roasted tomato and zucchini quinoa bowl

Earlier this year, I was innocently wandering through the grocery store, filling up my cart, when I spotted a turquoise box with a picture of what looked like a rice pilaf next to a filet of grilled salmon, the words “gluten-free,” “cooks in 10 to 15 minutes” and “organic” staring me in the face. I’d heard of quinoa before, never tried it, and the whole idea intrigued me.

quinoa

Do you already like/eat quinoa? Apparently, it’s good for you—like, crazy good for you—with the texture of a grain and the pedigree of spinach and Swiss chard. It offers what’s called a complete protein to your diet, composed of all nine essential amino acids, including ones that help build and repair tissues, and it’s been said to alleviate migraine headaches, reduce the risk of breast cancer, lower your chances of diabetes. Those facts alone should have made me like quinoa, I know, but I’m afraid to say that’s not the case. When I came home that night, I tried it, watching what looked like couscous boil on my stove, fluffing it with a fork when it was done, but, kind of like reading the first page of a book or wearing a new shirt one time, this initial experience left me unimpressed, and I tucked it away.

roasted vegetables

You know, just because you should like something doesn’t mean you will, and this is true of food, of people, of new work schedules and of periods of waiting. I imagine too that this is what frustrates some people about so-called healthy eating. Just as in life, sometimes you should push through it and keep trying, train yourself to change your perspective. But also just as in life, sometimes, while it’s helpful to tell yourself all the reasons why something is already good, it’s also helpful to find a way to make it better.

roasted tomato and zucchini quinoa bowl

So it’s been for me and quinoa. I don’t much care for it on its own and not even with pine nuts and raisins mixed inside. But one way I do like it—one way I love it—is mixed with roasted vegetables (is there anything they don’t make better?) and steamed kale, covered in lemon juice and filled with chunks of sheep’s milk feta cheese. It’s fresh and clean, it’s creamy and tart, it’s packed with flavor in every bite.

Let me tell you: this whole quinoa experience has been liberating. The day after I made it, I pulled a dusty, unread book out of my nightstand and headed to the grass, stretching out on a blanket while I flipped through chapters. It seems what roasted vegetables and feta are to quinoa, warm summer afternoons are to difficult books, the kind I’ve been meaning to pull out and read all year.

Here’s to them both.




Roasted Tomato & Zucchini Quinoa Bowl
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen!
Just in case you’re also new to quinoa, one quick note: it’s not only available in a box, and if you want to try a small amount, I recommend the bulk bins at Whole Foods.

Ingredients:
5 grape tomatoes, sliced in half lengthwise (I think I’d double this next time)
1/2 a big zucchini, sliced horizontally into rounds
Sea salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 Cup Quinoa, dry
3 pieces (leaves?) of kale
1 Lemon
5-ounce block of sheep’s milk feta cheese, chilled

Directions:
Begin by roasting the tomatoes and zucchini on a rimmed baking sheet, drizzling them with olive oil and sprinkling with salt and pepper. Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, turning the zucchini once.

After vegetables are roasted, cook the cup of quinoa with two cups of water over the stove and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, adding the kale right on top of the quinoa so it steams and softens. Remove the kale to a cutting board and chop roughly.

Move the cooked quinoa to a medium-sized bowl and fluff with a fork. Chop the roasted vegetables and add them to the quinoa. Add the chopped kale. Add salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze the juice of an entire lemon all over the dish and add about a tablespoon of olive oil.

Chop the feta into small pieces and toss with the salad. Because everything’s still warm, the feta melts into the vegetables and quinoa, creating a wonderful texture throughout. Dish may also be refrigerated and served cold.

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 33 Comments

  1. Jessica

    Quinoa has really grown on me in the last two years–I wasn’t too impressed with it at first, but now it might even be my default over rice. I have made the quinoa falafels from Sprouted Kitchen twice now and really loved them. I highly recommend them. I happen to have everything for this, though, so it might be tomorrow’s dinner!

    On a side note, I just read your Minoqua post from last year and grew overwhelmed with nostalgia. While my dad was doing graduate work in forestry at the UW and working at the research station in Northern Wisconsin, he was able to work out a deal so that my family monopolized the student cabin for a month or so for about four summers. Aside from the awesome swimming and nature walks, my mom was always finding fun things for us to do, like one time where we went on a hunt for interesting fungi and then laid them out on the picnic table and drew them like scientific specimens. There is also a hill behind that cabin that will never be the same, where I repeatedly slid down on a cardboard box until my erosion-conscious parents found me and put a stop to the activity. Ah, thanks for uprooting those memories!

