Thursday, February 23, 2012

Quinoa Pilaf in Lettuce Cups

Photo courtesy of Food Network
This week starts the Lenten season.  While my family never celebrated it, Abe's family is Byzantine Catholic, so Lent is near and dear to his heart.  In addition to giving something up for 40 days, you also go meatless (and some days vegan) on certain days.  Meatless Monday, in the Byzantine tradition, is 2 days before many others start Lent and involve giving up all meat, dairy and eggs.  Ash Wednesday is another vegan day.  The rest of the season, we will be meatless on every Wednesday and Friday.  You know this vegetarian is thrilled!

Yesterday I decided to make something a little different for us.  Well, for Abe, that is.  I love quinoa and make it for myself and the kids for a quick and healthy lunch.  A good friend is hosting a ladies brunch (sounds so grown up, doesn't it?) this weekend and requested a quinoa dish.  So, I thought I'd test drive this one.

I loved it.  Abe enjoyed it, but he keeps insisting he's not the biggest fan of quinoa.  He added a bit more hot sauce to his and did finish it.  But I noticed he didn't take the leftovers for his lunch.  His loss is my tummy's gain.

This recipe is perfect for a high-protein, low-carb lunch or dinner.  The base recipe is one I got from Aarti Sequira from Food Network.  I doctored it up to make it to my taste.

Quinoa Pilaf in Lettuce Cups
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 cups stock (veggie or chicken or even plain water)
1 cup quinoa, picked and rinsed well (make sure to rinse or it will be bitter)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon garam masala
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 tablespoons chopped dried cherries  (or any dried fruit you like)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon or orange, zested, plus 2 tablespoons juice
1 head Boston lettuce, leaves separated

Bring the stock and quinoa to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until quinoa is cooked and curly white germ shows, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the onion and spices, and saute until the onion has softened and the spices are very fragrant.

Stir in the celery and fruit and saute for 1 to 2 minutes.

Add the cooked quinoa (all the stock should have been absorbed) to the skillet. Stir in the lemon zest and lemon juice. Taste, and season with salt, pepper, to taste. Allow to sit off the heat for 10 minutes so the flavors seep into the quinoa.

Serve in lettuce cups with radish slices, soy sauce and Asian chili sauce on the side.

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