Earlier this year, I was innocently wandering through the grocery store, filling up my cart, when I spotted a turquoise box with a picture of what looked like a rice pilaf next to a fillet of grilled salmon.
The words “gluten-free,” “cooks in 10 to 15 minutes” and “organic” were staring me in the face. I’d heard of quinoa before, but I had never tried it, and the whole idea intrigued me.
Do you already like to eat quinoa? Apparently, it’s good for you – like, crazy good for you – with the texture of a grain and rich in essential vitamins and minerals.
According to PK Newby ScD, MPH, MS in her book Food & Nutrition: What Everyone Needs to Know, quinoa contains “… almost twice the protein of other grains and includes all of the essential amino acids and many micronutrients.”
Food & Nutrition: What Everyone Needs to Know, available on Amazon
It offers what’s called a “complete protein” to your diet, composed of all nine essential amino acids, including ones that help to build and repair tissues.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Quinoa is high in fiber and antioxidants, both of which help protect us from many chronic diseases.
These facts alone should have made me like quinoa, I know. But I’m afraid to say that’s not the case.
When I came home that night, I tried it, watching what looked like couscous boil on my stove, fluffing it with a fork when it was done. After I tried it, the initial experience left me unimpressed, and I tucked the rest of the box away in the cabinet.
You know, just because you should like something doesn’t necessarily mean you will. I imagine this is what often frustrates people about so-called “healthy eating.”
Sometimes you should push through it and keep trying, making an effort to train yourself to change your perspective. On the other hand, while it’s helpful to tell yourself all the reasons why something is already good, it’s also helpful to find a way to make it even better.
So it’s been this way for me with quinoa. I don’t much care for it on its own, and not even with pine nuts and raisins added to the mix.
But one way I do like it – one way I’ve discovered that I love it – is mixed with roasted vegetables (is there anything they don’t make better?) and sauteed kale, covered in lemon juice, and filled with chunks of sheep’s milk feta cheese.
It’s fresh and clean, it’s creamy and tart, and every bite is packed with flavor.
Let me tell you: this whole quinoa experience has been liberating. The day after I made it this way, I pulled a dusty, unread book out of my nightstand and headed to the grassy lawn, stretching out on a blanket while I flipped through the chapters.
It seems what roasted vegetables and feta are to quinoa, warm afternoons are to difficult books, the kind I’ve been meaning to pull out and read all year.
Here’s to them both.Print
Filled with roasted vegetables, sauteed kale, cool and creamy feta cheese, and tart lemon juice, every bite of these quinoa bowls is packed with flavor.
- 12 grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
- 1 large zucchini, sliced horizontally into ½-inch-thick rounds
- 3 tsp olive oil, divided
- 1 ½ tsp salt, divided
- ¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
- 1 cup uncooked quinoa
- 1 cup vegetable broth
- 3 leaves of red or green curly kale, stems removed
- 5-oz block feta cheese, diced (optional)
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Preheat oven to 375°F. Place sliced tomatoes and zucchini on a large baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil over vegetables and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and ½ tsp pepper, toss to coat. Bake for 25 minutes, flipping zucchini and rotating the pan halfway through.
- While zucchini and tomatoes are roasting, rinse quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer under cold running water, then place in a medium-sized pot. Add 1 cup of vegetable broth and 1 cup of water, then bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour cooked quinoa into a medium-sized mixing bowl and fluff with a fork.
- While quinoa is cooking, roughly chop kale. Pour remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once oil is hot, add chopped kale to pan and sprinkle with ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp pepper. Cook until kale has softened, about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.
- After vegetables are roasted and cool enough to handle, chop zucchini slices into quarters. Add roasted vegetables and sauteed kale to the mixing bowl with the quinoa.
- Squeeze the juice of one lemon over the quinoa mixture and add the feta cheese. Stir well to combine, and add extra salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately, or chill in fridge for at least 3 hours to serve cold.
When cooking quinoa, I like to use 1 cup of broth and 1 cup of water to give the quinoa a little more depth of flavor. However, you can use 2 cups of water instead if you don’t have or don’t want to use vegetable broth.
