Thursday, July 11, 2013

Lemony Quinoa with Kale and Baked Olives

Here is an example of a time where I bookmarked a recipe and intended to follow it and then ended up just using it as the inspiration for something totally different. If this dish were a TV movie, it wouldn't even be allowed to be "based on" the original. I also put more thought into the design of the dish than I normally do, going as far as to sketch it out on paper and write down amounts and everything. I wanted to have a semi-decent chance of re-creating it if it ended up being tasty (and it was).

The inspiration for the recipe was from The Kitchn Warm Citrusy Millet Salad with Fennel and Kalamata Olives. The first time I made it, the only changes I made were to use an orange rather than clementines and to use an onion instead of fennel, as I don't love fennel and it wasn't yet in season at the farmers' market. I also added some finely ground kale to the millet.

If those changes weren't enough, I modified it further to use quinoa, which my family prefers to millet. I substituted lemon juice and zest for orange, as I am more likely to have that around, and I doubled the olives. I also ditched the original dressing in favor of a hybrid based loosely on Deborah Madidon's baked olives in Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I used half of the lemon garlic mixture to coat the still-warm olives and the other half as a basis for a lemon dressing for the quinoa and kale. I've made this twice now and am delighted to say that this will be a regular in our rotation.

I'm sure you could save some work and not bake the olives, but I think that baking them adds extra flavor that is worth the minimal effort.

1 c. uncooked quinoa, rinsed and drained and toasted if desired
2 c. water
1/2 tsp salt
1 bunch kale, washed and stems removed, then finely ground or chopped
1 c. Kalamata olives, quartered
1/4 c. white or red wine or vermouth
1-2 bay leaves
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
Zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stalk and chopped OR 1 tsp dried
Juice of half a lemon (about 2-3 TBSP)
1-2 TBSP olive oil to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F
  2. Combine olives, wine, and bay leaves in a small dish and cover tightly with foil
  3. Bake for 40-45 minutes until olives are plump and soft
  4. While olives bake, combine lemon zest, garlic and thyme in a small bowl. Reserve half of this mixture
  5. As soon as olives come out of the oven, stir in half of the lemon-garlic paste. This should make the olives very fragrant. This part of the meal can be done well in advance, even a day or more
  6. Stir lemon juice, olive oil and pepper into the reserved lemon-garlic paste. Whisk to combine. Set aside whole quinoa cooks
  7. Bring water to boil in a 2 quart (or similar) saucepan
  8. When water boils, add salt and quinoa
  9. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed and you see the little curls in the quinoa
  10. Remove from heat and stir in the kale. Mix well. Then stir in the lemon dressing and, finally, fold in the olives.
  11. Serve. Makes a great side for fish or is hearty enough to make a light lunch by itself, perhaps garnished with a few toasted pine nuts

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