Sunday, March 6, 2011

Double Broccoli Quinoa

This recipe is one of my favorite dinner bowls.  A delicious variation on traditional pesto, it features broccoli in both pureed and floret form.  The chunky pesto sauce is a perfect complement to the soft, grainy texture of the quinoa- a tasty, easy-to-make complete protein that I will delve into more below.

Double Broccoli Quinoa comes from Heidi Swanson's 101 Cookbooks, one of my absolute favorite food bloggers. Heidi features natural and whole foods in her cooking and categorizes her recipes by both ingredient and type (low carb, gluten-free, etc.) to help you find exactly what you're looking for.  While she tosses her quinoa bowl with sliced avocado (easy access, she lives in California!), I went for a more rustic Italian taste by adding sliced sundried tomatoes and red onion sauteed in balsamic vinegar.  I also replaced the heavy cream with fat-free cottage cheese to cut calories and add texture, and thus cut out added salt because cottage cheese is already high in sodium.

Double Broccoli Quinoa (original recipe link here)
Serves 2-3

1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
3 cups raw broccoli, cut into small florets and stems
1 medium garlic clove
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted
2 tbsp freshly grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 cup olive oil
1/8 cup fat-free cottage cheese
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes (not oil-packed)
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Optional toppings: slivered basil, fire oil (optional)*, sliced avocado, crumbled feta or goat cheese

*(Heidi's "fire oil" consists of hot oil and red pepper flakes. I just sprinkled red pepper flakes over my dish plain for some added heat)


  • Heat the quinoa and set aside.
  • Now barely cook the broccoli by pouring 1/2 cup water into a large pot and bringing it to a simmer. Stir in the broccoli. Cover and cook for a minute, just long enough to take the raw edge off. Transfer the broccoli to a strainer and run under cold water until it stops cooking. Set aside. Or...toss 1/4 cup water with broccoli and microwave for 2 minutes.
  • To make the broccoli pesto puree two cups of the cooked broccoli, the garlic, half the almonds, Parmesan, and lemon juice in food processor. Drizzle in the olive oil and cottage cheese and pulse until smooth.
  • Just before serving, toss the quinoa and remaining broccoli florets with about 1/2 of the broccoli pesto. In the pan used to cook the quinoa, heat a few drops of olive oil (enough to just cover the entire bottom) on medium heat.  Add in sliced sundried tomato and onion, and cook covered for 2 minutes. Pour in balsamic vinegar, and cook for an additional minute.  Toss sundried tomatoes and onions with the quinoa mixture.
  •  Taste and adjust if needed. On a serving platter, top with remaining almonds, hot red pepper flakes, and any other optional toppings.

Quickie on Quinoa 
Although it is often associated with and used like a grain, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is actually a chenopod: a subfamily of the flowering plant Amaranthaceae, which includes foods such as sugarbeet, spinach, and chard. A balanced set of all nine essential amino acids makes quinoa a rare complete protein source for humans among plant food. Quinoa contains a notable source of lysine, an amino acid essential for tissue growth and repair. Additional health benefits include high fiber, magnesium-which helps relax blood vessels to contribute to migraine relief and cardiovascular health- and iron.  Quinoa is also gluten-free.  This fluffy, slightly nutty-tasting "grain" is a perfect alternate to rice or pasta. No wonder the ancient Incas referred to it as"the mother grain!"

"Quinoa." WHFoods. Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <>.
"Quinoa." Wikipedia. Web. 6 Mar. 2011. <>

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