Feel Good Quinoa Bowl

Did you know that quinoa is a seed that has been consumed for close to 7,000 years?  Well neither did I.

According to archeologists, quinoa was a staple food of the Andean people of Peru who domesticated the seed 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.  The Incas considered quinoa to be sacred as it gave them more energy and power than any other food. The emperor would sow the first seeds of the season, blessing the ground as he went. Because quinoa is jam packed with protein, minerals and vitamins it has won the title of “super food”.

The Inca and Aztec warriors would roll balls of pure animal fat and cooked quinoa to take with them to battle, think of these balls as the world’s first energy bars. When the Spanish conquistadors came, they refused to eat the “Indian” foods and burnt the crops, forcing the people to replace the quinoa with wheat. As a result, many warriors and families starved and ran up into the mountains with whatever quinoa crops they had, therefore keeping the “gold of the Inca” alive.

With such a rich history, I feel compelled to create something amazing with quinoa to do it justice. This recipe combines warm flavours and utilizes eggplant in a different way, turning it into a creamy addition to the bright flavours of the vegetables. This dish is a great vegetarian option or can be topped with any meat, fish or seafood you wish. Here I topped the veggies with some roasted shrimp. Perfectly pink and plump, the shrimp add a wonderful sweetness that takes the overall flavour to new heights.

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Ingredients

serves 4-6

1 lb fresh shrimp (I used large tiger shrimp)

1 tbsp lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

drizzle of olive oil


1 cup uncooked golden quinoa, rinsed (to remove the saponin coating)

1 tsp olive oil

1 cup vegetable stock

1/2 cup water


3 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, minced

1 large purple eggplant, peeled and cut into small cubes

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1 yellow pepper, seeded and diced

1 can ground tomatoes (San Marzano if you can find it)

2 cups vegetable stock

2 tbsp Za’atar spice blend

1 tbsp Montreal steak spice

Salt and pepper to taste

1 head broccoli, cut into florets and stems cubes

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1″ pieces

Method

First step is to get all your ingredients ready. This step can be done a day or two in advance. Chop up all your veggies and keep them separate in the fridge until ready to use. Once all your prep is done, this dish will come together like a dream.

Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over high heat for about 30 seconds. Toss in the quinoa and toast the seeds for a minute to release their natural, nutty flavour. Once the seeds are toasted, pour in the veggie stock and water (total 11/2 cups liquid) and bring to the boil. Stir well, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and leave it alone for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa rest for 5 minutes, fluff with a fork.

In a large deep skillet, heat the oil until almost smoking. Toss is the onions and cook them until just golden brown, about 5 minutes. If you stir the pot too much, the onions will not fry as well so be patient!

Add the bell peppers and cook until lightly golden, same method as onions. Add garlic, toast for a minute,  and add the cubes of eggplant. Cook until the eggplant starts sticking to the pan and begins to caramelize.

Pour in the tomatoes and veggie stock and stir, scraping the bottom if the pan to grab all the flavours stuck down there. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer the stew for 30 minutes, stirring often. The goal is having the eggplant completely disintegrate into the tomato broth.

Season the stew with steak spice, za’atar spice, salt and pepper to taste. When the stew has reduced by half and the eggplant has broken down, toss in the green veggies. Cover the skillet and let it cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Rest it until shrimp is cooked.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Toss the shrimp with lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes or until pink and plump.

To assemble the dish, serve the stew on top of the quinoa and garnish with roasted shrimp.  Serve with fresh lemon wedges for an added spritz of freshness.

Enjoy!