Quinoa is fast becoming one of my favorite choices for a quick & healthy lunch or dinner. I’ve been trying to get more grains into our diets without feeling as if I’m sacrificing flavor in exchange for its health benefits. When I was sent the new Food52 cookbook to test I was floored by the similarity in this recipe; I’ve been making this recipe – with spinach in place of the kale and minus the pine nuts – for several months now. It was a result of throwing together the items in my fridge; one of those times when pantry items, convenience and flavor all come together to create something magical.
Quinoa is actually not a grain but a seed. Very high in protein and B vitamins, quinoa is a good choice for a quick weeknight dinner when you want something fast yet still healthy. My girls love quinoa. It took them awhile to warm up to it but I serve it so often now that it’s no longer foreign to them.
Quinoa also needs to be toasted before it’s used in your favorite recipes. To do this, simply rinse a few times under cold water, then toast it in a dry skillet over medium heat. You want to make sure the quinoa is golden brown; this will take around 10-15 minutes. Be sure to give your skillet a good shake every minute or so as you don’t want the quinoa on the bottom of the pan to burn.
This particular recipe is a nice way to introduce yourself to quinoa if you haven’t tried it before. And if you have, it’s a good go-to recipe for when you want something that packs a lot of flavor without much effort. The nuttiness of the quinoa is a nice contrast to the tangy, smooth goat cheese. And if you have a favorite quinoa recipe of your own, please feel free to share the link in the comment section below.
One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf
Serves 2-4 (I typically double this as it makes good leftovers)
- 2 cups salted water
- 1 cup quinoa (be sure to toast first, see notes above)
- 1 bunch kale
- 1 meyer lemon, zested and juiced (I use regular when meyer isn’t available)
- 2 scallions, minced
- 1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil (I use evoo when I’m out of walnut)
- 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
- 1/4 cup crumbled goat cheese (I add more but I’m a goat cheese fanatic!)
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Bring the water to a boil in a covered pot. Add the quinoa, cover, and lower the heat until it is just enough to maintain a simmer. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then top with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and allow to steam for 5 more minutes.
- While the quinoa is cooking, take a large serving bowl and combine half of the lemon juice (reserving the other half), all of the lemon zest, scallions, walnut oil (you can substitute olive oil if you desire), pine nuts, and goat cheese.
- Check the quinoa and kale when the cooking time has completed — the water should have absorbed, and the quinoa will be tender but firm, and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam a bit longer (adding more water if needed). When the quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf, and tip it into the waiting bowl with the remaining ingredients. As the hot quinoa hits the scallions and lemon it should smell lovely. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper, and the remaining lemon juice if needed.