yet to find a vegetable that quinoa doesn't like, so when I decided to whip up this quick meal, I used a combination of what was available and what I love with a tablespoon of the method behind the veggie madness. Red pepper and carrots with their natural sweetness and earthy mushrooms remind me of sunshine and nature. Even if you can’t go outside, bring it in. That’s my motto.
Along the sunshine spectrum, tarragon, thyme, and dill all play a special role in creating a simple, yet distinctive flavor that pairs well with the vegetables I used in this recipe. Tarragon, with its bittersweet subtle anise flavor, interacts with the earthiness of thyme like a walk in the woods with the lemony flavor of dill adding curious drops of sunshine on your back as you go.
Where there’s lemon and dill, there should be artichokes
I am a girl who never passes on an opportunity to use artichokes. They are my canned good indulgence because I've got a brand here that is packed in water and doesn't break the bank so hard that I can keep a few cans handy.
I've never been a fan of artichokes in brine and I avoid anything marinated in oil at all costs, so if you can't find a can of artichokes, check out the freezer section in your supermarket. It's like uncovering a well-kept secret when you find them. If you go with frozen, start first by thawing them to the point where you can cut them into quarters if they come whole. It's perfectly acceptable to let them thaw as they cook with the quinoa so don't worry if they are still a bit frozen.
Quinoa and cooking time
The magic number when it comes to cooking quinoa is 15. Once you stir in the artichokes, add your rinsed quinoa and broth and set your time for 15 minutes. That's enough time for the broth to absorb and your quinoa to cook. Because your pan will be loaded with all the veggies and herbs, be sure that you stir everything and don't rely on the veggie broth to rush to the bottom of the pan to save the carrots, peppers, and mushrooms from sticking. They need encouragement.
The other number you should remember about quinoa is 2. That’s how much liquid you should add. 2 cups of liquid for every cup of quinoa. That holds true if you are adding red beans to accompany quinoa or making a chickpea quinoa pilaf. And although it’s not a number, you should always take a moment to rinse your quinoa before cooking it. This cleans any of the cloudy dust and more importantly washes away any bitterness. We aren’t tolerating bitterness when we’re thinking about sunshine.
Adding peas and scallions
After the quinoa simmered, I decided to add some green with frozen peas and scallions. I included the white and green parts of the scallions for color and if you add them at the end, there is a bit of crispness. I found that adding the frozen peas at the end rather than while the quinoa was simmering prevented them from getting mushy.
All you need to do is mix them in and either cover the pot for a minute or just stir them until they heat through. If you add the lemon juice on top of the peas and stir, that helps speed up their cooking process. However, if the veggies and quinoa start sticking before the peas are heated through, you may need to add ½ cup of water if the pan is looking dry. Don’t worry if you think you’ve added too much liquid, it will absorb in minutes if you cover the pan. The frozen peas will also create a bit of moisture.
With a theme of sunshine running through this recipe, it seemed perfectly reasonable to add unsalted sunflower seeds right before serving. It didn't take but ¼ a cup to add a crunchy texture and make this dish taste rich without adding any oil.
Although I was so, so tempted to use my quick marinated onions as an easy garnish to make my quinoa and vegetables special, I decided to try something new without deviating too far from the path. So, I marinated shallots in a simple combination of orange juice and apple cider vinegar. You don’t get the spectacular pink of the red onions, but the orange juice mellows out the shallots, which can taste a bit on the strong side. The vinegar helps to soften them. This takes about 5 minutes to prep, so do this part before you start on the quinoa. You can also make this a day or two ahead. Just be sure to store it in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
The shallots add a nice tangy flavor, but I served it on the side to control the onion flavor. As it turned out, the shallots didn’t overpower the dish. They did just what a garnish is supposed to do – accentuate.
Helen Keller once stated that you should keep your face toward the sun, and you will never see any shadows. And maybe looking directly into the sun can temporarily blind us to our truths, channeling the warmth of the sun brings us undeniable warmth and renewal. That's not suggesting we shouldn't acknowledge and challenge our shadows. But sometimes, a dose of sunshine – especially on our plates is exactly what we need to lift our spirits and highlight the goodness that each day promises. Peace.Print