Swampy summer is in full swing here in Virginia. Some folks were talking about a polar vortex showing up to cool things off a bit, but it must have taken a detour because it definitely has not whirled itself anywhere near here yet! It is Oppressive out there! I think my friend’s little girl described it best when she stepped outside and said “Feels like dog breath in my face.” Yup. That is pretty much it. So big heavy meals aren’t particularly appealing to me now. Light and fresh is what is called for and I think I’ve found just the thing. This Caprese Quinoa Bake with its roasted cherry tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar drizzle practically screams summer. The good things about summer that is…not the dog breath things. I must admit, I’m a new comer to Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah). Sure I’ve seen it around and heard folks raving about it and could see it was quite the fad. But I was afraid it might be like kale (I. Hate. Kale.). You know, supposedly really good for you,but something you had to literally had to choke down, like cod liver oil. I avoided it and figured if I waited long enough, it would disappear from the group consciousness. But feeling a bit adventurous one day and desperately trying to find a new recipe for Meatless Monday, I decided to give it a go and I was quite pleasantly surprized by its fluffy texture and light and nutty taste. I really like it. Like I might like it more than rice. And come to find out, it not only tastes great but it is also really good for you. It has been grown in the Andes region as far back as 3,000 – 4,000 years ago. Technically it is not a grain, but a seed and is a closely related to spinach. This super food is gluten-free and protein packed, high in fiber, phosphorus and magnesium, a good source of calcium and has high levels of antioxidants and omega 3’s. Yay Quinoa! It is very easy to prepare and quite adaptable to a variety of dishes (quite a few more of which will be showing up here soon…what can I say? I’m smitten!) One thing you do want to remember is to rinse it before cooking. Quinoa naturally has a bitter coating on it. Most brands you purchase in the stores claim to be pre-washed, but just to be sure, place it in a fine mesh strainer and give it a 30 second shower before cooking.
I can tell you not only will this dish be in high rotation this summer, but with all of it’s sweet, savoury fresh flavours, I think it will make it into the cooler months as well. It was a very satisfying meatless Monday main dish, would be equally brilliant as a side dish or if you found yourself catering for some serious carnivores it would also be quite tasty with the addition of some italian sausage or pancetta. (You definitely want to stay on the good side of those carnivores in my opinion. And it’s a bad idea to let them go hungry!) So don’t fear the Quinoa, embrace it. I’ve totally drank the kool aid and I’m not looking back!
Caprese Quinoa Bake
recipe from: Domesticate Me
- 1¼ cups uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained
- 2 cups petite Roma or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- 2 small shallots, minced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- ¼ cup packed basil leaves, thinly sliced
- 4 ounces fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese, grated (about 1 cup of grated cheese)
- 8 ounces fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced into 1/4–inch rounds
- 2 beefsteak tomatoes, sliced into ¼-inch rounds
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
Pre-heat your oven to 400°F.
In a small pot, bring the quinoa and 1¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes until all of the water has been absorbed. Let the quinoa rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
While the quinoa is cooking, place the halved tomatoes on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and fresh ground pepper. Transfer to the oven and roast for 10 minutes until they’re tender and the skins have started to burst.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. When hot, add the minced shallots and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes until the shallots have become translucent and the garlic is fragrant.
In a large bowl combine the quinoa, roasted tomatoes, cooked shallots and garlic, and basil. Stir in the grated mozzarella and season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
Transfer the quinoa mixture to a large skillet and smooth the top. (A round, square or rectangular baking dish is also just fine.)
Starting in the center, overlap slices of tomatoes and mozzarella in a small circle. Make a second circle of overlapping tomatoes and mozzarella, covering the surface of the quinoa. (If you’re using a square or rectangular dish, just make two lines of overlapping tomatoes and mozzarella and call it a day.)
Cover the skillet loosely with foil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 20 minutes until the cheese is bubbling and lightly browned.
While your quinoa bake is in the oven, place the balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 3-5 minutes until the vinegar becomes syrupy. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Sprinkle your quinoa bake with freshly sliced basil and drizzle with the balsamic reduction. Serve immediately.
Caprese Quinoa Bake brought to you by: Runcible Eats (http://www.leaandjay.com )