Certainly sounds like summer, right? We generally think of basil as a food we only eat in the summer when our basil plant is in full glory. However, our farmer’s market has some lovely hydroponically grown fresh basil…and our office has some baby basil in an AeroGarden – two perfect excuses to splurge on our favorite herb! If you’ve never heard of quinoa, read all about it here. We’re continuing our love affair with this delicious grain (seed, really – but who’s counting?) by mixing it with the flavors of a pizza, inspired by this pizza quinoa casserole recipe by Heidi (thanks for the inspiration!). We took basil and spinach from our winter market and combined it with tomatoes, garlic, onions, fennel, and mozzarella cheese. The savory combination really hit the spot – and did taste a bit like pizza (though a tad more deconstructed). Give it a try for a side dish, or do what we did and serve with a salad and bread for an easy main dish with friends! Tip Quinoa is gluten-free, so it works well for gluten free guests! You also can We used basil from Eden Farms and spinach from Full Hand Farm, both at the Indy Winter Farmer’s Market.
Tomato Basil Quinoa
Serves about 4 as a main, a few more as a side What You Need 2 cups quinoa (dry) 15 ounce can diced tomatoes One red onion 4 cloves garlic About 6 to 8 ounces fresh spinach (about 4 or more cups chopped) About 4 to 6 ounces mozzarella (or more, depending on how cheesy you’d like it!) 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves 1 tablespoon olive oil 1 tablespoon oregano 1 teaspoon fennel seeds 1 teaspoon kosher salt Fresh ground pepper What To Do 1 Make the quinoa: Cook the quinoa following the instructions found at Master Recipe: Perfect Quinoa. While the quinoa cooks, complete Step 2 and 3. You also can do this step in advance (which is helpful to allow the quinoa to cool). 2 Prepare the ingredients: Dice the garlic. Chop the onion. Cut both the spinach and basil into thin strips (chiffonade). Chop the mozzarella into cubes. 3 Saute the vegetables: In a skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic, and saute about 1 to 2 minutes. Then add the canned tomatoes, along with 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 teaspoon fennel feeds, 1 teaspoon salt, and fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine, and cook for 2 minutes. Then add spinach, cover, and wait until the spinach wilts down, a few minutes. 4 When the quinoa is complete, make sure to let it sit per the cooking instructions, to ensure it is fluffy and not waterlogged. You can serve the quinoa warm or at room temperature. Either, way it is also helpful to let it cool outside of the pan in a bowl; a tip to cool it down very quickly is to spread it out in a layer on a baking sheet. 5 Mix the quinoa with the warm vegetables. Prior to serving, stir in the fresh basil and mozzarella. If you serve it warm, the mozzarella will melt into the quinoa. If you serve it at room temperature, the mozzarella will stay in chunks (like the photo above). We liked it both ways – one tip is that if you melt in the cheese, the texture becomes a bit more “glued” together – which isn’t a bad thing, and certainly doesn’t affect the taste!