Pretty in Pink (Quinoa)
I must admit, this year I won't be sorry when Valentine's Day is over, and instead of sharing a decadent/erotic/romantic recipe for two, I'm going to share a recipe that's been exciting my senses recently (and fits quite nicely for the holiday at hand): Pink quinoa.
Pink quinoa?? "Does it come that way?" asked one of my Instagram followers. Nope, there is no new pink quinoa product on the market (there is red quinoa, and I do use it, but is is actually more a maroon-brown hue). This recipe becomes pink from the addition of roasted beets, and what's nice is you can control the shade by adding more or less beet, producing a pastel pink to bright fuchsia color.
To be sure, I didn't come up with this dish specifically for Valentine's Day, though there is an "accidental-on-purpose" element to the whole thing, and I've been milking it on my client menus leading up to V-Day. And regardless of the month, I do love pink and will be adding this to my year-
round repertoire. Also, this is a basic recipe and I'm already thinking of multiple variations-on-a-theme, like with pistachios, mint and feta, or with orange zest and honey-roasted pumpkin seeds, for example.
The key here, in my opinion, is to use grated roasted beets. They meld seamlessly with the quinoa and impart a more even flavor and texture than, say, diced beets (which would be fine if you don't have a food processor, which makes things quick and tidy when you use the grater attachment).
And without further ado:
Lemony Pink Quinoa with Roasted Beets & Pumpkin Seeds
1 1/2 cups dry quinoa
1 medium-sized red beet
Zest and juice of one large lemon
3 large cloves garlic, minced
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 t. kosher salt, + to taste
several grinds fresh black pepper, to taste
Lightly rinse your beet (and this can be done in advance or the day before). Wrap it in foil and roast at 325 for about an hour, or until you can easily pierce the beet with a paring knife. Meanwhile, thoroughly rinse the quinoa several times in a fine-mesh strainer (this is important- it removes the bitter saponins that coat the quinoa). Place rinsed quinoa in a medium-large sized pot with plenty of water to cover it up (you don't cook it like rice but rather, like pasta). Lightly salt the water. I find that once the quinoa comes to the boil, it only takes 13-15 minutes to cook. You don't want mushy quinoa, so start sampling it at 13 minutes. It is done when it is tender but still a bit al dente. Drain in a fine-mesh strainer. Place the pumpkin seeds in a dry pan over medium heat. Constantly stir or toss the seeds to roast; they will start to pop and turn brown. When seeds are lightly toasted, take the pan off the heat and/or transfer to a plate to stop the roasting process.
When the beet is cool enough to handle, peel off the skin; it should slip off easily. If not, use a paring knife and lightly rinse it off to make sure all the skin is off. Cut it into chunks that will fit into the feeder tube of your food processor, which you have fitted with the grater attachment. Feed through the tube to grate. I like to lightly squeeze out the excess liquid from the beets so I can add more grated beets w/o getting a very dark fuchsia color right away.
Add all the other ingredients to the quinoa, and when you add the grated beets, you can start by adding a smaller amount to see what color you get, and then add more if you want it to be brighter. Taste for seasoning and add more lemon, salt and/or pepper.
Notes: Grated raw carrots and/or arugula are nice additions to this dish (add arugula just before serving or serve the quinoa on a bed of it).