  2. Jenn Sutherland

    As a celiac, I could not live without quinoa. It’s been a goddess-send for lunch staples…I’ve blogged many a quinoa recipe, and have another coming up this week for an amazing curried quinoa chickpea summer veggie salad with a harissa & orange vinaigrette. Your roasted veggie salad is just the beginning of the quinoa journey!

  3. Rosemary@Sprigs of Rosemary

    I’ve yet to try quinoa myself. I keep looking in my country stores, but not yet. My daughter says she loves the stuff. Her vote, your experience (especially your addition of the roasted veggies) and the fact that it’s a near perfect food has me convinced to keep up my hunt (or else mail order!)

  4. Lan

    can i just say we’re on the same page here? i tried quinoa for the first time from whole foods and i ate it with as much enthusiasm as i could muster because my thought process was : “it’s good for me so therefore it MUST taste good to me.” not the case … but i kept trying, it slowly grew on me. i actually have good intentions to try my hand at making it too and this past weekend i made a bulgur wheat salad (in essence,tabbouleh) and it was delightful, whereas before i was rather ambivalent about it when i bought it pre-made.

    i think the moral of this story, or mine anyway, when it’s on MY terms, the ingredients comes to life for me because *i* controlled it and it’s made all the difference in my eating healthier process.

  5. Kim

    Quinoa is filed in the category of “things I like but have never made myself.” I don’t know why. That is just silly, and I should just buy some and make it and be done with it already. Perhaps I will, soon. I have two kinds of summer squash and a bag of tomatoes freshly purchased…all I need now is the quinoa.

    And as a post-script, Girl’s Gone Child has some great-looking quinoa recipes up on her site. Check ‘em out!

  6. Shannalee

    Jessica, First of all, I love long comments like yours. It makes me smile to hear about people who love Wisconsin or who have summer memories there. I haven’t been in over a year now, and I admit I could go for a weekend in the woods. Also – thanks for mentioning those falafels from SK. Sara does it again! Making a mental note!

    Jenn, Curry and harissa? I’m in!

    Rosemary, Good! I hope you get to try it and I hope you find your own way to love it, too!

    Jacqui, Yessss! Let me know what you think!

    Antonietta, Well with the kale, you’re already halfway there! : )

    Sara, Thanks for the inspiration, girl! This was great!

    Lan, Oh, I love that we’re on the same page! And you make such a good observation. I’m finding that is true with self-employment, too – I want to do it on my terms, or I end up getting way stressed out. Life lessons.

    Tiiiiim, Ahahaha. Yep, what’s inside really counts.

    Rebecca, I hope so!

    Kim, Oh, it’s so easy is the funny thing! Off to check out that site now!

  7. Niki

    I love quinoa! Not alone of course, but filled with sauteed roasted veggies, for sure. You can also saute some shallot and garlic in the pan with your oil of choice, then once they are how you like them, add the quinoa toss iron the oil, then add chicken or veggies stock. It’s pretty good that way too. Just like rice pilaf

  8. susan

    I had quinoa tonight. I sauteed celery-onion-garlic-peppers, added jerusalem artichokes, kale, purslane, maitake mushrooms, pecans and a liberal sprinkling of ras el hanout. Cooked quinoa was added and the whole thing covered and left to steam a bit. Yum!

  9. Sues

    I love quinoa! And I’ve bought that very same green box at Stop and Shop before :) It’s definitely awesome with roasted veggies and feta! But I also enjoy it for breakfast with blackberries, cinnamon, and agave!

  10. David

    Happy Birthday Shannalee!
    28 was an incredible age for me – we started blogging and had a baby during the same year – hope it will be fantastic for you too.
    Btw, I love the look of those tomatoes.

  11. Elizabeth @ Dapper Paper

    Okay, just made this for lunch, um, YUM!
    It was perfectly delicious and fresh.
    I added a little more zucchini (the whole thing) and more grape tomatoes, but I also had a yellow roma tomato that I cut up and roasted as well.
    Such a delicious recipe!

    I am a huge fan of quinoa (love that little bite it has) but I definitely enjoy any grain with mix-ins!
    (and it’s funny that the flavor of quinoa is strangely similiar to grits! ha)

    thanks for the recipe :)

  12. Shannon @ bakeandbloom

    rice is nice, pasta is faster, cous-cous is dandy & barley is gnarley but quinoa is king!
    My best tip, cook it in the rice cooker for super fluffy quinoa. I even like it cooked in skim milk for breakfast porridge with coconut palm sugar, diced apples & cinnamon.

  13. Fredia

    I tried Quiona for the first time. Usually I eat brown rice and Kimchee with an egg on top for breakfast. Today I used Quiona with the Kimchee and egg. Fantastic. Quiona is so much lighter although I still love the brown rice with Kimchee for breakfast.
    I am also trying to sprout some Quiona seeds now. Not going to well.

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