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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sauteed Quinoa Salad with Spicy Tofu and More

It was really hard to come up with a name for this one.

When March hits, suddenly something happens to my diet- I start to crave veggies, veggies, lots of veggies, and the idea of eating meat becomes less appealing as the days become longer and the sun becomes warmer.  So I decided to resurrect my quinoa creation that began when Tyler and I were living in our tiny Santa Cruz beach cottage.  I loved that place, but I basically had a stove and a small strip of counter to work with, and our "kitchen" doubled as our living room.  Needless to say it was really difficult to cook anything extensive.  This recipe is quick, and can be as involved as you want it to be!  It's also a great recipe to alter for whatever you need use up in your fridge and is a really good alternative to rice dishes.

Quinoa is actually a seed, not a grain (though it is commonly called the "Peruvian grain"), is loaded with vitamins and minerals, and is high in protein, folic acid, and omega 3 while low in cholesterol.... a true super food.  It's one of my favorite one-dish meals because it is not overly starchy or heavy, yet can easily contain all the major food groups.  It has a very light, fluffy consistency that is more similar to cous cous, which leaves you feeling satisfied, healthy, and not overly full (even if you eat a lot of it, which you probably will).  For this recipe, I stick to my old standby salad rule- make sure you have a nut, a fruit, and a cheese- by throwing in roasted almonds, dried cranberries and some chunky feta along with the veggies, and this combination seems to compliment the mixture so well that I don't find any need for a dressing at all.  This keeps the dish nice and light- perfect for second (or third) helpings.

Sauteed Quinoa Salad with Spicy Tofu and More

1 c quinoa
2 c chicken or vegetable stock
broccoli and/or cauliflower florets
1 large carrot, julienne cut
6-8 white button mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 red onion, julienne cut
8-10 oz fresh spinach
2 or 3 large garlic cloves
any white wine lying around
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
garlic powder
olive oil
1/2 c dried cranberries
feta cheese crumbles
handful of almonds, lightly toasted and chopped
1/4 c fresh chopped parsley

Cook quinoa as you would rice- 2 parts liquid to 1 part quinoa.  I like to use stock for extra flavor, but water will work too.  If you have a rice cooker, like I do, it makes it really easy- just pour in both ingredients and press the button.  If not, place a small covered saucepan, bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer for about 15 min, or until all the moisture is evaporated.

Meanwhile, in a medium non-stick skillet (make sure it is non-stick- as much as i loooove my all-clad stainless steel, it sort of shredded the tofu into little bits) pour in enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and turn on med-high heat.  With a clean cloth, make sure to squeeze all excess moisture from the tofu.  Chop tofu into 1/2 inch cubes and add to the pan once the oil is hot.  Let cook for 3-4 minutes, or until the tofu starts to slightly brown, then sprinkle with garlic powder and salt.  Give it a good stir every few minutes to ensure that the tofu cooks evenly on all sides.  Squeeze Sriracha evenly over tofu and toss around in the pan so all sides are covered. *Do not stand directly over the pan during this step- the vapors from the Sriracha are VERY spicy, and if you breathe it in can cause quite a nasty coughing fit.  Continue to cook tofu a few more minutes until it reaches desired consistency.  About 10-12 minutes is a good guideline- it should be nicely browned and firm, but not burned.  Transfer tofu to a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large skillet, coat with olive oil and cook on medium heat.  When oil is hot, add carrots and onion.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, uncovered.  Using a garlic press, stir in garlic (if you don't have a garlic press you can just mince it finely ahead of time and dump it in).  Add mushrooms, broccoli/cauliflower, and a healthy glug (about a half a cup) of white wine.  Stir occasionally, allowing to cook about 5 more minutes, or until the alcohol has cooked out and the liquid has reduced a bit.  Once the veggies are cooked through (but not mushy), stir in tofu, quinoa, spinach and dried cranberries. Continue to cook about 2 minutes more, until the spinach is slightly wilted.  Then transfer to a large bowl and sprinkle in almonds, parsley and feta.  Serve immediately.  Keep leftovers in the fridge for a few days, enjoy warm or cold.  Enjoy!

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