Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Greek-style Quinoa

As I mentioned a few posts back, I succumbed to peer pressure sometime in July and decided to start training for my first half-marathon. I ran cross country way back in high school (starting to quickly realize how long ago that really was!), so I've put in a few long runs in my lifetime, but can safely say that I haven't run 8+ miles since those workouts 10 years ago! Luckily, the bulk of my training is taking place during boards studying and the month afterwards, when I really don't have many responsibilities (responsibilities... or excuses?) to get in the way of my training plan. Thankfully, as much as I dislike that winter follows fall, Iowa took a decided turn into fall temperatures this weekend, which makes long runs outside much easier to deal with.

What this means on the foodie side of things is paying better attention to what I eat - this sort of training requires quality food. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa) is one of my favorite ingredients- similar to rice, it's easy to cook while prepping veggies and provides a blank canvas as far as taste goes. Quinoa is also a complete protein, which is hard to come by for us vegetarians. To date, I've only used quinoa for savory lunch/dinner dishes, but I'm eager to throw some cinnamon-sugar, raisons and almonds in it and try it for breakfast as the temperatures start dropping. Quinoa can be used in place of pretty much any grain - rice, pasta, etc, to add protein and fiber (quinoa has double the protein and fiber of rice!) to your meals without being as high in carbs as the other options.
Cooking quinoa the same as cooking rice, the only difference being that you must rinse the quinoa for several minutes before cooking. After that, it's an easy 2:1 ratio for boiling liquids:quinoa, and stir occasionally to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. For enhanced taste, you could use vegetable or chicken broth in place of water, or saute onions and garlic in a little olive oil before adding the water to boil - that way the flavors are cooked into the quinoa to start, rather than sitting on the surface. 

Greek-style Quinoa
Serves 4-6

1 cup quinoa, rinsed
2 Tbs olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 red onion
1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tomatoes, chopped
1 medium eggplant, chopped into 1"cubes
1 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs fresh dill, plus more for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Greek yogurt to top, if desired

1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then add the quinoa. With heat on medium-high, cover and simmer the quinoa until very little moisture is left in the pan, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, sauté until the onions are almost translucent.
3. Add the eggplant and chickpeas, adding more olive oil or water as needed (the eggplant soaks up fluids like crazy!). Season with cumin, dill, salt and pepper.
4. After 5-8 minutes, add the tomatoes. Continue cooking the mixture until everything is warmed through, but before the tomatoes become stew-like.
5. Serve the eggplant, chickpeas and tomatoes over the quinoa. Add a dollop of greek yogurt and a sprinkling of dill to top off the dish, if desired. 
*This dish is great both warm and cold, so it transitions very well from summer to fall and winter.

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