Have you tried quinoa? Do you like it? I have to be honest. I didn't like it (at all) when I first I tried, and it neither did Mr. Café. It was a little weird to us; kind of soggy, a faint bitterness, a bit of a strange texture ... I didn't want to rule it out because, well, I was supposed to like it. Right? After all, it is known to be one of the "super foods", loaded with protein, fiber, iron, antioxidants and a boatload of other great stuff. It seemed like every place I turned, somewhat was touting the assets of quinoa.
I kept trying it but had a hard time convincing myself that is was worth adding to my culinary arsenal. Then one day I discovered a new quinoa preparation method and guess what? I've been transformed to a quinoa aficionado! I just LOVE this funny little ancient grain now.
With this method, my quinoa comes out perfectly delicious every time, never soggy, no bitterness or strange texture. In fact, I love to make a big pot early in the week and store it in the fridge. I serve it as a side paired with grilled entrees or combine it with whatever's fresh and delicious-looking at the market. To me, it's become a delightful blank palette and I have fun creating recipes with many flavor variations.
I spotted my first-of-the-season butternut squash a few days ago and it gave me an idea for a new quinoa creation. While my quinoa was cooking, I peeled and diced the squash, then flash-roasted it with a bit of olive oil and lemon pepper in a hot oven. A quick sauté of diced onion, sun-dried tomatoes, minced garlic and a bit of smokey ham and I was almost done.
The fun, flavorful finishing touch is a generous portion of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Yup, just like in the song! Don't be surprised if you find yourself singing that little melody as you prepare this delicious quinoa. And speaking of singing, I have a feeling that everyone around the table will be singing your praises when you serve this beautiful Butternut Squash Quinoa.
P.S. You would have probably laughed at us had you been a little mouse in the house. We try to capture the beautiful morning light for our photo shoots whenever it's possible. After styling and photography this yummy quinoa early one morning, we couldn't wait any longer to sample it; we each had a BIG bowl for breakfast!!
- 1 cup quinoa
- 1 ½ cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 medium butternut squash cut into ½ inch dice, you want a total of about 4 cups diced squash
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 cup diced good quality, smoked ham, cut in ½-inch dice*
- 1 medium yellow onion finely diced
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes ** see note
- 3 medium cloves garlic finely minced
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped sage leaves
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- ¼ cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Cover quinoa with cold water and let sit for 30 seconds, then swish with your hand for another 30 seconds. Pour quinoa into a fine strainer and allow to sit and drain for 15-20 minutes, gently shaking strainer occasionally to remove as much water as possible.
Heat a medium-large pan over medium heat for several minutes. Add quinoa and toast, stirring constantly, until all liquid is removed and you begin to smell a nutty aroma, about two minutes. Transfer to a dry bowl.
Rinse pot and bring 1½ cups of broth to a rolling boil. Add toasted quinoa and cover, leaving lid slightly vented to allow steam to escape. Reduce heat to low (maintain just a slight simmer) and cook for about 14 minutes or until all liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, uncovered for 30 minutes to cool while preparing rest of ingredients, then fluff with a fork.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Place the cubed butternut squash onto a foil-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle with lemon pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Toss the squash mixture with your hands to evenly distribute the oil and seasoning. Roast for 10 minutes, then remove from oven and gently stir. Return to oven and roast for another 10 minutes or until the squash is tender but not mushy.
Meanwhile, heat a large skillet, over medium heat. When hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Heat until oil is hot but not smoking. Add the ham and stir continuously for 1 minute. Add the diced onion, sun-dried tomato and garlic. Sauté for several minutes until onion becomes translucent. Add the sage, rosemary and thyme and cook for another 30 seconds.
Remove heat to low and add the cooked quinoa and roasted butternut squash. Stir gently to combine. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. Transfer to a serving plater or individual plates and garnish with the parsley. Serve warm.
* ~ You could use prosciutto, pancetta or chicken sausage instead of the ham. It would also be quite delicious without any meat, as well.
** ~ Sun-dried tomatoes can be purchased in oil (usually in glass jars) or in bags or packets without the oil. I prefer the ones not packed in oil as they are much lower in calories and don't add a lot of extra fat. If you purchase them dried, without the oil and they seem a bit hard, just re-hydrate for a few minutes with a bit of boiling hot water, then drain and use according to your recipe.