Red & White Quinoa for quick & easy gluten-free meals

In recent years, quinoa has become insanely popular as a quick cooking, high-protein, gluten-free, practically a power food, grain. Interestingly, I find people either love it to the point where they consider it no big deal or they have barely heard of it and are still wondering how to pronounce the name… Ki-Nwa. What I enjoy about the cute little grain with a tail, is that it stays in my pantry for quite sometime (after about two years, use it or lose it) and it cooks up in about 15 minutes. For those days when I am stumped about dinner or need something on the table in a hurry quinoa is my good buddy.

Like all proper ‘new’ grains on the market, quinoa is not only making appearances in more regular grocery stores, but the fancier markets are now offering heritage style grains in a variety of shades from red to black. From my personal experience, the color really doesn’t matter for the preparation. The shades can be easily mixed and matched, as I do in the following dish. But, I didn’t stop at just a simple side of red & white quinoa, I took the color inspiration and let it guide my vegetable choices as well of brilliant red beets and white cauliflower & onions to be tossed with a flavorful dressing.

When it comes to cooking quinoa, keep a close eye after about 10 minutes of simmering low. Once the tails uncurl, they can overcook quickly and become mushy. The best way to judge is to scoop up a sample, cool it slightly and chew down. It should have a bit of give, but no longer any crunch.

Red + White Quinoa

1/2 cup red quinoa

1/2 cup white quinoa (regular variety)

1 cup water

1 cup broth, chicken or vegetable

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup onion, minced

2 cups cauliflower, broken into bite size pieces

1 cup beets, diced

1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste if your broth is unsalted

1 cup greens, such as beet greens, kale or chard

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon honey

1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard

1/2 cup sunflower seeds

2 ounces jarlsberg or swiss cheese, shredded, optional

Bring the quinoa, water and broth up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a low simmer for 15 minutes. Add more water if necessary, but simmer until the quinoa is tender and the tails are just starting to consider uncurling.

In a saute pan over medium heat, splash in a dash of olive oil and the chopped onions. Once they turn translucent after just a couple of minutes, fold in the beets. Toss and saute. If they start to stick to the pan, add a splash of water. After another few minutes, crumble in the cauliflower florets. Continue to saute until they are all tender and wilted. Adding a periodic splash of water to steam or olive oil for a crispier bite. Season to taste with a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, honey, and dijon mustard. When the quinoa is cooked through, strain off any excess liquid, and then fold it in to the dressing with half of the sunflower seeds.

As the veggies finish up, fold in the shredded greens into the skillet until they are just wilted. Toss them into the quinoa.

Finish the dish with an optional sprinkle of shredded swiss or jarlsburg cheese and toasted sunflower seeds.

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