One-Pot Kale and Quinoa Pilaf

Some people find it hard to get excited about vegetarian meals. For many of them, it could have something to do with growing up in a meat-and-potatoes culture.

In the family of my youth, meat usually was the centerpiece of most meals. That’s not to say we didn’t eat a lot of vegetables because we did. But as I’ve grow older, the focus has been less on meat and more on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

In fact, some of my favorite dishes contain no meat, just like the following one-pot meal. It contains kale, a leafy green, and quinoa, an ancient supergrain. Both are highly nutritious and have been gaining in popularity recently.

Quinoa has been called the “mother grain of the Incas,” who began cultivating it at least 3,000 years ago. Technically, it’s a seed that takes on a grain-like consistency when cooked. It is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium, iron, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E, copper and zinc. It’s also gluten-free. And to top it off, quinoa contains eight essential amino acids.
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Kale, on the other hand, also is a nutritional powerhouse, being packed with vitamin A, C, K, lutein (for healthy eyes) and beta-carotene. Other health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration of two kinds of antioxidants, carotenoids and flavonoids, which are associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits.

I would say that this dish, adapted from “The Food 52 Cookbook: 140 Winning Recipes from Exceptional Home Cooks” by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs (Morrow, $35), is an excellent way to get on track to healthy eating during National Nutrition Month.

One-Pot Kale and Quina Pilaf
1 cup quinoa, rinsed under running water
1 bunch kale, washed and chopped into 1-inch lengths
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 scallions, minced
1 tablespoon toasted walnut oil (or olive oil)
3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts
¼ cup crumbled soft goat cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bring 2 cups salted water to a boil over high heat in a large pot with a cover. Add the quinoa, cover and lower the heat to just maintain a simmer. Cook 10 minutes. Top the quinoa with the kale and re-cover. Simmer another 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow the quinoa and kale to steam 5 minutes.
While the quinoa is cooking, combine the lemon zest, half the lemon juice, the scallions, oil, pine nuts and goat cheese in a large serving bowl.
Check the quinoa and kale — the water should be absorbed, the quinoa tender but firm and the kale tender and bright green. If the quinoa still has a hard white center, you can steam it a bit longer, adding more water if needed.
When quinoa and kale are done, fluff the pilaf transfer it to the serving bowl. As the hot quinoa hits the scallions and lemon, it should smell lovely. Toss to combine, seasoning with salt and pepper and the remaining lemon juice if needed.
Yield: Serves 4.
Approximate nutritional analysis per serving: 300 calories, 39 percent of calories from fat, 13.7 grams fat (3 grams saturated, 3.4 grams monounsaturated), 6.5 milligrams cholesterol, 11.6 grams protein, 36.7 grams carbohydrates, 5.6 grams fiber, 78 milligrams sodium.

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