A few months ago I discovered quinoa. It's something that has been around forever, but I just never knew how easy it was to make, and more importantly how good it tastes! At some point my family will probably need to stage an intervention because I can't seem to get enough of this versatile, lovely grain. The recipe below is something that I threw together the other night based on ingredients that I had on hand. That is another thing that I love about quinoa, you can use whatever vegetables and spices that you have in order to give this dish the flavor that you desire. This particular recipe has a lot of Italian essence to it, but by changing up the spices and the vegetables you could easily have a dish with Mexican flare. Get creative and enjoy!!
Mixed Vegetable Quinoa Bake
1 cup quinoa, uncooked
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup onion, diced (about 1 medium)
1//2 green pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup chopped carrots
½ cup chopped celery
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained (I use Pomi)
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 lemon, juiced
2 cups shredded mozzarella jack cheese
Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray. Set aside.
Place the quinoa in a fine mesh strainer and rinse thoroughly with cool water for at least two minutes. Drain. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the quinoa and cook, stirring, for about one minute. The quinoa should begin to dry out and pop a bit. Add the chicken stock. Stir and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, peppers, carrots, and fennel to cook, stirring occasionally until soft, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and asparagus and cook 3 more minutes.
Fluff the quinoa with a fork and place it in a large bowl. Add vegetable mixture and salt to taste. Mix thoroughly and transfer to prepared baking dish. Top with panko breadcrumbs. Bake 30 minutes, top with cheese, and bake 10 minutes more or until melted and just beginning to brown.