This easy quinoa recipe was originally developed as a gluten-free stuffing for Natural Health magazine’s 2009 Thanksgiving issue. My assignment was to incorporate ten superfoods into a full Thanksgiving feast, in this case for the gluten-free stuffing I used kale, quinoa and pomegranate seeds. By adding the pecans, sage and thyme I was able to pull together a very “Thanksgiving-ish” flavored dish, but this side dish can really be enjoyed anytime from October to January when pomegranates are in season.
Easy Quinoa Recipe 2 Ways…
If you are making this dish for Thanksgiving you can certainly stuff your turkey with it (and feel free to add a few extra handfuls of raw kale if you decide to go this route), but it is also perfect served as pilaf-style side dish.
A Super Burst of Nutrition
“Superfoods” don’t always contribute as much in flavor to a recipe as they do nutrition. But in this case three featured superfoods—kale, quinoa and pomegranate —add interest and depth of flavor in addition to stellar health benefits. You’ll have to taste the dish to believe how good it is, but here’s what makes the three superfoods so super…
- KALE: This dark green wonder veggie is great for detoxifying your body. It also increases “good” HDL cholesterol (that’s the beneficial type of cholesterol that actually helps sweep your arteries clean) and simultaneously decreases “bad” LDL cholesterol. Kale is also an excellent dairy-free (and therefore very “clean”) source of calcium.
- POMEGRANATE: Tops among the super potent antioxidant rich foods, carpaccio-red pomegranates have three times the antioxidant power of red wine and green tea in addition to anti-inflammatory compounds, potassium, and vitamin C. If pomegranates intimidate you, check out Cooking Techniques for a super easy step by step guide for just how to do it!
- QUINOA: Containing a wide array of nutrients including calcium, antioxidant vitamin E, potassium, lysine, and magnesium, this gluten-free grain serves double duty as super “clean food” source of protein. Quinoa is also particularly rich in iron—1/2 cup contains almost 8 mg, way more than any other type of cereal grain, and a robust 5 grams of tummy-filling fiber. A little less well known is that quinoa is a prebiotic (meaning it stimulates the growth of probiotics or good bacteria already found in your gut).
How to Cook Quinoa
Before you get cooking you should know by far the easiest way to cook quinoa is in a rice cooker. Since discovering the rice cooker a few years back there is absolutely no way I would ever cook quinoa stovetop again. To cook your quinoa in a rice cooker, simply measure one part quinoa to two parts water, cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Nothing to it.
Note: unless it says so on the box you’ll want to rinse quinoa with water before cooking to remove bitter coating.
- 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, finely sliced, divided
- 1/2 cup organic vegetable stock (such as Pacific Natural Foods brand)
- 1/2 pounds young kale, stems and leaves coarsely chopped
- Unrefined sea salt, to taste
- White pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups raw pecans
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme (strip the leaves from the stem)
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 tablespoon organic pastured butter
- 1 organic, pastured egg, lightly beaten
- 3/4 cup dry white wine
- 3/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch glass baking dish.
- In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil. Add half of the garlic and cook until soft but not golden. Raise heat to high, add the stock and kale and toss to combine. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring until all the liquid has evaporated. Season with salt and white pepper. Set aside to cool.
- Add cooled, cooked kale and pecans to a food processor; pulse several times until pecans are chopped and kale is shredded but mixture is still chunky.
- In a separate saucepan over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil; add the onion and remaining garlic; sauté 2-3 minutes. Add the sage and thyme and continue cooking until onion is caramelized, approximately 3 to 4 more minutes. Stir in the pecan-kale mixture. STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO ADD THE QUINOA AND WANT A VEGGIE-ONLY SIDE DISH.
- Transfer the onion-kale-pecan mixture to a large bowl. Add the cooked quinoa and stir to combine. Stir in the remaining tablespoon of oil and melted butter. Season with salt and white pepper to taste. Add the egg and wine and toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Cover and bake 30 minutes. Garnish with pomegranate seeds just before serving.
This dish can serve as a veggie side simply by not adding the quinoa and stopping after step 4 (see instructions above).