- Category: Vegetarian
- Method: Stovetop, Baking
- Cuisine: Dinner
Keywords: healthy, vegetarian, quinoa, roasted vegetables
Cooking By the Numbers…
Step 1 – Preheat Oven and Measure Ingredients
Preheat oven to 375°F and set out a large baking sheet. If vegetables tend to stick to your baking sheet, you may want to cover it with parchment paper (this also makes for super easy cleanup!). Measure out your ingredients so they’re ready to go.
Step 2 – Roast Vegetables
Place sliced zucchini and tomatoes cut side down on the prepared baking sheet.
Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil over the tomato and zucchini slices, then sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat. Place the baking sheet in the oven and set a timer for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, flip the zucchini slices and rotating the baking sheet. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the zucchini is browned and tomatoes are lightly charred.
Step 3 – Cook Quinoa
While the vegetables are roasting, rinse quinoa under cold running water until the water runs clear. The outer layer of these seeds contains saponins, and they will foam up and be washed off when rinsed. Most manufacturers today pre-wash quinoa, but it’s better to be safe than sorry in this case, since they can cause stomach upset if present.
Place the quinoa in a medium-sized pot and add 1 cup of water and 1 cup of vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over high heat.
Using part vegetable broth will give an extra flavor kick to the quinoa, but you can leave it out and use 2 cups of water instead, if needed or preferred.
Once boiling, reduce heat to low and cover. Gently simmer the quinoa for 15 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Transfer cooked quinoa to a medium-sized mixing bowl and fluff with a fork.
Step 4 – Chop and Saute Kale
Keep the multi-tasking going by preparing the kale while the vegetables and quinoa cook. I chose red kale as it has a slightly sweeter, nuttier flavor than other varieties and cooks down well. If you can’t find red kale, green curly kale can be used instead.
To chop, fold the kale in half and run a knife along the stem to remove it. Place the prepped leaves in a pile and roughly chop – they don’t have to be perfectly even in size!
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Once the oil is hot, add the chopped kale and cook until softened and reduced in size, about 3 minutes. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper. Set aside.
Step 5 – Chop Roasted Vegetables and Add Ingredients to Mixing Bowl
Once the roasted zucchini and tomato slices are cool enough to handle, chop the zucchini rounds into quarters.
Add the chopped vegetables along with the sauteed kale to the mixing bowl.
Step 6 – Add Lemon Juice and Feta Cheese
Squeeze lemon over the quinoa mixture, then top with diced feta cheese.
Note: to make these vegan, simply omit the feta.
Step 7 – Combine and Serve
Stir the mixture well to combine. Try a spoonful, and add more salt or pepper to taste.
You have the option to serve this dish warm, or place it in the fridge for at least 3 hours to serve it cold. Leftovers keep for up to 5 days in the fridge.
Mix It Up
The flavors don’t have to stop here! Mix up the recipe by adding fresh herbs or seasonings, using additional protein sources (like roasted chickpeas or baked tofu), or swapping out the vegetables for what’s in season.
Want more flavorful meatless bowl recipes? Give one of these other healthy quinoa options a try:
Did you stick with the recipe or add your own personal touch? We’d love to hear about your creations in the comments below! Loved it? Let us and others know by giving it a rating.
Photos by Kelli McGrane, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on August 23, 2010. Last updated: November 11, 2020 at 14:27 pm. With additional writing and editing by Kelli McGrane and Allison Sidhu.
Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.
The written contents of this article have been reviewed and verified by a registered dietitian for informational purposes only. This article should not be construed as personalized or professional medical advice. Foodal and Ask the Experts, LLC assume no liability for the use or misuse of the material presented above. Always consult with a medical professional before changing your diet, or using supplements or manufactured or natural medications.
About Shanna Mallon
Shanna Mallon is a freelance writer who holds an MA in writing from DePaul University. Her work has been featured in a variety of media outlets, including The Kitchn, Better Homes & Gardens, Taste of Home, Houzz.com, Foodista, Entrepreneur, and Ragan PR. In 2014, she co-authored The Einkorn Cookbook with her husband, Tim. Today, you can find her digging into food topics and celebrating the everyday grace of eating on her blog, Go Eat Your Bread with Joy. Shanna lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with Tim and their two small kids.